Freshers’ Fashion Guide

If you’re anything like I was this time last year you’ll have already started to think about tackling the insurmountable task of packing for Oxford. Last September I was faced with my first dilemma of the term – whether to pack a stylish, effortless capsule collection or to just bung the entirety of my wardrobe into ten see-through Ikea bags. I chose the latter, obviously.

I didn’t need to. I didn’t actually need about a tenth of the things I brought, but that’s irrelevant. I’m kind of reluctant to even admit this, but by the end of Michaelmas term comfort was running rings around style, and I was left cursing my three-months-earlier self for packing dozens of flimsy sundresses instead of the chunky knitwear I – and my frozen knees – were pining for.

So – because I’m a charitable sort – I’ve compiled a list of the Top Five items of clothing you should probably pack for next term, and the Top Five items you should definitely leave at home. Let’s start with the positive:

1) Your sub fusc. From scanning (read: stalking) the Trinity College Freshers’ 2011 page on Facebook there seems to be a lot of confusion about what this is, where you can buy it, and when you’re actually going to need it. The sub fusc is the academic dress for Oxford, and you’ll only wear it in its entirety for two things: your matriculation ceremony and your end-of-year exams (ed – some colleges make you wear gowns for Formal Hall dinners). You can buy your sub fusc in a few shops around Oxford (Shepherd and Woodward, Ede and Ravenscroft, Walters or Castells) once you get up here or just buy it online from the shops’ websites and have it delivered.

2) Comfy shoes, because you’re going to do a lot of walking around and clubbing and standing up in freshers’ week. Girls – you don’t have to wear heels every night out. This came as a bit of a shock to me, but by Friday of freshers’ I was pretty relieved to not have to totter from Broad Street down to Bridge in six-inch heels at the start of the night, and even more grateful to not have to totter all the way back at the end of the night. Also I know comfy is pretty much a euphemism for fug, but you can actually look decent in flats; look at the (pricey but) gorgeous range of French Sole ballet pumps or Topshop’s impressive selection of flats for inspiration.

3) A range of items for fancy dress. Just to give you an idea, mine consisted of cat ears, a school shirt, geek glasses, neon facepaint, a white T-shirt, a Hawaiian lei, leopard print Primark harems and a lot of safety pins. My friend owns a pumpkin costume (and by ‘owns’ I mean ‘owns’ in both the sense that it’s her property and the sense that she works it like a boss). Maybe don’t go this far.

4) A couple of formal outfits – for guys, suits; for girls, cocktail dresses or another smart outfit. If your college does formal hall or you go to any black-tie events you’re going to need these. Girls, from experience there aren’t too many places in Oxford you can buy amazing cocktail dresses from – you’re pretty much limited to Topshop, French Connection, Oasis and Debenhams, although you’ve always got online retailers to fall back on. It’s a good idea to pack a couple of formal outfits from home as back-up though; something you know you’re going to feel comfortable and look good in.

5) Fashion which is personal to you. You’re going to be making a lot of first impressions in the first couple of weeks, and although this first impression will obviously mostly consist of you showcasing your sparkling personality, don’t forget that how you present yourself is also important. Bring clothes that mean something to you, that remind you of home, that make you feel happy the second you put them on, that practically guarantee you’re going to have a good day. But don’t go too far. You don’t want to be remembered as that weird guy who turned up to his first tute in a ‘pussay patrol’ T-shirt from his lads’ holiday.

And finally, what not to bring:

Anything ‘too’. Anything too short. Anything too tacky. Anything too summery. Anything too eccentric. Anything too crude. Anything too tight. Anything too inappropriate. Just be sensible, okay? I know this is probably a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people I saw shivering in lectures because they’d turned up in short strappy sundresses in the middle of November. I definitely did not do this. I had a bomber jacket to put on over the sundress.

I’m expecting undying gratitude for this, freshers. If you see me out in 0th week you’d better buy me a drink.