The Ultimate Light Academia Fashion Guide

Two women reading a book.

Light Academia fashion is the antithesis to the gloomier Dark Academia aesthetic. It calls for a much lighter palette and a less-restricted silhouette. The style is also often compared to the Cottagecore aesthetic, with which it shares many romantic and feminine concepts. If you’re looking to lighten up your wardrobe this season, here’s your ultimate style guide to Light Academia fashion.


What is Light Academia?

The Light Academia aesthetic is the direct counterpart of Dark Academia. Where the latter is influenced by literary tragedy, escapism, and death, Light Academia themes focus on optimism, tenderness, and finding happy endings. This is reflected in Light Academia fashion as well, which typically makes use of a much lighter palette and more feminine pieces. You’ll find that it bears some resemblance to both Cottagecore and Soft Girl outfits.


Social Media Origins

The term “Light Academia” was first introduced back in 2019, by the Tumblr user Plantaires. According to them, this aesthetic can be summed up as reading poetry and laughing with friends, wearing flowy dresses, and having picnics on sunny afternoons. It’s about softness, dreaminess, and finding light in the doom and gloom of life. In our opinion, this is what really sets it apart from Dark Academia.


Classic Literature and Art History in Light Academia

Young women laughing together.
Film Still from Anne with an E from

When it comes to classic literature, some of the most commonly associated with Light Academia include Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Most of these stories are set in a rural landscape and involve themes of family, friendship, exploration, and growing out of girlhood.


When it comes to art, it’s all about the atmosphere. Impressionism is a beloved era among fans of Light Academia because of its color palette and cozy depiction of life and nature. Beaux-Arts, Baroque, and Neoclassical architecture are also prominent when it comes to Light Academia visuals.


If you’re a film buff, look to the likes of Harry Potter, Dead Poets Society, Steel Magnolias, Cracks, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and the film adaptation of Little Women for some inspiration when it comes to this romantic academia aesthetic. You’ll find that while some of these films have dark undertones to them, it is contrasted by soft and rose-tinted visuals. Such is the way of Light Academia.


Light Academia vs. Dark Academia

The most obvious difference between the two can be seen in their color palettes. Dark Academia Fashion is shrouded in dark forest tones, giving outfits an aged and heavy feeling. On the other hand, Light Academia outfits go for neutral and earthy tones, which lends them a more refreshing appearance. Despite contrasting palettes, however, the two are linked by a love for knowledge and the arts.

Romanticism is another common theme between the two, which can be seen in both Dark and Light Academia fashion. Touches of ruffles and lace, luxurious fabrics such as silk and velvet, and hair bows are just some of the key pieces that these academia aesthetics share. For both, it’s all about life imitating art—at least, in a fashion sense. You’ll find more of that in our style guide below!


Light Academia Fashion – Tops and Dresses

Examples of Light Academia Tops and Dresses
Examples of Light Academia Tops and Dresses

The foundation of any good Light Academia style is in the top you are wearing. You can easily make a statement by choosing one that is definitive in the aesthetic. For example, Light Academia focuses on lighter colors and feminine details such as a sheer silk blouse with ruffle accents. You can also go androgynous and opt for a classic Oxford shirt.

For men, dress shirts and cable knit sweater vests are great basics to have. These can be easily dressed up or down and will give your aesthetic outfits a more scholarly feel. When choosing colors for your tops, stay on the lighter side of the color palette. Doing so should also make it easier for you to mix and match.

Light Academia Color Palette
Light Academia Color Palette

When choosing dresses, select something that moves when you do. The silhouette shouldn’t be too tight on the body, either. Think flowy sundresses and vintage gowns. Light Academia dresses have a very particular silhouette so that’s something to be mindful of as well.

To finish off the look, especially during colder seasons, comfortable wool coats and trench coats are a must-have. Not only will these pieces help keep you from getting cold, but they also add some much-needed drama to your look. We suggest choosing ones in nude tones, such as cream, khaki, or even a browny-pink hue. Avoid dark colors as those might weigh your ensemble down, making it appear heavy.


Light Academia Fashion – Trousers and Skirts

Examples of Light Academia Trousers and Skirts
Examples of Light Academia Trousers and Skirts

For bottoms, you can play around with a few options. There are straight-cut trousers, plaid pants, and slacks that will give structure to any outfit. Though, both men and women can opt for slouchier bottoms to give their look a more relaxed and lived-in feel.

When it comes to skirts, length isn’t much of an issue, but knee-length pleated skirts fit this aesthetic best. You can wear these with a belt to cinch the waist, which is great if you’re wearing loose blouses. Short plaid skirts can also work and look best when paired with tights to add a “uniform” or preppy appearance to your Light Academia outfit.

Light Academia Color Palette
Light Academia Color Palette

For the color palette, stick to darker bottoms. This will help balance everything out and add contrast since the colors for these aesthetic outfits can be quite muted. You can experiment with different textures, patterns, silhouettes, and lengths as well. For example, if you want to keep your look comfortable, try loose-fitted trousers that are cut or folded right at the ankle!


Light Academia Fashion – Shoes and Accessories

Examples of Light Academia Accessories
Examples of Light Academia Accessories

When it comes to shoes and accessories, keep it simple. For example, classic Light Academia shoes such as Oxford shoes, Doc Martens, and Mary Janes are the go-to for lovers of this aesthetic. Not only do these lend a scholarly look to any outfit, but they also go with just about any style. Opt for either black or brown as these are the easiest to mix and match. You can also opt to pair these shoes with some ruffle socks or your favorite plaid ones to add a bit of fun to an otherwise serious fit.

Accessories for men are also kept minimal. We suggest investing in a good pair of thick-framed eyeglasses. You can choose among many different styles, but we think plain black or tortoiseshell look best. For women, aside from getting a pair of flattering glasses, adding a bow or a daintily tied scarf to your hair gives any outfit a boost.

If you’re the type to wear jewelry, don’t pile them on.  A simple earring paired with a bracelet or a necklace is subtle but adds to the overall effect. Pearls can also be worn as they add a touch of elegance to even the simplest of Light Academia outfits.

Last, but certainly not least, no academia aesthetic outfit would be complete without a book or two. Some might say it’s a little too on-the-nose, but why not go all the way? Besides, any lover of literature will always have a soft cover hidden in their satchel somewhere! Here are 25 books like Twilight you can choose from as well.


Light Academia Female Outfit Ideas

If you’re still unsure about which pieces go well together and how to style the vintage finds you’ve scored, here are some styling ideas you can try.


1. Light Academia Outfit #1 – Inspired by Anne with an E

Woman in a white dress wearing a straw hat.
Photo by KoolShooters on Pexels

We might never get another season of the beloved show Anne with an E, but we can always take style inspiration from it. Our pick? Wearing vintage flowy dresses with a straw hat. This can give even the simplest outfit a dose of character.


2. Light Academia Outfit # 2 – The Casual Scholar

Woman in a sweater vest holding a book.
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels

If you’re not fond of getting too dressed up, try this style instead. Pair your favorite white shirt with some jeans then add a sweater vest on top. We suggest going for darker jeans, but this example works just fine as well. To add a more scholarly look to your outfit, pair it with brogues or Oxford shoes.


3. Light Academia Outfit #3 – One of the Boys

Woman wearing a short pantsuit.

Though Light Academia fashion is often described as feminine, it has many elements that can be considered androgynous. Channel that into your outfit by choosing a non-traditional suit such as in the example above. It doesn’t have to completely match, either. Play with neutrals that go well together and find a combination that tickles your fancy.


Light Academia Male Outfit Ideas

How do you keep Light Academia outfits for men from becoming repetitive and bland? There are a few simple things you can do, including bending the rules a bit. Here are some style suggestions you can try.


1. Light Academia Outfit #1 – A Pop of Color

Man wearing a beige trench coat with a tangerine-colored shirt.
Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

You can go monochrome, but on days you want a bit more vibrancy try adding a pop of color to your outfit. The example above shows a brightly colored undershirt but you can also use a scarf or a tie.


2. Light Academia Outfit #2 – Experiment with Fabric

Man wearing a corduroy jacket and trousers.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels

Corduroy may not be the first choice that comes to mind when it comes to academia aesthetic, but it can work. It’s all about choosing the right piece and the right color. Following the example above, swap out your traditional trouser and jacket coordinate for something more fun.


3. Light Academia Outfit #3 – The Slacker

Men wearing loose-fitting outfits and trench coats.
Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

The academia aesthetic doesn’t have to be prim and proper all the time. You can inject a bit of streetwear into it by playing with the fit of your clothes. Instead of the usual tailored pieces, why not go for something easy and casual like a simple shirt and some chinos?


Where to Buy Light Academia Clothes?

If you have the budget for it, there are quite a number of Light Academia clothing brands that will help you build a very aesthetic wardrobe. Let’s start with the classics:

  • Ralph Lauren
  • The Row
  • Chloé
  • Madewell
  • Everlane
  • Crew
  • Alexa Chung
  • H&M
  • Zara

You need not spend a lot of money to get Light academia aesthetic clothes, however. While designer fashion is great and much easier to find, your local thrift stores can easily have similar items for a fraction of the price. Since Light Academia clothes are largely influenced by vintage styles, make sure you also check out antique shops to source some of your pieces.


If you’re more of an online shopper, websites such as Depop and Etsy would have plenty to offer as well. In fact, Depop has an entire tag dedicated to Light Academia where you’ll find sellers catering to this particular style. Remember, the idea is to dress as if you’ve just returned from boarding schools, not pay a semester’s price for a few new pieces of clothes!


Add a Touch of Romance to Your OOTD’s Through Light Academia Fashion

Clothing need not always be utilitarian. Allow your imagination to take flight and allow fiction to inspire your current wardrobe. Doing so is easier than you think! Just take cues from Light Academia fashion and add a few key pieces to what you already have. With some simple mixing and matching, you will be able to put together an outfit that fits the Ivy League style.


Need more style inspiration? Here are 30 different types of aesthetics to spice up your style game.