There are three times a year that truly feel like a fresh start: January 1, the first real, warm-enough-for-flower-buds week of spring, and back-to-school shopping season—yes, even if it’s been longer than we’d care to admit since our post-Labor Day schedule included homeroom. After all, as stores around the world fill up with preppy-chic offerings, how can you not want in on the fun?
And what fun it is when you no longer have real classes to worry about! Instead of adhering to cumbersome uniform guides or strict dress codes (hemlines past your fingertips anyone?), we have the freedom to give collegiate-inspired style a fashion-focused update; think crisp new denim in an of-the-moment shape, or a pleated plaid skirt with something more subversive, such as over-the-knee boots. As Coach showed us last February by mish-mashing classic co-ed silhouettes—button-downs, letterman jackets, loafers—with high shine finishes and tapestry prints, there are a myriad of wonderful ways to take this style when we’re heading somewhere exciting than study hall. Nail the look all autumn with the 12 key pieces below.