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A Girl's Guide to Dressing for University

What you need to wear to completely reinvent everything about yourself.
September 27, 2013, 1:20pm

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Sorry, we’re not interested in helping you find an outfit for freshers week. There are already plenty of places out there telling you how to best accessorise your onesie – besides, by the time 10PM rolls around on the first Friday and you actually need to leave the house, the idea of going out in anything remotely sensible or attractive will have been replaced with an irrational desire to wear woollen knee-highs and liquid eyeliner. Do it. Go wild. But when it comes to the long game – girl, we’ve totally got your back.

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University is like dating someone you met on the night bus; it’s kind of scary and it definitely won’t last. But while you’re at it, you might as well go ahead and completely reinvent yourself, because that’s what people with personality disorders do (don't worry, we all have them). Going to university is all about being smart, and what’s smarter than planning exactly how you want to come across to a large group of people over an extended period of time? Find your degree in the list below – or the nearest thing to it, because Jesus, you're not paying us to be here – and get swotting.

LAW

Clockwise from left: Topshop skirt suit; Acne jumper; Raegan crop-top; John Freida "Brilliant Brunette" conditioner; Moschino Cheap & Chic pearl collar coat; Topshop pumps; Marlboro Reds; Sunspel pleated skirt. (Background image via)

Let's skip the bullshit: you're doing law, you're a teenager, you've obviously seen Legally Blonde. I’m not about to suggest you scent your essays or sleep with your teacher, I’m about to suggest you get your little pencil out and start taking notes from Vivian Kensington, AKA Selma Blair, AKA the bitch, AKA the other one who gets to sleep with her teacher. You need to channel Ling Woo in Ally Mcbeal, you need to embody the cliche, dye your hair chestnut brown, perfect your scowl and constantly lick your lipstick off; make people afraid of you.

Look, it's simple, for the next nine semesters you’re going to be suffocated by law nerds and public school toffs. Unfortunately, you're probably neither – you're probably just a mediocre kid who wanted to piss off their ex by getting on to a more intellectual course than "digital design", meaning you're going to be absorbed into their cliques and forgotten quicker than you can say Roe vs. Wade.

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Forget making friends – that's what the history department is for. Just focus on owning and abusing what little power you can grasp in these first few weeks, and then utilise it to assemble the most vicious debate team in your class, the most ruthless prosecution in your year and the best chance of eventually being crowned "Most Likely to… Represent Philip Green".

Then, when it's all over and you've got that out of your system, you can settle down and be a civil servant, with a snap cup and everything. Outfit wise, you want Prada but you can settle for Zara. Sleek hair and clean nails are obligatory, as are Marlboro Reds (you can just fill an empty pack with American Spirit if you're not into waking up with a wall of mucus blocking your windpipe), comfortable shoes and Winona Ryder's perfectly groomed 16-year-old eyebrows. HUMANITIES

Cos skirt; J Brand jeans; Mulberry scarf; Sonia by Sonia Rykiel dress; Comme Des Garcons pouch; Topshop blouse, shoes, platforms and jumper.(Background image via) When I decided to study history of art, I did it on the premise that having a basic humanities degree would mean that I could do any job I wanted. Because let's face it: No matter how impressive they might look on a CV, subjects like history and English provide you with zero practical skills. They'll also leave you as one of the mass of students incapable of original thought. Because another basic part of a humanities degree is desperately trying to convince everyone that you're smart and worldly, despite the fact you're way too lazy to ever actually sit yourself down and work at being either of those things.

Which is fine – the world has been expecting little of you for two whole decades, so I see no reason for you start giving a shit about anything now, including your wardrobe. Have a rummage through your mum's closet for the stuff that made her squirm a decade ago; frills, boyfriend jeans, particularly ugly pointy-toed shoes, the kind of stuff the man-repeller wouldn't wear for fear of being too repellent.

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And the absolute key to looking like you don't give a shit about the details is by paying huge attention to the details – finding that one token piece that'll let everyone know you couldn't care less about how you look: A tiny rhinestone bow at the clasp of a shoe, a pee-coloured semi-precious stone at the end of an earring, wearing a scarf in the summer. Essentially, anything that'll completely ruin an outfit and make everyone think that you're far too busy being intelligent to spend more than a microsecond putting together your outfit.

BIOLOGY

Clockwise from left: Birkenstock sandals; Henrik Vibskov duvet coat; Dettol spray; Uniqlo slacks; Aesop natural deodorant; Muji tupperware; E45 moisturiser; Nike tech pack windrunner. (Background image via)

From what I've heard, you biology students are hella neurotic. That's hardly surprising, given the fact that you've all just decided to dedicate your life to studying why things go wrong with the human body, but it means you'll need to mentally prepare yourself for a paranoid bunch of classmates.

Elevate yourself to the forefront of your peers by fostering the most incredulous concerns of all; don't expose yourself to direct sunlight, refuse to stand within 15-feet of any smokers, avoid dairy, gluten, red meat, alcohol and "over polluted areas". Carry excessive amounts of Dettol and E45 in your bag at all times. Represent this in your outfits by only wearing Birkenstocks, slacks and air-tech T-shirts, while carrying various tupperwares of food around in your rucksack.

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Coincidentally, you will also be dressing like you work in an appointment-only art bookshop in Peckham Rye, so good work on that front.

BUSINESS SCHOOL

Clockwise from left: Brian Lichtenberg jumper; OMIGHTY skirt; Versace trousers; Jeffrey Campbell trainers; OMIGHTY crop top; OMIGHTY T-shirt; Topshop cap; Marc by Marc Jacobs iPhone case. (Background image via)

Welcome to business school. In about four years, you'll be working crazy hours and earning way more money than you could ever feasibly spend. By the time you finally get around to quitting your trading job, you'll be married to some shipping heir, spitting out children and privately wondering if your charity drives essentailly make you the Primrose Hill Bill Gates.

For now, the only thing you can do is enrol in the mandatory Goldman Sachs summer training scheme, get all your new awful rich friends to buy your drinks and accept your fate. That means dropping the whole understated skinny jeans / Converse look and going as crass as possible before you're confined to a life of skirt-suits and sensible shoes.

Cheap-looking posh clothes are your best possible option, while gold should be at the centre of every detail. Merge the Kardashians and MIA and print dollar bills on every plain item of clothing you still have. Forget about ironing and make sure to buy the ugliest shoes from the most expensive shopping websites you can afford. Congratulations, you've done it: you've outcunted the cunts.

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NURSING

Clockwise from left: Shelly's London shoes; plastic surgical gloves; Muji raincoat; e4hats.com nurse's hat; Acne leather dungarees; Herve Leger bandage dress; Simone Rocha patent brogues; Simone Rocha pink skirt suit. (Background image via)

I know you've already thought about this, but training to be a medical student is absolutely terrifying. Which means you're going to want to convert your internal mania into something positive before you find yourself crouching in the medical supplies cupboard, frantically searching for the novocaine you swear you glimpsed during a hospital tour.

Another tip: Looking hot and smelling good are not only ways to become bootylicious, they're also a way to reclaim your self-control and the feelings of total horror you felt when you first saw an old person die. Pam Hogg’s transparent aprons, nurse caps and bare bottoms are a good place to start, moving on to Louis Vuitton in the second or third semester. Then, as the course becomes more intense and stressful, you can move into Thom Browne territory (blood splatters, bandages and teary eyeliner).

Without wanting to sound too much like Style.com, training to pull out stitches and examine people's genitals opens up a whole world of workwear in its most extreme; clinical, over-sized gowns, a whole bunch of messy up-do’s and the raw sex appeal of somebody who has the power to prescribe antibiotics. Oh, and chances are you won't have an appetite for the foreseeable future, so welcome to being as skinny as you were when you were 17 again. IT

Clockwise from left: Cos coat; T-Sport shin pads; Topshop angora jumper; Moschino iPhone case; Prada glasses; Russell and Bromley boots; American Apparel gloves; ThingsYouWear (via Etsy) fluffy laptop bag; Dolce & Gabbana glasses; OMIGHTY skirt; New Balance trainers. (Background image via)

Hey, IT girl, did your mama not love you enough? I can't quite fathom why you'd choose to dedicate three years of your life to a degree that will award you the privilege of spending a lifetime huffing dust and scrabbling for cables under desks, only to be the person who everyone blames for everything in every office, everywhere.

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Sorry if I'm being a bit cranky – our Sonos isn't working and it's probably your fault. But, realistically, you're probably smarter than the entire office collectively and were born with the knowledge that a sociology degree wouldn't guarantee you a pension and a corporate gym account. Plus, IT guys are always weirdly hot and will definitely, 100 percent be into you, no matter what you wear. That said, with all the crouching and coding, your student wardrobe is going to have to be as functional as your diagnostic pen drive. Be prepared to spend so many hours in front of the computer that, by the the time the first semester ends, you'll need a pair of glasses to stunt the screen-induced migraines ruining your every evening.

Bearing in mind the same thing will happen to everyone else in your class, you better start planning your new specs. Forget the thick-rimmed frames everyone still insists on wearing and go completely over the top instead. Pick a snazzy colour, stick feathers on them, hang charms from their arms – put neon LEDs on them, for all I care. Think older sister in a Disney sitcom about a family with magical powers. Yes, that camp. IT doesn't speak fashion, it speaks tech, so – in the words of Katy Perry – "Let me see you peacock." Clothes-wise, there isn't much you can do. Avoid anything too low-waisted or tight at the crotch – you'll be sitting and bending A LOT. Besides, you'll be spending far too much time inside to even contemplate making an effort, so you might as well dress comfortably and let your pure RAM-powered femininity shine through.

Follow Elektra (@elektrakotsoni) and Bertie (@bertiebrandes) on Twitter.

More guides for young ladies:

A Girls Guide to Dressing Like You Live in London

A Girl's Guide to Falling Apart with Dignity

A Girl's Guide to Screwing Older Men