How To Dress For University On A Budget

Jackie Mok

One topic that often crosses a prospective university students mind is what to wear when attending classes. A quick google search will show you countless blog posts and forums suggesting what clothing to bring/wear.

There is a stereotypical saying - if “well-dressed” was a Facebook profile, its relationship status with students would say “Complicated”. During the times of the pandemic, where most of us are having classes online in our pyjamas, dressing up again on campus can seem tough... but it doesn’t have to be!

Young and on a budget

If you are a typical university student who has just moved out of your home town, with a student loan and paying your own rent for the first time, being well-dressed and fashionable can seem like an impossible (and expensive) task.

That’s where fast-fashion comes in.

Fast fashion clothing items are:
1) Typically produced on a large-scale
2) The items are cheaper than ever
3) But meant for short-term use (at least a season)

You’ll find many of your friends (perhaps even yourself) favour buying clothes from retailers like Primark, Topshop, Pretty Little Thing and many others. Why? Because they are cheap, as well as in-style - doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

A more environmentally friendly alternative to fast fashion is second hand fashion - you can find equally stylish clothes at charity or thrift shops, or even online on sites like Depop and eBay.

It’s more of a personal preference on where you choose to shop, so instead let’s talk about what clothing essentials you should bring to university!

1) Joggers

A classic student wardrobe staple, a nice pair of joggers can be worn on many occasions. You can sleep in them, go to the gym and lectures in them...you name it, a pair of high quality, affordable joggers are a must-have for university.

A good quality pair of joggers are worth investing in, because many cheaper ones tend to shrink, crease intensely or lose tensions on the elastics after few washes. But don't worry - for those on a budget, I have found that joggers from Uniqlo are high quality, for a lower price!

2) Jeans

A pair of denim jeans are a MUST - especially mid to dark-washed jeans, as they are very durable and versatile. Of course, if you prefer light-coloured jeans, they are just as durable and versatile! But with mid to dark denims, especially in dark navy, you can create both professional and smart casual looks, as they're easily paired with any jacket.

If you're trying to find a nice pair of affordable jeans, many vintage shops have Levi’s and other designer jeans for a reasonable price, as well as on Depop and eBay. Other brands like Gap and Uniqlo have a quality selection of selvedge jeans at a budgeted price.

3) Flannels & Oxford Shirts

On university campuses, you’ll find that many students like to wear flannel shirts because they are easy to layer in colder seasons and give off a stylish yet ‘rugged’ look. They are a great gender-neutral staple piece. Make sure to keep one or two of them in your wardrobe!

Besides from flannel shirts, another less common, but good to have clothing item are Oxford Shirts (also called OCBD). They are an example of dress shirts that aren’t too ‘dressy’ or ‘posh’, adding a casual twist to a  formal outfit, or vice versa. They're great for nights out! They can also be worn to any interviews you have lined up whilst at university or once you've graduated!

4) Suits

A suit will probably be the least worn garment in your university life - unless you’re a Business major.They are essential for job interviews and for some internships. If you are not into classic menswear or suits in general, bringing one ‘two-piece suit’ (suit jacket & trousers of the same colour and fabric) should be more than enough. Here is a useful article for buying a suit online if you're unsure.

Suits tend to be expensive - but many more affordable suits from fast-fashion companies don’t last long or have the best fit. So, if you’re a student and in need of a quality suit whilst sticking to a budget, buying second hand is the way to go!

As someone who have just graduated university, I have worn suits often recently, for job interviews. eBay is always my go-to for buying high-end suits at a lower price. Just find one in your size and if necessary, go to a tailor for alterations!

Those are Jackie's top 4 recommendations for clothing essentials to bring to University! You don't need to bring all of your clothes to university - remember, pack with practicality in mind! Everyday clothes, party outfits and interview gear are wardrobe must-haves. Happy shopping!