When student vlogger Ehis Ilozobhie went through his closet before starting his first term at King’s College London, he wanted to take everything. “I vividly remember my dad telling me: ‘Oh you’re not going to need all this,’” he says. Despite that long-suffering parental sigh, Ilozobhie packed all his kicks, his clothes and four different suits. It didn’t take long, though, before he realised that what he was actually wearing day-in, day-out, was T-shirts, sweatpants and a jacket. And all of the stuff he wasn’t wearing? It was making an already small room feel way smaller.
So the most important bit of style advice is this: pack basic. Homesickness will probably have you home before you know it, by which point you’ll have a clearer idea of exactly what uni life is, and how best to dress for it. When packing the first time round, be practical. What’s the weather in autumn generally like where you’re headed to? What do you need to keep up your current sport or hobby? Crucially, what makes you feel most at home?
Be it a onesie (AKA a wearable hug), a hoodie or your slippers, you’re going to need something cosy to pull an all-nighter, for movie nights with flatmates, or just to make whatever version of lockdown September brings that bit more bearable. Likewise, the 9am lecture, or the late-afternoon tutorial. As vlogger Maninder Sachdeva puts it, things are way more casual than you’d think. Even at Oxford, where he is in his final months of a degree in computer science and philosophy, things might start out smart, but within a few weeks people are literally heading out in their PJs.
This isn’t to say getting dressed up can’t actually have a role to play – even if social distancing measures have you stuck in your room more than you expected. As YouTuber Elena Handtrack recently posted to Instagram: “Did I get dressed up to sit in my room and study, knowing full well that no one would see me? Absolutely.” Even while quarantined back home in Stuttgart, she has kept up the daily 5am rise and full-on hair and makeup routine she’s often vlogged about from her room in Cambridge. When she’s done with work at her desk, it’s sweatpants and socials on her bed. She’s changing clothes as a way to structure her day.
If you’re someone who navigated secondary school without ever giving your clothes much thought, university might just be an open window of sorts. “You’re exposed to so much more,” says Ilozobhie. Capitalise on the sense of freedom that brings. Explore. Have fun. Ask people where they got things. Make moodboards, pinning stuff you like the look of on Pinterest, TikTok and Tumblr.
The danger of a student budget is how sneakily fast fashion has risen to meet it. Ilozobhie recommends saving your pennies and spending that bit more on timeless basics from more ethical sources. For the rest, shift your focus to charity shops, swap meets and thrifting apps (Vinted, Depop and Vestiaire Collective, to name a few). Conscious shopping is that bit more time-consuming, but you’ll be setting up wardrobe habits to last you a lifetime.