The Evolution of Student Fashion

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Fashion editor Lydia Varney surveys the evolution of a student’s wardrobe.


Ever-eager, the pre-uni fashion follower is obsessed with trends, copying their peers, popular magazines and Instagram icons left right and centre. If one of you wore it, you all wore it. Think Topshop’s skinny high waist jeans, Abercrombie & Fitch logo tees and Air Force Max all day every day. Of course you weren’t totally restricted to basic, clone copy looks. Once in a while, you’d whip out a carefully curated ‘edgy’ outfit, testing the water. Usually, you’d feel self conscious, regret the decision and probably revert quickly back to jeans and a Nike crop top.

image credits (left to right): Hollister, Topshop, Office

First Year

Now here’s a student that’s ready to impress. A fresh start means a fresh look, and it’s time to nail those nearly-there statement pieces from the past. Never seen at uni without at least a little bit of makeup, ‘effortless’ jewellery combinations and a shining brand new puffer jacket, the fresher can be spotted a mile away. Sure, you might have had sixth form dress codes. But, alas, the university preppy look you might have dreamt about is not the reality, neither is the exciting breeding ground of youth culture. More likely you’ve turned up to Fruity in a pair of heels and instantly regretted the decision. Less (effort) is more, my friends.

image credits (left to right): H&M, Urban Outfitters

Second Year

It hasn’t taken you long to realise that all your problems have been solved by owning an extensive sports wardrobe. Nobody’s going to notice if you’ve worn the same gym leggings two, three, no- four, days in a row, and even if they did they’d hardly comment since they’re probably doing the same. It doesn’t matter in the slightest if you actually intend to go to the gym or not; you look great in your athleisure gear, and what’s more, you’ve never been comfier. By this point, you’re one step away from turning up to your best friend’s 21st in a baggy gym sweater and a pair of Nike trainers.

image credits: Leeds Gear

Year in Industry

Oh dear. You’ve realised, quite suddenly, that you have absolutely no idea about what’s appropriate for work, and you certainly don’t own anything even remotely close. You borrowed your mum’s jacket for the interview, and after a rushed Zara shop, you own about three suitable outfits, which you wear on loop for your first week. It’s only two months in when you realise you’ve made the fresher-faux-par all over again; nobody else is trying half as hard as you. Trainers are definitely appropriate for the work place, as are jeans, and puffer jackets too. Breath out. You can start dressing like yourself again. 

image credits (lef to right): Zara, Topshop, & Other Stories

Final Year

Now’s your last chance to wear whatever you want, scattered with all the events you’ve been outfit planning all summer; graduation, Leeds ball, just-done-my-dissertation photos (okay, possibly not the event of the century, but it’s something…) And how do you make the most of it? By reverting quickly back to gym leggings and baggy jeans. Of course, when it comes to dressing up, you nail it every time – you’re unashamed of wearing crazy statement pieces to every event that comes your way – you’re here to make the most of it, after all. It’s the last time a night out will be a regular occurrence, a ball a typical occasion, and (possibly) the only graduation photoshoot you’re ever getting. If that’s not an occasion to put some effort in to, then frankly, you’re reading the wrong section.  

image credits (left to right): Shein, Asos Marketplace