Bookish Style: How to Dress Like a Cute Librarian

My oh my, has it been awhile since I last wrote! I have been re-reading one of my favorite books, Pride and Prejudice, while waiting for a new shipment of books to come in. I didn’t want to write a review of it since so many of us have already read it — hence why I haven’t blogged.

Now, let’s talk style. These days, my fashion sense consists of my sweatpants and my favorite Red Sox tee shirt. I like to think I can get away with it, seeing as we’re in the middle of a pandemic and all. But I’m starting to miss the chilly days of fall and winter, when I was free to roam as I pleased — and wear all my favorite oversized sweaters, denim skirts and Chelsea boots.

I like to describe my personal aesthetic as somewhere in the intersection of retro, hipster librarian and light academia. As an avid Tumblr user, I’d be remiss to ignore the growing popularity of these styles online. More and more people are wondering how they dress so that their wardrobe matches their bookish lifestyle!

If you, too, are curious about the style I’m deeming “cute librarian,” let me walk you through my favorite places to shop for clothing, as well as the wardrobe essentials every bookish girl needs. However, I feel that it’s also important to say that you should never feel confined to the restraints of a particular style or aesthetic.

So many people these days are defining themselves as “dark academia” or “rockabilly” or “hipster librarian,” but I think these terms (and others still) prevent us from exploring our own personal style. While it might be easier to follow someone else’s fashion guidelines, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that we find the things that we both love to wear and have a use for in our closets.

Where to Shop for Clothes Online

Despite my love of fashion, shopping for clothes is one of my least favorite activities. When shopping in person, you get fatigued; your feet start to hurt; you wish you were eating a soft pretzel at the Aunt Annie’s instead of waiting in line at the H&M checkout. But when shopping online, you’re presented with seemingly infinite choices and the anxiety of not being able to try things on before you buy them.

Narrowing down a few key stores has helped me relieve my online shopping anxiety quite a bit. I can always count on these stores to have clothes that suit my style, at reasonable prices, and usually in my size. Granted, I am straight-sized, but I know for a fact that a lot of the stores I shop at cater to the plus-sized community as well — I’ll make sure to note which those are when I talk about them below!

ModCloth (XXS-4X)

Hands-down, ModCloth is my favorite place to shop. It’s an online-only boutique that sells retro and vintage-inspired fashion. They carry both straight-sized and plus-sized styles with fun prints, feminine details (think bows and lace) and plenty of bright color.

The only downside to shopping at ModCloth is its price. Relative to some of the other options on this list, ModCloth is one of the more expensive retailers. Branded items tend to cost more, but thankfully, ModCloth’s in-house label is both cute and affordable!

Another way I circumvent the price issue at ModCloth is by looking at alternative retailers who carry the same clothes. One of my favorites is ThredUp, an online thrift store (which has the added benefit of being eco-friendly!) where you can buy like-new and new with tags clothing at half the price. They usually have quite a bit of ModCloth in stock, but you may not be able to find a specific item you’re looking for very easily.

H&M (3XS-4XL)

Everyone has probably shopped at H&M at some point or another. When they first started out, they were much more like Forever 21, with fast-fashion quality at dirt cheap prices. Since then, however, they’ve added the Conscious label to their collection, which is both eco-friendly and high-quality. Many of the products are made with Lyocell, a sustainable fabric made from pulp.

But my favorite thing at H&M has got to be the accessories: H&M is the perfect place to buy jewelry, shoes and bags. Their accessories are cheap, but hold up like the real deal over time. Plus, the affordable prices mean you can easily build up a closet of accessories to customize your capsule wardrobe in endless combinations.

J. Crew Factory (XXS-3X)

If you love J. Crew’s styles but not their prices, J. Crew Factory is about to become your new best friend. While they carry only a limited selection of the items available at J. Crew, these items are sold at outlet prices, meaning you’re getting a huge bang for your buck — without compromising the preppy, classic styles you know and love.

J. Crew Factory is the perfect place for buying wardrobe basics that you can mix, match and layer as you please. Their clothing is well-constructed, so you can rest assured that these pieces will continue to form the base of your wardrobe for years to come.

Madewell (XXS-3X)

Like ModCloth, Madewell is one of the pricier options on this list, but their clothing is certainly made well! The Madewell pieces I own have held up for years and will continue to do so for many to come, so I think their basics are well-worth the lofty price tag. Their clothes are inspired by vintage silhouettes with modern colors and prints, which makes them a timeless part of your wardrobe.

Madewell is known for its denim, but I love it for its tops — and especially its sweaters. I’m talking about oversized cardigans you can snuggle up in galore, which is what every cute librarian needs to get her through the chilly fall and winter months (or to stay warm in the excessive library AC all summer long).

Bookish Wardrobe Staples Every Cute Librarian Needs

Now that you’ve got the tools of the trade at your disposal, you’re ready to start building your bookish wardrobe. Every wardrobe is made up of staples, basic pieces that create the foundation of your favorite outfits. These pieces should be able to be mix-and-matched to create different, unique looks with just a couple of items.

When it comes to the cute librarian aesthetic, there are a few items that will help you build a strong wardrobe foundation. Feel free to skip over any that don’t serve you — it is your closet, after all! However, I’ve carefully chosen these items (and provided you with outfit ideas) to reflect what I think are the staples of the perfect bookish wardrobe.

Source: Pinterest

Printed Dress

Printed dresses are a must-have for the spring and summer months — but they can easily be adjusted to suit the fall and winter chill. Simply add a pair of warm fleece tights and a cute cardigan to seal the deal. Why printed, you ask? Prints add that pop of personality that every quirky-cute librarian needs to shine as herself.

Try: Ensemble Observation Knit Dress from ModCloth ($59)

Cropped Cardigan

Cropped cardigans are your perfect wear-everywhere layer for fall, winter and the early days of spring. Anytime you need to stay warm in a breeze, you can throw a cardigan over almost any outfit to add a bookish-chic touch that also serves a practical purpose.

Try: Crop Cardigan with Pearl Buttons from Missguided ($40)

Mary Jane Flats

Mary Janes are not just for little girls anymore: they’re the classic shoe of cute librarians the world over. If you’re looking for something you can wear with almost any outfit, any time of year, then you need a pair of Mary Janes. While they sell plenty with heels, I recommend getting flats so you can wear them comfortably for any occasion.

Try: Faux-Suede Mary-Jane Ballet Flats from Old Navy ($16)

Source: Pinterest

Collared Blouse

A short-sleeved, collared blouse (Peter Pan style, preferably) goes with everything, making it the perfect staple in your cute librarian wardrobe. Tuck it in a dress, French tuck it in a pair of cropped pants or wear it loosely over a dress to change things up a bit. Whatever you choose, you’re likely to look classy, bookish and chic.

Try: Collared Pleated Cap Sleeve Blouse from Nordstrom ($79)

Circle Skirt

No matter what blouses you choose, they’ll match a solid circle skirt to a T. In the summer, you can enjoy the breeziness of a flouncy skirt, while in the winter, you can add a pair of tights to stay toasty. To make it your own, try a midi length, pleats or even a small print that you can mix and match with other prints.

Try: 1950s Style Solid Yellow Swing Skirt from Unique Vintage ($48)

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