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  • Writer's picturetaylor


Updated: Nov 8, 2020

August on the East Coast is filled with humidity, summer storms, last-minute vacations, and back-to-school shopping. College students spend a lot of $ before heading back to school. In fact, the National Retail Federation estimates expected spending of $976 per household on back-to-college shopping in 2019. As a scientist and a number lady, you knew I had to come with the facts.

Cool cool cool, but does back-to-school stop when you finish your undergraduate degree? This got me thinking: "What about shopping for graduate school?" I may be biased, yet I would argue that graduate students are an underserved population that can benefit greatly from 'back-to-school' deals. But who is catering to graduate students? With limited budgets, conference presentations, and heightened professional responsibilities (compared to that of undergraduates), graduate students need appropriate and AFFORDABLE options.

I thought I could give a unique perspective to this topic, harmonizing style, practicality, and affordability, so I've teamed up with Queenstown Premium Outlets to talk about shopping for graduate school looks as a PhD student!

Classes & Writing

Days as a PhD student are variable. Starting my second year, I spend some days in classes, I spend some days writing at my desk, I spend some days in lab. The first two allow me leniency with my attire -- and are likely more relatable to those pursuing a PhD outside of a wet lab. Sitting in classes, at your desk, at your campus coffeeshop may not call for an evening gown, but if I'm not hiding in lab, it's my philosophy to dress as though I'll run in to a job opportunity. Is it unlikely? Yes. But I want to come ready to make a good first impression. And contrary to popular belief - that doesn't require you to be in a suit!

So when shopping at Queenstown Premium Outlets, I looked for outfits that were comfortable, casual, yet polished. The trifecta. My first stop at the center was Gap where I found this beautiful blue, printed maxi dress. I think it's key to purchase pieces that can be dressed up or down, and if I can style it three ways with items already in my closet, I'm sold! This dress fit the bill. And it was a steal at the price of $40!

I also dread carrying big bags around campus, but I often have a lot to carry. Dilemma. Therefore, it's important for me to pick functional accessories that serve a purpose and pair well with a variety of outfits. I spotted this emerald Coach bag at the center's Coach store, and I knew the tote was a great accessory for carrying my iPad to class/coffeeshops (while also looking like a chic handbag.) At a price of $99, HOW COULD I SAY NO? That was over a 75% reduction from its original price of $398. The color was simply stunning for Fall, and I can tell you now, will be getting a lot of use out of it!

I would style this dress with:

white sneakers + jean jacket

neutral flats + cardigan

nude heels + blazer

black booties + jean jacket

Meetings, meetings, meetings.

Regardless of your graduate school discipline, you're bound to have meetings. Meetings with your boss, internal meetings of organizations, meetings with collaborators, conferences. It's inevitable. I get a lot of questions from my fellow graduate students and colleagues on conference style -- where to shop for it, what's appropriate, how to avoid compulsive buys and shop for long-term use. I think conferences are the closest I get to "corporate attire" during the year, but I like to retain some personality even if I have to dress up.

DMV ladies, the Loft at Queenstown Premium Outlets is a GOLDMINE for quirky, professional items that can be transitioned from professional life to personal life with the change of a shoe (er, pair of shoes.) Loft was on my mental list of "must stops" while at Queenstown Premium Outlets, it did not disappoint. I fell in love with a multicolored, striped skirt -- I gravitate toward multicolored patterns so the colors in the piece can be transitioned throughout seasons. In this case, I knew I could make this skirt work for Summer, Fall, Spring. It only cost $27.49, a great deal for a professional piece that can be worn year-round!

The other store on my "must stop" list was J.Crew. I have good luck at J.Crew Factory stores, and I scored big on this coffee graphic tee. Having already purchased the multicolored skirt and pink cardigan from my time in the Gap Outlet, I knew this J.Crew Collector's graphic tee ($23) was the perfect quirky touch to complete a business casual look perfect for meetings, conferences, presentations.

Other looks to style with these pieces:

skirt + white button up + pink cardigan

coffee graphic tee + jeans

coffee graphic tee + colored dress pant

pink cardigan + dress

Keep up with the big deals at Queenstown Premium Outlets and the Queenstown Loft Outlet on Instagram!

Lab Work

A wet bench PhD student has more clothing considerations when doing lab work. Experiments in lab can pose more safety concerns and be a bit messier than classwork, writing, and meetings. Personal protective equipment is often required: pants, closed-toed shoes, etc. Comfortable shoes are a must (I'm standing most lab-intensive days.) My floor is also freezing, so I always bring a sweater!

Lab-practical purchases from my time at Queenstown Premium Outlets were:

Curvy Skinny Jeans from Loft Outlet ($69.99)

Cortez sneakers from Nike Outlet ($39.99)

Yellow cardigan from Gap Outlet ($14.00)

I'm headed into my second year with new opportunities, and my new clothes help me feel confident to tackle them all! If you're looking to do the same, Queenstown Premium Outlets is a great spot for young professionals - especially #graduatestudents - looking to buy quality pieces and save $. For conferences, for classes, for lab. With over 60 designer stores with savings up to 65% off retail, you can definitely find pieces that fit into your personal style and budget!

Want to save more year round? Join me in the VIP Club!

It's completely FREE, and the VIP Shopper's Club gets you exclusive deals not available to the public.

I just can't get over this Coach bag from Queenstown Premium Outlets!

Have you shopped at Queenstown Premium Outlets? What shops are on your must-visit list? When I go back, I'm hitting up Calvin Klein and Samsonite Outlets.

If you feel inspired, comment on this post, share on Pinterest, send to a friend, and/or recreate it with your own personal flair. Don't forget to tag me! For more style inspiration, check out my previous looks under the STYLE tab and follow me on Pinterest! Keep up with my everyday looks by following me on Instagram.

Until next time,

This is a sponsored post by Queenstown Premium Outlets. More looks can be found here. All styles, reviews, and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.


Kristi Stevens
Kristi Stevens
Aug 25, 2019

I have a major fear of bridges so I don't get to shop the Queenstown Outlets much. However, I just drove over the bridge for the first time this summer SOOO a shopping trip there might be in my future because I love all these goodies and deals you found there!


Laleh Aslani
Laleh Aslani
Aug 21, 2019

Love how you styled both these looks! I also totally agree that one needs to be dressed to impress at all times, because you never know what opportunity will come your way!


Vanessa Ulrich
Aug 21, 2019

I wish I had had this post as a grad student! I really enjoyed your commentary on the unique style needs grad students face - and that tote is such a brilliant find! I don't shop at outlets as much as I should; that's a great destination for this.


Colleen Shenk
Colleen Shenk
Aug 20, 2019

I love that you provided all affordable options that you can wear multiple ways!

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