Student Life: How to dress for less

In the first of our series of guides to preparing for student life, Ellie Pithers explains how to create a university wardrobe without crippling your student loan.

When that student loan first lands in your bank account, it can be tempting to tear into it right away. After all, nobody wants to arrive at university with the same, overworn old clothes.

But the first rule of student budgeting is simple: splurging is verboten.

So if you're off to university this summer, here's a quick guide to what you can be doing to spruce up your wardrobe for less:

Make a list: You should be good at this if you did any revision for your A-levels (i.e. constructed colour-coded revision timetables, occasionally in 3-D format). Decide how much money you will need for necessities (baked beans, books, beer) and set aside an amount to spend on clothing per month. Then stick to it.

Mind the gaps: Ascertain where gaps loom in your wardrobe, and buy accordingly. Necessities include skinny jeans, a Fair Isle sweater, and artfully scuffed trainers but, at the risk of sounding mumsy, the lynchpin of the undergraduate wardrobe is a decent coat. You may have slunk through your sixth form years with a manky old pashmina or an oversized hoodie for insulation, but there is no university in Britain so tropical as to make a coat a mere sartorial flourish.

Cash in on discounts: With your induction to university comes the hallowed NUS extra card, and a range of discounts worthy ofSupermarket Sweep. Most useful are Topshop, Topman, ASOS, Office and Amazon, all of whom offer discounts of 10% or more. Also keep a beady eye on local discounts available to you with your campus card – sometimes these can outstrip NUS’s bountiful offers – and sign up to email newsletters to keep abreast of special student shopping events.

Learn to love charity shops: Some degree of chance is inevitable when rummaging through charity shops, but genuine gems can be unearthed, and they are all the sweeter for the quest (and 50p price tag). Don’t be put off by the eccentric staff or funky smell – start small with the jewellery section, and go from there. Personal triumphs include a natty black sequinned waistcoat, nabbed for a fiver on the way home from lectures, and a jade cameo ring that makes one feel mildly aristocratic.

A borrower and a lender be: Polonius’s contrary advice to his university-bound son may well roll off your parents’ tongues as they propel you down the motorway come September. What Polonius forgot to point out is that swapping unwanted clothes with an equally stylish friend is totally kosher.
Think outside the box: See that scarf lurking miserably beneath your bed? In times of dire finances (or washing powder outage) the intrepid stylish student must be brave enough to experiment with scarves as skirts, cinched with a sturdy belt. As with all fashion experiments, cycling shorts must be worn underneath – just in case.


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