Back to uni outfit

Keeping it Real: the back to uni outfit

Nikki Parkinson Everyday Style, Fashion 53 Comments

It’s 28 years since I arrived at the University of Queensland to move into Women’s College, ready to start my journalism studies.

No-one from my country Queensland high school was moving into the same residential college. My boyfriend was an hour or so away studying in Toowoomba.

It was just me, my dodgy mid-’80s perm, a jar full of 20 and 50 cent pieces for the public phone and a trusty pair of Dunlop volleys. My best friend – who had stayed in our home town to study nursing – this weekend reminded me on Facebook just how excited I was.

I can’t exactly remember that excitement but I do remember not being scared and being determined to change my identity. From that first day as a “fresher”, I introduced myself as “Nikki”, not Nicole. I made up the spelling myself because I liked the symmetry of the “k”s and the “i”s and to this day, if someone calls me Nicole, I know it’s a relative or someone from my past. I’m immediately afraid.

That first week – O Week – was a blur of parties, sheets being turned into togas, way too much alcohol, meeting new people {friends for life} and cementing the beginnings of the next stage of my life.

And right now, my eldest son, is doing the same. Not at Women’s College 😉 but at another res college on campus at the same uni. In my mind, it seems just like yesterday that that was me. Such delusional thoughts are, of course, a clear indication of just how bloody old I actually am.

Many things have changed since my time on campus. Back then the only person who had a computer in her room was an exchange student who came from a wealthy New York family. It was one of the first Apple Macs. We were in awe. Now, kids {or young men and women} are handed instructions on arrival about how to hook their laptops up to the university’s online network.

As for accommodation, my son is not doing it tough for his first year of study. No, he is not. This is his river view from a very modern room.

Back to uni room view

We moved him in on Saturday … along with the parents of the other 140 young men starting uni at this college. At the table at the welcome lunch was a girlfriend who I’ve known since before Ben was born and another girlfriend I met when the boys were in kindy. All of us joined again in this circle of life – and our kids’ lives.

We’ve had a few texts from him in the small amount of time he has between bonding “activities”.  He has shared the fresher nickname bestowed upon him, has had little sleep and sounds every bit as pumped as I was back in the day.

He will be very fine … and I know I will be too 😉

What I wore

Down to business …

I needed a back to uni outfit that was practical enough to carry boxes from the car to the room and unpack said room but also not be out of place for the parents’ lunch and information session. Plus, I needed something that would keep me smiling when the tears threatened to flow at any given moment.

Remember the soft polka dot peplum top I featured in this post? After writing it, I couldn’t help but go and check it out in person. I liked what I saw, especially the sale price tag, so it came home with me {I bought the XL as I wanted it to be floaty on me}. The Cat Hammill neon blue tassel necklace I found at Willow & Bird worked perfectly back with the new top.

Back to uni outfit

back to uni outfit: NYDJ jeans | Country Road top | Cat Hammill necklace

Country Road top | Cat Hammill necklace | NYDJ jeans | Misano ballet flats

Misano ballet flats

The Misano ballet flats*? An inspired move as we decided to take a walk around campus in between sessions. The neutral colour provided the perfect balance for the orange jeans and neon blue in the top and necklace.

Let’s just say that this outfit was a very, very long way from some of the “gems” I used to wear circa 1985 …

Women's College 1985

If you went to uni back in the day, what would I have found you wearing? Did it take you a year to grow out your perm too?

PS. That boyfriend? He’s very happily married to my best friend from uni {pictured with me above right} and is also the Godmother of my son. There’s that circle of life thing again, yes?

* The Misano ballet flats were gifted to me for editorial consideration, in accordance with my disclosure policy

Comments 53

  1. Haha, I have some excellent photos of me wearing floral cotton dungarees from 1986, an excellent look esp with a fag in one hand and bottle of wine in the other, and bleached blond hair. What a fashion plate/sight for sore eyes I was!

  2. You look great, although would be fun to have seen you in a toga! This brings back so many memories. I lived at Emmanuel and my husband at Leos- we met at a college party …… I still reside in the area- so expect I’ll see some of the O’week shenanigans soon 🙂

  3. You look fab in the peplum top and orange jeans..love the necklace too! Nice relaxed style yet so chic! Wishing your son good luck at Uni 🙂

  4. Great pics! Your son looks so very clean cut! I hope he has a blast. And your outfit is lovely – the orange pants look fab with the top. I’m pretty happy with the top I picked up yesterday (dark/royal blue, gorgeous) and am thinking of wearing it with a straight skirt.

    At uni….cripes. I must have started the year before you and was on campus at Armidale. Funny times. Same kind of stories (toga parties, kegs, pub crawls…..). My hair challenge was always about calming my big hair but lots of g/f’s have perm horror stories 🙂 But I LOVED changing my hair colour – red, brown, blue black etc. I did have an awful ‘feather cut’ one year where the hairdresser hacked into my hair with a razor blade. That took a year to grow out, sadly.

    My dress style in the 80s was pretty much the same as it is now. ALL OVER THE PLACE! Except there was a lot more denim, overalls/shorts outfits, drop-waisted dresses, colourful cotton shorts and white ruffled shirts :O I was a big fan of Levis, boots, bright scarves (mostly in my hair) and BIG colourful earrings. And bright lipstick. I did have a stage where I tried to emulate Boy George’s makeup. And then Cyndi Lauper. And. And. And. It was fun!

  5. Oh Nikki, so many memories! I too went to UQ, started in 1994, almost 20 years ago! And spent 2 of those years on campus living in International House. Some of the best years of my life, and made some of the strongest and best friendships ever- I am almost envious of the amazing time your son is about to have!

    1. oh and I forgot to say, I lived in flannelette shirts, demin shorts and sandals or Docs for my uni years. It was the early 90s. hideous.

  6. My uni-uniform was jeans, a singlet top (usually white) and either sneakers or ridiculous heels. I really went either end of the spectrum as far as shoes went! I couldn’t get away with dressing that way now. It’s funny to think how much I’ve aged in a few short (ok, long) years!

  7. Do they still have toga parties at Uni? I would imagine Uni is one of the few places they are still allowed. I can remember having a neon pink, green and yellow striped fabric that I made into a toga along with a close friend at the time. I also had a pearly pale pink pair of jelly sandals to keep me out of the beer puddles. The outfit was made even more special by the fact that the neon fabric had a recurring motif over the stripes that consisted of iguanas wearing sunglasses. True story (sad but true…)

    One of my oldest friends is called Nikki also. She is half Greek and was chrsitened Nikki as apparently it is Greek for victory. (You probably already know this but anyway.)

    1. They do indeed A Farmer’s Wife … have sent Ben with three different coloured jeans. International House still hosts it – just like back in my day! And yes, Nicole (and variations) means Victory of the People 😉

  8. That CR top is divine!
    I really must try out the peplum, I’m just not game enough at this moment.

    As for the “rebranding” of yourself, I know how you feel, from the first day of my new life I was Lexi, anyone calling me Alexandra is family, and if someone calls me Alex I ignore them

      1. I doubt it, I always hated being called Alex and only started it out of defiance (My father insisted that my name was not to be shortened, Alex was the only version my 5yr old self could come up with)

  9. Oh god, I shuddered when I looked at the building. Brings back SO many memories. (Like the IH Toga party!)

    As for what I was wearing… ugly shorts were all the rage I recall (my mother made my bro and I heaps – pacman ones etc). With faux La Coste t-shirts and deck shoes. Of course. (Or runners!).

    (And see, I refrained from calling you Nicole!)

  10. I can’t remember much of my uni style. I do remember the toga party however (which was not during O week) in the middle of winter on a boat. Very interesting night indeed. I ended up only doing a year or so part time, the rest was done at night while I worked during the day. So I guess I wore whatever I wore to work. I don’t know why those years are hazy! 🙂 Your son will be fine, we all survived and turned out ok!

  11. Ahh, glad it went well and he is happily ensconsed in the next exciting phase of his life. Loved your stories about the circles of life … so poignant.

  12. You would have found me in a pair of flared jeans and a cheesecloth shirt and a very bad perm,but it took 2 years to grow out as it wa like a triangle,hideous and why did I perm my hair when it was already curly,beats me,I really do not know!You look lovely Nikki,the peplum top really suits you and that lovely necklace,looks beautiful with it,and your NYD Jeans and the flats ,great outfit choice I think it helps to look good when feeling emotional or sick it lifts your spirits a bit.Yes your son will be fine,a lot more fine than you will be ,It is an exciting new chapter in his life and I’m sure he will have loads of fun.You Nikki on the other hand will take a bit longer to get used to it .My daughter left home the year before last with her then “love of her Life” 11 hours away to Mildura Victoria and was gone for 10 months but it didn’t work out and she came back home ,she will have been back home a year in March and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done,letting her go,but I survived and so did she but at least now she knows she does not want to live far away from us and I am so glad,and your son is not too far away,baby steps Nikki,give yourself time to adjust.

  13. Nikki, I have just smiled my way through this post. So chuffed that the day went so well for you all – and you looked great too! I noticed a huge change in Beckie over the first few weeks at Women’s, the kind of positive change that makes you even more proud of exactly who there are. ‘O’ week shenanigans is the perfect bonding time and a week I’m sure your boy will form the type of friendships that stand the test of time. Well done for getting through this momentous day in your life with such grace and elegance 🙂
    Ps…a view of the Brisbane river – prime real estate with a pool, he’s definitely hit the jackpot!

      1. I have just read your beautiful heartfelt letter to your Mum Nikki (not quite sure how I missed it before). I loved it. I felt ever word that was so eloquently written.
        My Mum died in 1999 when Beckie was 7 – I feel sure though, that my Mum has witnessed all of Beckie’s milestone’s and achievements . Your Mum will also be bursting with pride too…she is watching all of the chapters unfold, I’m sure, with a big ‘cheesey’ grin at just how well her little girl has done. Barbie or no Barbie 🙂 x

  14. I love to read your blog but have never felt like commenting until today. I moved into Grace College just one year before you so your story and photos brought back so many memories…most of them wonderful, some a little alarming. I often think thank goodness our shenanigans were not recorded for posterity forever as they are for kids these days. A few old photos and friend’s hazy memories are quite enough I think!

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