The Fashion Lessons I've Learned from Spending a Summer in New York City

I was wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers when I received a life-changing email letting me know that I’d been offered my dream internship in New York City. TBH, I was wearing that same outfit formula when I interviewed over the phone for said position. It was also the outfit I wore when I packed all my things into a minivan and drove halfway across the country, the outfit I wore for my first full day in NYC and honestly, the outfit I’ve worn most days of my life.

It’s not that I’m not obsessed with fashion (trust me, I am), but my go-to outfit formula has always been what I’m most comfortable in so I repeat it day in and day out. However, when I learned that I’d be moving to New York for a fashion internship, I decided I needed to up my #OOTD game.

It didn’t happen overnight, but I’ve become more comfortable with ditching my self-enforced uniform thanks to spending a summer in the city. Sure, my beloved graphic tees are still in heavy rotation, but with a little bit (okay, maybe a lot) of shopping and a giant city to serve as inspiration, my style has evolved so much over the summer. Between Insta-stalking my favorite NYC-based bloggers to learn where they shop and making mental notes of all the killer outfits I witness during my morning commute, my fellow New Yorkers have left me with five main fashion takeaways. Keep reading to see how these lessons have influenced my summer style and pushed me outside of my fashion comfort zone.

New York City Fashion lessons Wide Leg Pants
PHOTO: Kate Day, Loyola University of Chicago

Lesson 1: Ditch Denim for Wide Leg Pants

Summer in New York City is H-O-T, and some days even the idea of wearing my beloved jeans is enough to make me feel like passing out. But what would I, a girl whose closet is at least 90% denim, do without my go-to denim staple? New York’s suggestion seemed to be wide legged pants. Everywhere I looked, I was met with culottes and palazzo pants in fun prints and light summery materials like linen and cotton. While no, I won’t be abandoning every single pair of jeans I own, I’m certainly more open to switching it up every now and then thanks to my summer here.

New York City Fashion Lessons Thrifting
PHOTO: Kate Day, Loyola University Chicago

Lesson 2: Get Thrifty

I don’t know about you, but I never have luck when it comes to thrifting. At my local Goodwill, you really have to dig in order to find something good—otherwise, it’s all oversize game-day T-shirts and ugly holiday sweaters. But thrifting in New York City? It’s a whole different story. So many of the people I’ve met here swear by thrifting, so I decided to give it a try (and thank goodness I did). From a new-with-tags Reformation dress to an on-trend silky animal print blouse, my second-hand finds have made it easy to forget my go-to outfit while still leaving enough room in my budget to eat an over-priced salad for lunch.

New York City Fashion Lessons All Black
PHOTO: Kate Day, Loyola University Chicago

Lesson 3: Don't Reserve All Black-Outfits for Colder Months

I love a good all black outfit—black jeans, black t-shirts (surprise surprise), and a black leather jacket are practically my whole winter wardrobe—however, wearing head-to-toe black on a sweaty summer day is something I have never attempted. But here in NYC, everyone wears black all the time, so I was finally inspired to give it a try. Instead of piling on layers of black clothing, I frequently opted for lightweight summer pieces like a tank top and denim skirt but stuck to the all-black color palette. Thanks to this lesson, I realized it was possible to wear black without dissolving into a pool of sweat while waiting for my train in the boiling hot subway stations.

New York City Fashion Lessons Shop Sales
PHOTO: Kate Day, Loyola University Chicago

Lesson 4: Shop the Sales, but Shop Them Smart

I’ve always been a shopaholic, but I quickly realized that being let loose in NYC was going to be dangerous for my bank account. So, early on, I made a pact with myself to only shop sales. However, it seems like I wasn’t the only one with that idea because every time I walked into a store during sale weekend I was instantly overwhelmed by a sea of people. I quickly realized that the best way to shop the sales was to go in with a game plan. Before hitting up the actual store, I’d sift through their website, finding the pieces I knew I’d get the most wear out of. I’d then go into the store knowing exactly what I wanted and wouldn’t stop until I found it (trust me, I once went to four Zara stores on my way home from work until I got my hands on the plaid skirt of my dreams). Sure, I’d try on things that caught my eye while sorting through the racks, but having a mission made the NYC shopping experience less overwhelming and was way easier on my wallet.

New York City Fashion Lesson Rewear Pieces
PHOTO: Kate Day, Loyola University Chicago

Lesson 5: Wear the Same Pieces Multiple Ways

While most of the New Yorkers I met definitely make sure their wardrobes work double duty, I learned this lesson from my own doing. I could only pack so much before I left for NYC but in the spirit of trying to break my old “uniform” habit, I didn’t want to become an outfit repeater. So, I had to learn to rewear individual pieces instead of whole outfits. Some of my closet staples got more wear than others (like my poor denim skirt and beloved black cami that rarely got a day off), but over time, I’ve learned how to play with the items I already own and love to make completely new looks.

Has your fashion sense been inspired by the place you live? Let us know how in the comments below.

Opening Image by Kate Day