It’s been a year since I wrote this post about moving my son into residential college at uni. He survived his first year, discovered a new world of socialising and has been counting down the days until he returns in a week and a half.
She’s following in his footsteps. And mine.
I spent my first year at Queensland Uni living on campus at The Women’s College. I didn’t know anyone at the college but quickly made friends. Friends for life.
This was LONNNNNGGGG before social media. We actually used to write letters to each other during the holidays. One of our group still has all the letters we wrote to her which ensures we always remain on her good side. I can only imagine what they contain.
In my mind it was only yesterday. Not 29 years ago!
And now my daughter gets to experience the same. And she’s equal parts excited and nervous. I can’t remember being either but an old friend reminded me last year that I had been excited.
Women’s College celebrates its Centenary this year so there will be a few events that will give me a legitimate reason to return to my old stomping ground … I have promised not to cramp Miss SY’s style … or embarrass her … much.
Miss SY uni style: Gorman top and shorts (picked up on sale and bought with her own part-time work earnings) | Uberfine necklace (a gift)
Speaking of style, which is the point of this post.
Another SY reader who has a daughter heading off to uni for the first time contacted me as she was looking for some tips for her 17-year-old on what to wear to university.
I realised I’d have to do a bit of research on the matter because I can tell you if the sweet young things of today saw what we wore back in the day, the eye rolling would continue until the end of their degree.
The perms were bad enough – it was the ’80s and they were extremely difficult to avoid – but there was also a uniform of sorts to work back with those perms.
We sewed long shorts out of animal print curtain material and teamed them with polo shirts, preferably one with an alligator on it, and Dunlop volley sneakers. Yep, a man-repelling ensemble right there.
The only part of this get-up that had any style was the Country Road tote that was the uni bag of choice.
So, I asked two of my son’s friends (Amy and Brittany) for the low-down on whether I had to source a sewing machine and fabric to make Miss SY some shorts for O-Week next week.
Thankfully I don’t. But I’m happy to report that the Country Road tote lives on. And the emphasis is very much on comfort rather than style.
What do/did you wear to uni on a typical day in summer?
A: I would describe the style on campus as trendy yet comfortable. In summer and spring I usually wore a dress with sandals or high-wasted shorts with a nice top (basically what I would wear to go shopping). Most days, in true Australian style, I would wear thongs because they’re the most comfy option, as did many other students. Sometimes, if the outfit was a tad bare, I would add a necklace or chunky bracelet, however, it’s more socially acceptable to dress down than it is to dress up. Sunglasses are a must have on campus as you’re walking in the sun from class to class.
B: On an average summer uni day I wore little summer dresses or playsuits and some casual flats.
… in winter?
A: In winter, the clothing we wore tended to lean more towards comfort than style. Skinny jeans were a staple, paired with a hoodie or knit and boots or, once again, thongs. I have a navy blue coat that I wore when it was ridiculously cold but the weather on campus usually only permits a hoodie or a knitted long-sleeved top/cardigan. Come to think of it, I wore a lot of coloured knits last year, some pastels and some dark reds and blues. Ugg boots were only ever socially acceptable when we were in exam block as comfort seemed more important when having to sit through 2+ hour exams.
B: During winter I usually just wore jeans, a nice t-shirt, a jacket and ballet flats.
Did you notice if there was a particular “uniform” on campus?
A: Basically, the style on campus is very similar to that which you would wear shopping. Havainanas are almost always acceptable whereas Ugg boots are for indoors or a quick dash to the corner store. I suppose you could almost pick out the Australians from the international students, as countries like England (for example) see thongs as something you would only wear around the house.
B: I noticed a couple of “uniforms” on campus actually. There was quite a divide in style between the people who live on campus/close to campus and the people who had to travel a bit further. I think that the people who lived closer to uni saw it as a bit more casual and as such they dressed a little more casually and more comfy similar to what I mentioned above. The other half of the students often dressed a little better wearing blazers and looking more as though they belonged at an office.
What kind of styles were most popular?
A: The jelly shoe plague. Definitely the jelly shoes. They became the epitome of comfort-meets-style. Perfect for a hot summer day but also for a rainy day as they drained easily. I personally never wore them because I have memories of them on me as a two-five year old and that is the age bracket that I think they should stay with. Playsuits with lots of colour and fruit patterns were quite on trend last year and this year too, probably because they’re as breathable as a dress but safe on a windy day. There was also, I suppose, a uniform among the colleges. Most of us would wear our merchandise more than once a week because it was comfortable. I think, on another level, it gave us some common ground with students we didn’t know, allowing us to make new friends in classes and find each other in a crowd.
B: The most popular styles were jeans and t-shirts or summer dresses, most importantly clothes that were comfortable.
What kind of bags do most girls carry?
A: Tote bags. About 80% of girls would carry a tote bag while the other 20% carried a backpack. Usually the girls who were at uni all day would have the backpacks or if they studied something like architecture where stationery and equipment is needed.
B: I carried a Country Road tote and most other girls used something similar. Some used handbags large enough to fit a laptop if thats all they needed for classes but mostly handbags are too small.
What shoes do most girls wear?
A: Heels were openly shunned because they were just seen as impractical when walking from class to class. It was almost like you were trying too hard. I tried wedged boots with stockings and a dress one time and that was the only time. On a typical day you’ll see a combination of sandals, jellies, and thongs.
B: Ballet flats were probably the most popular. Anything that you can walk around in comfortably all day would do though. Ankle boots were also popular in winter.
Miss SY uni style: Bohemian Traders poppy pant* (stolen from me but look better on her) | Bohemian Traders necklaces* (stolen from me but we’ve agreed on a joint custody arrangement) | Country Road seamless tank (I’ve got her on to these wardrobe essentials) | sass and bide Havaianas (from a couple of summers ago) | WeWood watch (also stolen from me and a joint custody arrangement entered into)
What did you wear to uni – back in the day? Did you own a Country Road tote bag? Are you still a student, in which case what do you wear? Have a son or daughter starting or starting back this year?
* These garments were sent to me for editorial consideration