“There are two kinds of people in the world [of fashion], my friend:” those who are fashion aware and those who for whom fashion is the perceived folly of others. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of subcategories that follow, but those two groups are at the very top of the fashion pyramid.

Arriving at university, both kinds of people will find themselves faced with a dilemma: money. Those who aren’t fashion aware or opt to ignore it will argue that it’s too expensive at this stage of their life to become interested in style, clothes, and everything that goes with it. Most of those who are fashion aware often will find out that following fashion trends is incredibly hard to do on a student budget, a budget which usually averages between £250 and £400 a month for food, drinks, books, and clothing.

The former assumption, that fashion is too expensive and thus to be overlooked, is fundamentally wrong in this day and age. In the modern world of fast fashion, it is possible to be fashion aware at University and live within the means of a student budget. One just has to be aware of all the possibilities that present themselves throughout the year, and avoid buying something straight away. I say this as it is very easy to be tempted to buy an item when we see it in the shop, but if you wish to save money, it’s probably better to go home and do some research as the item is probably cheaper somewhere else, or has a cheaper alternative.

It is also important to resist buying from so called “University Outfitters”, as Jack Wills, Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch and Gilly Hicks tend to offer only one style of clothes, at a price far higher than most can comfortably afford.

The first thing a student has to be aware of when buying clothes is the student discount, which offers 10%, 15%, or sometimes even 20% off all products in most high street shops. If used consistently, it can help save around £200 pounds or more, depending on your shopping habits, a year.

This discount can be enhanced if, like many, you decide to find a job as a retail assistant. Many brands offer 25% to 50% off for their employees, and, even if having a job means having more money, this discount is worth defaulting to when the needs and whims of buying fashion arise.

And if those discounts aren’t enough, maybe the ones in discount stores, say TK Maxx in Britain and the likes of Century 21 in the United States, will be more appealing as the odd gem in such stores can often be found around 60% off. I often hear people saying that it is “cheap” to shop there, but that is the point. And, moreover, who will ever know? I have been parading for weeks in a blazer that I bought for £59 instead of £199. So far, no one has noticed, and no one will, as it IS the real thing. Just cheaper.

Other shops to explore include charity shops and vintage shops, which respectively offer cheap items (for a good cause), and rare, fashionable clothes and accessories for a portion of the price they once commanded. Such shops are usually placed in the back streets, so I’d strongly advise anyone new to a town (as is often the case for first year university students) to quickly overlook the high street and visit your new city’s little streets. I still regret not visiting the edges of my University’s town quicker, as so many small wonders were situated there. For those of you lucky enough to be in a London based University, do visit the ins and outs of Camden, as its many vintage shops accommodate, and please, every taste.

Furthermore, there is one website that acts as an international charity/vintage/discount store: eBay. There are a few rules to remember when buying and auctioning on it, but once those simple concepts have been understood (if you’re reading this, you’re likely to already be well versed), it is easy to find any clothes you might require to start, or complete, a specific look.

To conclude, I will name the one event you have to attend, should you chose to ignore all of the previous advices. The Sales. Set periodically, they are a great way to get ready for the next season, without digging a hole into one’s wallet.

I have, hopefully, made my point. University is a time of exploration and discoveries, and the better the outfit, the more enjoyable the experiences (except for those experiences which require no outfit at all).

It would therefore be very sad to give up on fashion at this point, just because of a money shortage. In fashion and life alike, a wise investment and a bit of extra knowledge will take anyone a long way.

Read more of this series

  1. University fashion: trends & influences
  2. What to wear to Fresher’s week
  3. Following fashion on a student budget
  4. A short study on expendable fashion
  5. Preppy vs Sporty
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