What to wear to the Oxford Union

Known primarily for shady elections and its ability to generate national news, The Oxford Union is also, surprisingly, host to one or two fashion-lovers, and I don’t just mean visits from Roberto Cavalli. The range in dress sense is certainly… interesting, to say the least. Navigating your way through the different style squadrons can be a hazardous experience, so allow me to break things down depending on what you’re planning.

Blending In

Despite the pomp and ceremony of the Union’s traditions, most people opt for fairly low-key outfits. After all, if you’re just there to listen, there’s no point in changing from your everyday get-up. Beware the hovering photographer though, otherwise in a few weeks a photo of you in that stained ‘essay crisis chic’ hoodie might appear on a page with over 12,000 likes. Also don’t count on the chamber being warm; even the hot air of debating MPs can’t heat that building properly, so remember to bring a coat.

oxford union 2


So you’ve emailed ahead and secured your place at the drinks event, or you’re just planning on schmoozing your way through the bar afterwards. But how do you make sure people remember you? Well, something all hacks ought to have in their wardrobe is a signature accessory. Certain things – cravats, shoulder-length black hair, smoking pipes – are already associated with other people, so look for something you can make your own.

Of course, if you subscribe to former Union president Boris Johnson’s view that women are just at university to find a husband then you’ll obviously want to brush up nicely! Take a leaf out of “plastic princess” Kate Middleton’s book, and go for a nice, sophisticated yet homely wrap dress from Yummy Mummy favourite Marks and Spencer. Polished but not too intimidating – don’t want to scare the boys off now do we ladies!

Getting noticed

Desperate to make a floor speech in the debate? Or to ask your favourite celebrity a question? As well as getting a good seat, wearing something which makes you easily distinguishable can be helpful for catching the attention of whoever’s chairing the debate. If you’re wearing a blue shirt, chances are you’ll end up sat between two other people in blue shirts. Cue awkward “the honourable member in the blue shirt… no no, the other one” moments. Dig around in your wardrobe and find that bright yellow jacket. I know, I know, it’s not the most stylish of choices, but trust me, it will make being selected easier. Or it might just make you look like a twat, but then at least you’ll fit in.