DIY College Apparel Ideas: How to Make Trendy Clothes for Campus

cutting cloth

With high school graduation behind you, now is the time to shed those old-school colors and shift your style to reflect your future. There are tons of college apparel options out there, but sometimes, especially in college, you want to make your own mark and set your own style. 

If you’ve got a little bit of creative inspiration, you can turn hum-drum college apparel into haute couture. It doesn’t take a degree in design or even a sewing machine to personalize your college apparel.

But how do you do it? How can you turn ordinary duds into DIY trendy college apparel? It just takes a few easy steps.

  1. Simple alterations
  2. Old meets new
  3. Get a leg up
  4. Go big or go home
  5. Create your own traditions

cutting shirt

DIY Idea #1: Start with Some Simple College Apparel Alterations

T-shirts are number one when it comes to the most common college apparel. Everyone has at least one t-shirt from their college, whether they're a student or a member of the alumni. Get creative with your college t-shirt and make it something no one has seen before. To start alterations with a t-shirt, you can first cut the shirt at the collar and then make a V-neck on the t-shirt

Next, find some chunky laces or ribbons at your local craft store or big-box retailer. Cut small buttonholes on either side of the V-neck and lace the chunky ribbon through the holes. For a trendy touch, offset the t-shirt colors with a different color lace.

For example, if your school’s colors are red, white, and black (like the University of Georgia Bull Dogs) and you have a red shirt, you can try using white lace. You can even experiment with different lengths for your V-neck cut. 

Similarly, sleeves lend themselves to creative cutting, as well. A long-sleeve t-shirt can be turned into a half-sleeve with a braided detail. Again, use strategic cuts and add new elements like satin ribbon or other textures to spice up plain college apparel.

Neutral-colored shirts and shorts can easily be transformed just by adding a dash of color. Cutting a t-shirt into a tank is super easy and looks great over a fitted tank.

old t shirts

DIY Idea #2: Old College Apparel Meets New Trends

Sometimes, taking a basic piece of apparel, like the trusty college sweatshirt, and giving it a new take can really up your gameday look. Thanks to its weathered look, vintage college apparel gives the impression of a long-time, well-established style. 

You can replicate vintage college apparel by finding new college sports apparel that is bright and bold, then using the sun or bleach to fade it. You can even distress the material, using a razor to create holes and scuff marks that result in a strategically placed fraying. A well-placed “rip” can be quite cute if executed correctly.

DIY Idea #3: Get a Leg Up!

Cute college apparel isn’t limited to t-shirts and hoodies. Shorts and skirts can be the perfect accent pieces to tie an outfit together. From tiny gym-style shorts to vintage college pieces like cheerleader skirts, bringing in a complementary piece of clothing goes a long way in creating a unique look that celebrates your school spirit.

For example, a basic white tennis skirt can be transformed into a colorful accent piece if you add trim in your school’s colors. Using acrylic paint, a trusted denim jacket can be emblazoned with team logos and sayings.

Don't worry, you don’t have to know how to paint a Gonzaga Bulldog to show off your school pride! A paw print in the right color can work just as well.

DIY Idea #4: Go Big or Go Home

And what about more complex alterations? What if you really want to take your cute college apparel to the next level? Do you need to know how to sew? Heck no!

If you’ve got an iron and enough imagination, there are tools available to make custom college apparel a reality without pricking your fingers or spending a boatload of money. Check out your local craft store for inspiration. Everything you need should be available there!


Examples of more complex alterations for producing trendy college apparel:

Another fun option is to take two similar pieces (such as a pair of t-shirts with an identical design) in different colors and cut them in half, right down the middle. Then, using fabric bonding tape, mix and match the halves together.

The look becomes unique and stylish. Or you could break the rules by combining two seemingly unrelated pieces to create something completely original and new.

Don’t feel boxed in by what apparel is already out there. You know your style, and you know what feels right to you. Get bold, get daring, and create your own cute college style!

DIY Idea #5: Create Your Unique Traditional Style

Of course, if you do know how to sew, the possibilities are truly endless. Find vintage college apparel and add layers to modernize the look. Juxtapose the old with the new.

If your school and its teams are relatively young, as in the case of the University of Central Florida Knights, then using vintage designs can make your college feel more historic. Search for old emblems, logos, patches, or decals to generate that feeling of antiquity. 

On the other hand, traditional campuses, with their historic buildings and stolid traditions, can feel fresh and new when you bring modern styles to their officially licensed college apparel. A basic Harvard sweatshirt in heather gray and the school’s iconic crimson lettering is as familiar to anyone as a good dog or a comfy blanket. Break up the old with a crimson placard and lacing.

Whatever you do, go for it with full commitment. Don’t fall for the idea that commonplace college sports shirts and accessories are the last word. Be authentic, not only to your school but to yourself.

That means taking your creativity and your personal style and using them to dive in with the same energy and excitement that you felt during your college decision day celebration. You can do it with any budget and any level of creative skills.


Crafting Your Own Trendy College Apparel

Your local craft store or big box retailer is the place to search for everything you need to get creative and upcycle your look. And the accessories you’re looking for are remarkably cheap. Ribbons or laces, as well as pieces of fabric or mending tape, are all inexpensive but have a lot of power to make simple pieces look trendy and new.
Remember, whether you're going for something super cute or downright sexy, the key is to be confident and creative. You are the only person that you have to impress!

After all, your particular style is just a part of who you are. And who you are is who the school wanted when they accepted you. Show off your flare, get out there, and slay the competition!

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