Open Thread: Can You Remember Your Best Back-to-School Look?

Every kid knows summer is the opportune time to paint over your identity. Show up to school with eyeliner after a weekend and you’re trying too hard; show up to school an entirely new person after summer and you’re totally fine. Like, of course you’re completely different after three months! This class-wide understanding was all the more reason to place undue importance on your back-to-school LEWK, right?

Did anyone else spend all of August thinking about what they were going to wear? In my mind, what I wore on my first day of school was tantamount to submitting my application for a social upgrade. I’m going to skip right over the fact that it never worked, because whatever, and instead give it even more retroactive importance by way of making you all tell me about yours. Because I remember some of my outfits with disproportionate clarity and imagine I’m not the only one.

I think my most memorable was 8th grade: A tight, white and pink striped off-the-shoulder shirt from Guess with loose, straight-legged jeans from Gap and pink leather slipper-slides from Steve Madden that were bedazzled — yes, bedazzled — with silver rhinestones. How cool!!!!

Which was your best/most absurd? 300 points to Gryffindor if you have a photo.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis, styled by Elizabeth Tamkin; wearing Tibi shirt and skirt, American Apparel sweater, Camilla Elphick shoes, Lucy Folk earrings and Karen Walker glasses.


Get more Fashion ?
  • Panic

    I think my junior year of high school I wore a short pleated skirt with a black tank top featuring a skull and cross bones and lime green kitten heels. This was when I was just starting to embrace my femininity, while continuing my previously established punk rock aesthetic. I wore this outfit frequently and was sent home to change more than a few times due to the length of my skirt and the fact that i didn’t wear shorts underneath it :/ amateur mistake.

  • Molly D

    5th grade at Catholic school meant you got to ditch the previous years’ jumper and sport a below the knee plaid skirt and a workman-sized polyester navy vest (pockets, brass buttons, itch). Looked pretty sick with a pair of yellow-stitched Doc Martens.

  • Andrea Raymer

    There are only three years of k-12 outfits missing from my memory. I used to be able to list all of them. The great part about middle school and high school is I ws on a block schedule and essentially got two first day of school outfits.

    the list includes:
    Kindergarten – Denim Jumper over a pink polo with floral keds
    1st grade – Black and white striped t-shirt dress with a vinyl heart filled with pink goo on the front.
    2nd grade – pink plaid skort with a white t-shirt that said Princess on the front inside a crown.
    3rd grade – a peach fruit print midi skirt and coordinating t-shirt that i got from the American Girl Store (my doll had a matching outfit) I really with i still owned/could still fit this. I would wear the heck out of that skirt.
    4th grade – purple plaid pleated skirt and short sleeved purple sweater that had hearts on it
    6th grade – kahki capri pants and a blue peasant blouse from Limited too.
    7th grade – the last pair of white pants I owned until college (this was the year I got my period and i was terrified of them until adulthood) with a turquoise belt and a black tank top i bought at the grand canyon
    9th grade – I hit my preppy phase and wore a polo layered under a green short sleeved cable knit sweater with boyfriend jeans and green penny loafers that i never wore again
    10th grade – head to toe Tommy Hilfiger. red white and blue striped tank top with dark wide-leg jeans.

    After that my mom stopped letting me buy new outfits for the first day of school. I do remember trying to channel my kindergarten outfit on the first day of senior year.

    • Mallory Harmon

      I am so impressed you remember most of your outfits! You have inspired me to look through my mom’a photos and find all of mine!

    • Lauren

      I had the American Girl fruit skirt & top too! Loved it!

  • Jessica Downing

    I believe it was 5th grade, and I wore a green camo tshirt with a sparkly pink heart on it paired with flare jeans that unzipped at the ankles to reveal a large piece of red and black plaid fabric. #stylin

    • Haley Nahman


  • Lacey Bergevin

    10th grade – black and white striped short sleeve tee under denim shorts overalls (with one strap down of course) and black and white striped tights underneath. i can’t remember the shoes for some reason but i’m pretty sure they were mary janes 🙂 I wish I had a picture, but it doesn’t really matter because I’m hufflepuff

    • Haley Nahman

      Sounds like a very hip power-clash of stripes!!

    • kay

      this is my favorite!! wish i had worn this

  • Mallory Harmon

    I can’t remember all of my first day of school outfits, but I do know that in elementary school, most of my outfits came from Limited Too. My first day as a freshman in high school is my most memorable outfit; maybe because I was terrified to start high school or because of my short pleated denim skirt and tee that I wore. I wanted to say “excited to be here,” but I didn’t want to look like I was trying too hard. Oh, the days of high school!

  • mandy

    5th grade. One of those super-tight cable-knit sweater/henley hybrids from Hollister, a grey denim skirt, and baby pink waffle-knit leggings that cut off at the knee, most likely paired with Uggs or black sequined Converse. Chic.

  • Sarah Bauer

    It was a black DKNY Kids sleeveless top with a sparkly 80’s themed graphic of a monster truck busting out of of it, and a string of purple sequins dangling off the left arm seam right down to the hip bone on my gangly, fourteen-year-old 90-pound frame. I was heading into Grade 9 with my first ever pair of ‘tight’ flared jeans (thank you American Eagle), and a serious statement shirt I fantasized Avril Lavigne would approve. It was glorious and from Winners and cost well over forty hard-earned babysitting dollars.

    Wore it for the first and only time on the first day of school, including during an Outdoor Education class where we discussed the purchase of hiking boots and the expectation to break them in over the course of the semester in time for our spring trek to the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island.

    In a single day, the start and end of a my glam-rock era.

  • Michaela Williams

    How I wish I had a photo, but alas, they are all at my parents’ house. My most memorable was 6th grade…ribbed, short-sleeved polo shirt with a silver zipper at the neck, red tartan plaid, pleated jumper, white knee socks and black patent mary janes. I probably had a bow in my hair, too, but can’t be sure without the photo in front of me. Also, on the subject of coming back to school and submitting your application for a social upgrade, I left 7th grade 5’3 and chubby and came back for 8th grade 5’8 and skinny as a rail. Sadly, that did not equal a social upgrade. Kids are the worst.

  • Olivia

    Oof, I am both proud and deeply ashamed of the following 4th grade ensemble: a lime green satin button-up shirt, patterned with purple paisley, worn underneath khaki flared overalls WITH A PURPLE SATIN CAT EMBROIDERED ON THE FRONT POCKET. I believe I wore denim clogs and extremely blunt bangs.

    • Jessica Downing

      This is amazing omg

  • Kinj

    I remember it like yesterday! 5th grade, I spent most of the summer crafting the perfect outfit: khaki pants, a bandana, yes like a paisley bandana wrapped around me in a self made “tube top” with a pink button down over it. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Little did I know I would be spending most of the day tugging my bandana top up

  • kitmcc

    Here is a picture of Haley’s first day of 3rd grade. It’s my personal favorite. Also found one of her first day of sophomore year looking very stylish. The defiance of showing her belly despite dress code rules. If I recall, she was called to the office for the infraction.

  • Mariana

    6th and 7th probably something colorful because my favourite store was U.C. of Benetton!

  • Leslie

    First day of junior year: Black velvet A-line dress, fishnets, Doc Martins, and hair freshly dyed bright purple with Manic Panic. Such a child of the ’90s.

  • ChiefCC

    My daughter wore a chunky wool sweater from Abercrombie and Fitch the first day of school in 6th grade because Mary Kate and Ashley promoted them. It was 88 degrees out but she insisted!

  • my grandmother and I used to go pick out my first day outfit together every year. I got way into it.