11 Back-to-School Fashion Trends That Are Perfectly Adult

No matter how old you get, chances are late summer and early autumn will always evoke back-to-school vibes. As Tom Hanks’ You’ve Got Mail character said of the season, “It makes me wanna buy school supplies.” But rather than a haul of notebooks, highlighters, and textbook covers, it’s time to scoop up fall’s biggest back-to-school trends when planning your latest shopping lists.

Think of pleated skirts, polo shirts, and blazers with a preppy touch as the cooler-weather take on summer core aesthetics like golf and tennis fashion. And, of course, sweaters of all kinds, from cardigans to collegiate cable knits and super-soft cashmere (vests included). You can even make like the Louis Vuitton runway and cinch a bold jumper around your waist with everything from rugby tees to dresses for instant school-is-in-session cool.

As for your go-to top layer — before the winter coats come out — varsity-style jackets like bombers, half-zips, and windbreakers stood out on designer runways, including Miu Miu and Tory Burch. And when trading your micro-minis for pants, opt for slouchy trousers, whether paired with a button-down, cropped knit, or a hoodie

If you’ve delved deep into the platform footwear trend (perhaps with a pair from the sold-out Dr. Martens and Heaven by Marc Jacobs collaboration), rest assured that the look is sticking around big time for fall. Yep, chunky loafers, big (huge, even) platforms, and hefty lug soles are the Y2K way to punctuate your favorite fall ‘fits. To take things a step further, ditch your tote bag in favor of a backpack — no, not a middle-school style JanSport, but a sleek leather, artfully knitted, or woven version as seen on the Off-White, Altuzarra, and Gabriela Hearst runways. 

Ahead, a comprehensive breakdown of fall’s biggest back-to-school fashion trends for 2022, complete with an edit to shop.

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Pleated Skirts

Pleated skirts are the ultimate preppy piece for every desired length and aesthetic. Designers showed a wide range, from micro-minis at Miu Miu and Rokh to midi and maxis at Altuzarra and larger, full-length pleats at Peter Do. Even asymmetrical cuts at Dior and romantic full-volume iterations debuted at Brandon Maxwell for a more elegant take.

Chunky Shoes

The Y2K trend that won’t quit, chunky loafers continue for fall 2022, but not without an update that includes heftier platform Mary-Janes, lace-up oxfords, and brogues like at Versace, Gabriela Hearst, Erdem, Tod’s, and Eytys

Zip Jackets

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Layer up for cool weather in school-inspired bombers, windbreakers, and half-zips with a sporty twist like at Rokh, Y/Project, Versace, Tory Burch, and Louis Vuitton. 

Blazers

Though we love them year-round, blazers are a cool-weather classic. This year, slouchy and oversize styles continue to trend (see Louis Vuitton, Versace, and Prada), as well as tailored and cinched silhouettes, like at Fendi, Erdem, Dior, Peter Do, and Brandon Maxwell.

Polo Shirts

From cropped and collared iterations at Miu Miu to rugby styles like at Louis Vuitton, Eytys, and Botter, consider this the easy-wearing top you can quickly throw on while looking polished. 

Checks & Plaid

Designers have revamped iconic school patterns with contemporary twists, including vibrant houndstooth and plaid at Chanel and Versace, windowpane checks at Rokh, buffalo plaids at Off-White and Nanushka, and mixed prints at Marine Serre.

Collegiate Sweaters

Knitwear is quintessentially autumn-ready, and a staple in any school-inspired wardrobe. Fall 2022 styles run the gamut from shawl collars at Bottega Veneta to argyle seen at Rokh, Tory Burch, and Eytys, and cardigans like at Chanel and Libertine. Take a cue from runways when wearing yours, like the waist-cinched styling seen at Bottega Veneta and Louis Vuitton and the belted cable knits shown at Brandon Maxwell.

Backpack

Altuzarra PAP FW 2022
New York Fashion Week February 2022

Is that oversized tote weighing you down? Instead, embrace the childhood staple designers reinvented for adulthood, including fuzzy and knitted iterations at Off-White, sleek leather at Gabriela Hearst, and woven baskets detailed with buckles and straps at Altuzarra (the ultimate trans-seasonal take). 

Relaxed Trousers

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Trousers are hardly new, but slouchier fits and pooling hems with sneakers and boots, including Y2K-inspired low-slung waists like at Bottega Veneta, Stella McCartney, Tory Burch, Rokh, and No. 21, are the refreshed versions guaranteed to reinvigorate your wardrobe. 

Sweater Vest

A beloved knitwear hero piece in recent seasons continues for fall 2022 with new versions, including whimsical prints at Tory Burch, halter silhouettes at Marine Serre, and slouchy cuts with cap sleeves as spotted at Chanel and Nanushka

Button-Down Shirts

Oversized and re-worked button-down shirts have become a modern default for many. Keep your more timeless versions in your fall rotation, as encouraged by Balmain and Palmer//Harding. Plus, consider bustier-inspired styles à la Fendi, bold banker stripes like at Erdem, and buttoned-up with a tie like at Louis Vuitton

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