Trailblazing Transitions: Taking Campus Fashion from Winter to Spring

White House Black Market

Spring is upon us, and the weather is heating up! For many this is a time to sigh and realize that layering sweaters and coats might not work for tomorrow’s scheduled appointments, errands, classes, or meetings. I, for one, enjoy the cool wind and the chance to wear tights with boots. However, the spring brings festive renewal and a chance for change (literally budding outside your window).

Each season gives us an opportunity to embrace what new fashion find is hitting the stores. In a way, designers are fortune-tellers. They not only predict what the next season’s trends are, they help train us to recognize trends on the streets of our own communities. Now many of us in academia are very busy, and we may find that keeping up with trends falls low on our to-do list. The good news? You probably already have what you need to transition into spring – right in your own wardrobe.

Slip on a Sweater

First of all, dust off those sweaters – they are going to stick around for a couple more months. Sweaters? You might be thinking, in this weather? But a sweater can easily transition to warmer temperatures: it’s all about piecing it together with the right, colorful attitude. Pair it with the perfect skirt. Grab your favorite shorts or summer dress – you know, the one you only wear half the year. You will be warm on top in the brisk morning and ready for the rays the day brings on.

One pro tip: the next time you purchase a sweater, opt for the thinner cotton one to reduce the sweat factor (which we all know can be an issue, especially if you’re teaching in a stuffy classroom or running across campus between classes). On colder days, you can always layer it with a great button down or plain white long-sleeved tee. J Crew makes the most comfortable, breathable sweaters – I found some on the factory site in eight different colors. Try laying fun pieces with summery dresses that aren’t quite ready for the hot months. I styled an example below from Seven Oaks.

(photo credit: Seven Oaks/styled by Kari J. Dawkins)

Try Tights

Long ago stockings or pantyhose were seen as a female “must” in the office. Now, the rule is a bit outdated, and most corporations are taking this pantyhose requirement away, offering more options. But bare legs are a challenge. Not only can they still spark conversation professionally, but comfort can also be an issue. Warmer and more modest than bare legs and more opaque and colorful than pantyhose, tights have become a true staple in recent years, and can add a little texture and style to any outfit. And pay attention to the forecast a comin’! Tights can offer much-needed protection against unpredictable spring weather, as well as flair to your wardrobe. Here and here are great and affordable options.

(photo credit: Banana Republic)

Sleeveless so Soon

Ladies, I get it. All of us were not blessed with toned arms. It’s our right to bare arms (had to!), but sometimes it can be scary, or uncomfortable. Looking for a simple solution other than three-quarter-length sleeves? Fun, sleeveless prints with a go-to jacket, blazer, or long vest like this one from the GAP can be a great alternative.

One of my favorite options is a cotton number that looks like a blazer, but is made from a soft blend of material – like this one from J Crew. It covers my not-so-toned areas and allows the it’s getting hot in here option to layer off – color me happy. Speaking of which, why not try color? Instead of deciding between black and white, go with a middle ground on the ROYGBIV wheel. Yellow, the most cheerful color of them all, is on-trend this spring.

(Photo Credit: Seven Oaks/ Styled by Kari J. Dawkins)

The Great Divide

Here is my simplest solution to the winter-to-spring transition: go heavy on top, but light on bottom. This is an especially good option for those who prefer lighter tights or bare legs. Grab that dress or skirt and pair it with a heavier shirt, sweater, blazer, or jacket (try this sweater, pictured left, from Seven Oaks, or this one from J Crew). Opt out of heavier tights and leggings. This is a way to keep things fresh and fun (not to mention cool for those warmer days). I will admit, I have always been a scarf girl (where have you been since the 90’s) and adding this as a necklace gives class and color to your outfit choice. And it’s right on trend this season.

​(photo credit: J Crew) (photo credit: Banana Republic)

Shoes You Choose

Have a great pair of booties from the past few years? Wear them with dresses, skirts, or ankle pants. Do it – they offer coverage perfect for the winter goodbye. I wear booties almost all spring, as they keep things dressy and professional instead of bare-leg-open-toes in the workplace.