Going to the library; the priority is to work. Right? Well no, not at the Radcliffe Camera. Put aside thoughts of chemical equations or academic commentators: making a fashion splash in the most notable of Oxford libraries is going to be at the forefront of your mind. I confess that I like to look good when pouring over each week’s difficult set-text knowing that everyone else in there is stylish and tasteful. Let’s be frank, when a trip to the RadCam is on the cards, so is Oxford’s notorious fashion scene.
Although many of us like to emphasise that dressing up for a stint in the library is a ridiculous premise … we all like to indulge in it. I know I always make the extra sartorial effort. It is apparent that fashion tastes are spread across the different reading rooms. The Gladstone Link with its harsh artificial lighting isn’t great for showing off your complexion. People are generally a lot more moderate in their attempts to attract from behind those rolling shelves with fewer fashion statements and more of a range of simple jeans and shirts or other variants of casual attire.
In the Lower Camera students are, generally speaking, very well-dressed. The occasional tutor or don scattered across the reading room looks out of place in a sea of trendy undergraduates. Everyone has their own unique style or item, such as an elaborate silk scarf or fluffy ear muffs, they are looking to broadcast. So where better to try it out than in the Lower Camera where readers scan the desks every time upon entering or exiting the main library?
The most glamorous outfits are undeniably reserved for the Upper Camera. This is the ultimate peacocking forum with readers of all genders dressing to impress. In a hotbed of fashion icons, the Upper Camera can be intimidating. Don’t let this stop you from going the extra mile in an eye-catching pair of patterned trousers or a garish yeti jumper. It’s hard not to look up from your notes to see an elegant black dress or playsuit or a conspicuous yellow bobble-hat floating around. I always see girls dressed in implausibly beautiful skirts, long or short; patterned or monochrome accompanied by a pair of cute creepers or brogues. In addition, it is worth nothing that accessories are key. A statement hand-bag or pair of tortoise-shell glasses does no harm to your library-cred.
With this in mind, it is hard not to believe that each outfit is not some kind of fashion experiment. Everyone looks too good for a university library.
In the case of the college library, however, the situation is a very different. Most students have simply rolled out of bed straight onto a desk which is shrouded in an accompanying duvet. Pajamas do not look out of place. Neither does a grimy hoody or pair of leggings. The contrast is startling. So I confess that I can’t help but save my lovingly concocted sartorial statements for the RadCam, where I know they won’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.