Fashion Advice for Freshers: Or, How I Learnt to Survive the Oxford Practical Life



I was recently visiting a friend in St Andrew’s when I saw an article in their student newspaper ‘The Saint’ containing fashion advice for Freshers. Their main suggestion for essential items revolved around cashmere, hardly the most affordable or mainstream type of knitwear. It inspired me to write my own article, dispensing some more practical, perhaps more obvious advice. However, remembering the panic I had in pre-Freshers week…


You should bring some (loads of) pyjamas/trackie bottoms/sleep/leisurewear that you feel comfortable other people seeing you wrapped in. You’ll spend a lot of time socialising in people’s rooms late at night (read 4am), and you want to be comfortable. A dressing gown is a must for those quick midnight (or later) trips to the kitchen for an essay break snack, just in case someone is doing the same. A fleecy one works even better, as does a fleecy blanket, so you can at least be cosy during your 5am essay crisis – they are definitely two of my most favourite pieces in my wardrobe.


Wardrobe space is likely to be limited, so prepare yourself to compromise on the amount of clothing you’re bringing. Pack pieces that you can wear again and again in different ways, and above all that are easy to dress up and down. Speed is key in the Oxford life, as you may only have five-to-fifteen minutes to get ready for a night out; being able to quickly apply your makeup and change up your look is a crucial skill! Go for a go-to look you can pull off on early mornings (as those do happen in Oxford…), even lay the outfit out the night before if you’re really organised. Slightly random yet life-saving laundry tip: you don’t need to separate colours and whites if you use a ‘ColourCatcher’ sheet (thank you Tesco’s).


Skyscraper heels, stilettos and the like won’t be necessary unless you go to a ball. Most people do not wear heels when they go clubbing, which is generally more of a chill affair in Oxford in terms of fashion. Carrying a pair of flats in your handbag is indispensable when you’re planning on spending ten or more hours at a ball – especially if you want to (and you do) dance as exuberantly as possible. Watch out for wobbly cobbles in Radcliffe Square, definitely not the best surface to wear heels unless you’re keen on broken ankles. It’s advisable to invest in some squishy squashy gel pads so as to put off, if not avoid, burning feet for a while. Trainers are the Oxford must-wear-can’t-live-without. If you’re planning on rowing (and you will be at some point), then a waterproof pair is best – mishaps will happen and they will fall in the water, so don’t wear a pair you’re really attached to.


You may as well leave your ‘Leavers’ hoodies at home, because soon you’ll be collecting a ton of stash. You’ll get your first piece the minute you arrive – that very useful Freshers’ college t-shirt will kit you out for at least the first few nights out. Colleges and sports are the most prominent dispensers of stash (beware the rowing unitards!), but most societies now offer some, and a few large drama productions have started using them to promote their play (RENT last year had extremely comfortable grey beanies).


If you didn’t wear a uniform in school or college, then you’ve probably spent most of your time indoors, which, warm or not, was still a shelter from rain and wind. This doesn’t apply to Oxford: even though you may have some long (long, long) days in the library, the life of the Oxford student usually requires quite a bit of walking (alright, read “five minutes or so” – Oxford does this to your sense of proportion). Many students appear to have forgotten that umbrellas were once invented and still are a thing, as I learnt at my expense when as a Fresher I found myself running to my first tutorial in the midst of torrential rain – for ten minutes only, but I was soaked to the bone. My tutor even offered to light the fire (yes, the concentration of fireplaces in Oxford is possibly higher than in the whole of the UK) so that I could dry off.

Good Luck Freshers!



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