Teenage style: what to wear to university

Samantha CheneyFashion 45 Comments

Editor’s note: Please say hello to Samantha Cheney. Sam is Miss SY’s best friend from school and a journalism student. Each month she’ll share some style tips that are relevant to teenage girls – please leave us a question if you have a teenage style question you’d like answered.

Yep. It’s that time again. Back to uni. One question – WHAT DO I WEAR?!

Don’t worry! I have a solution for either yourself or your daughter who may have come across the same issue. What to wear to university.

But first of all, let me introduce myself.

My name is Samantha Cheney. You may or may not remember me, but a few years ago I was a part of Styling You as a Year 10 work experience student. You can find my embarrassing first posts here and here.

So where have I been hiding for the last four years?

Samantha’s uni style: Sportsgirl T-Shirt | Country Road jeans | Rubi shoes

I am now a second year public relations and journalism student at the Queensland University of Technology. I have a passion for fashion and an eye for style, with a desire to travel the world doing what I do best. Writing.

In my spare time, you may find me instagramming, cafe hopping or soaking up the goodness of my ever-so-beautiful hometown, the Sunshine Coast.

So here I am, back again, as Styling You’s intern.

Let’s get down to business, shall we?

One of the most frequent questions I get asked, as a student commuting to the city, is what to wear to uni.

I’ll tell you what.

Something that I can comfortably sit in on my hour long journey on the train. Something that I can comfortably walk in, while doing the daily sprint to the Garden’s Point campus. And last, but certainly not least, something that not only is EFFORTLESS, but stylish. Sounds like a dream, right?

Take a look below.

On an average day, you’ll see me flouncing around campus in a pair of soft pants, sporting a Country Road tee, paired back with my trusty-old espadrilles.

1. Country Road T-Shirt $59.95 | 2. Rubi shoes $5 | 3. Witchery pants $59.95 | 4. Country Road backpack $129

Uh oh – some may say we have a bag situation here, but I say not!


Yes, you heard me. I. Take. A. Backpack. To. Uni. Not totally abnormal, right?!

This absolute beauty of a backpack fits my everyday essentials for uni, which include my Macbook Pro, a diary and a packed lunch.

But most importantly, when you’re on-the-go, backpacks are going to be more durable for both your goods and your body as it takes the strain off your shoulders, allowing you to power through your day with no troubles.

1. Country Road backpack $299 | 2. Sportsgirl backpack $39.95 | 3. Herschel backpack $139.95 @ The Iconic

Not only are backpacks and soft pants considered “acceptable” for commuting, take a look below at what Alex (Miss SY, a psychology student living on campus at the University of Queensland) and Amberrose (a nutrition student at the University of the Sunshine Coast) have to say.

What do you wear to uni on a typical day in summer? 

Alex: Walking around campus under our Queensland sun can be quite hot, so I like to wear something that looks nice, but will also keep me cool. So on a typical uni day in summer you’ll find me wearing a flowy summer dress or a nice top and shorts. Colourful, “hippie” pants are also a favourite of mine, because they’re simultaneously trendy and as comfortable as pyjamas; the best of both worlds.

Amberrose: Personally I am not a “summer” girl. I possess a real passion for style and effort, which I find difficult to express through the trends and climate that comes along with summer. So lately I have been wearing really simple outfits, such as a white-sleeved button up shirt or just a plain white tee with a pair of shorts, or even a simple mini dress.

Bohemian Traders top | Cotton On shorts | Country Road espadrilles

Alex’s uni style: Bohemian Traders top* | Cotton On shorts | Country Road espadrilles

Have you noticed if there is a particular “uniform” on campus?

Alex: Uni is a very culturally and socially diverse place, so everyone has their own style. But as a whole, most uni students go for a casual and comfortable look.

Amberrose: On the Sunshine Coast, students generally gravitate towards beach attire. However, if you really take note of what some wear (like me), you will notice that girls are really starting to become more conscious of how they present themselves at uni. This really reflects on their personal style and what trends they are choosing to follow.

What kinds of styles tend to be most popular?

Alex: Again, most uni students prioritise comfort when it comes to uni attire. So you might get a few weird looks if you were to turn up to a lecture in a jacket and heels. Uni is kind of this weird, alternative universe, where it’s more acceptable to dress down than up. So evidently little dresses or cute tops with some high waist shorts/skirt are fairly popular amongst female students; trendy, but casual.

Amberrose: Big handbags are a major trend that falls across campus, though the two most occurring trends I have seen this year, are either shorts and a patterned t-shirt or long grey tight skirts with a plain tight top and sandals.

1. Sportsgirl bag $59.95 | 2. Gorman playsuit $99 | 3. Witchery sandal $49.95 | 4. WeWood watch $159 | 5. Miss Shop hat $39.95

Are accessories considered “over the top” for uni?

Alex: I don’t think accessories are “over the top” to wear to uni, as long as they aren’t too extravagant. For example, I’ll often wear some beads, a pendant or a simple necklace that ties in with my outfit. I even think a nice statement necklace can spice up an outfit without being too “over the top”.

Amberrose: There would be plenty that would say yes, however, I really do think that is a personal decision. I am a big believer in having the most flattering accessories to compliment an outfit, so I am going to say no, accessories are not “over the top”, if it is done right. I personally feel more dressed with the right necklace or earrings.

What bag do you use for uni? And why? 

Alex: For Uni I use a black, leather backpack from Country Road (I work part-time at Country Road). I love this bag because not only is it really cute, but it’s the perfect size to fit my laptop or a notebook. It’s also very easy to carry when walking around campus. A lot of girls tend to go for a large handbag or tote in order to carry all of their uni essentials.

Amberrose: I use my Wayne Cooper handbag because it can fit all my books, as well as my laptop and a drink bottle. But if I don’t need all my text books and I’m only going in for a short amount of time, then I would take in my DKNY hand bag because it is large enough to fit my bare necessities.

What types of shoes are considered “acceptable”?

Alex: In terms of acceptable uni footwear, you’ll be fine as long as you’re wearing something on your feet that isn’t heels. Again, comfort is key. So in summer I tend to wear sandals or thongs, and in winter I’m usually wearing my trusty Converse high-tops or some casual ankle boots.

Amberrose: I don’t believe there is any type of shoe that not one person on campus rocks. I personally am not a fan of thongs, so for me I steer clear of them. I tend to gravitate towards closed in shoes, which are always considered acceptable and are really comfortable. I also love my Birkenstocks.

Bohemian Traders shirt and skirt | Country Road boots

Alex’s uni style: Bohemian Traders shirt* and skirt* | Country Road boots

What trend did you notice the most last year at uni?

Alex: Last year I noticed a lot of girls at uni wearing black and white or navy and white striped shift dresses. I love this look because shift dresses are loose fitting and look very cool. And yes, I am guilty of owning one of these dresses.

Amberrose: So far … big handbags and oversized reading glasses.

Is there a different dress sense for each faculty?

Alex: You can sometimes see some differences in dress between different faculties. For example, law students are some of the few that do sometimes dress up for uni in corporate attire. Whether this is for assessment or in preparation for their future career, I do not know. If you spot girls walking around in runners and gym gear, nine times out of 10 they’re sports and exercise or physio students. I’ve also noticed arts/humanities students to be generally a bit more alternative or “hipster” in their appearance when compared to those who study science or maths related courses.

Amberrose: I haven’t noticed one, so no. I have seen a few boys wearing sneakers to the health faculty, however this is something to be expected, but I don’t think it is widely common. I believe you wear what best represents you.

1. Sportsgirl pant $48.97 | 2. Sportsgirl top $79.95 | 3. Rubi shoe $29.95 | 4. Rusty bag $49.99

Amberrose’s uni style: Cotton On boyfriend shirt | Veronika Maine tailored pant | Trade Secret boots

So tell me, do you go to uni or have a son or daughter starting uni this year? Are they commuting or living on campus? 

* These pieces were gifted for editorial consideration. Full disclosure policy here.

Comments 45

  1. You are all certainly a gorgeous bunch of stylish ladies. Have fun. As a mother of a 19 year old and a 16 year old I also share a few posts on styling the ten teens. I love your fresh take on what to wear and look forward to following all your posts in the future. V x

  2. Forget uni – I am going to use these ideas for my casual wardrobe when I am not in my usual workwear (corporate) and to stop me lounging around in my pjs on a weekend! …..Oops, I am not suggesting that your every day fashion doesn’t work for me Nikki, this article has just give me more/complementary ideas!! 😉

  3. Love seeing a different take on fashion from a younger (than me) crowd! You girls are all incredibly stylish in your own unique ways and it makes me so happy to see you’re all as passionate about your fashion and personal style as you are about your future careers. x

  4. Nice work girls – this is a great post! Uni is one of the few opportunities in life to really just wear whatever you want – I had lots of fun with vintage and 2nd hand pieces.
    One word of advice: please never ever use the phrase ‘passion for fashion’. I assure you that if you use this phrase in a resume or job application for a fashion role you will be instantly rejected.
    Looking forward to reading more!

      1. No, but I’ve seen it happen a lot so just as a word to the wise…
        It’s certainly not a good reason to reject someone but sometimes people take shortcuts to get through piles of applications.

  5. Great tips Samantha – my 19 year old daughter started Uni this year after having a gap year and these ideas will be very helpful.

  6. Great post! I have started as a mature age student at uni this year and the ‘dressing down’, very casual attire of my younger classmates is not something I am used to. Being 10 years older than most students, there is a definite difference in what we deem to be suitable attire!

  7. Great piece Samantha. You girls look fabulous. When I was at UQ (a loong time ago) I wore denim shorts and tshirts every day and in winter added a ‘flanny’- as a result, when I started work after graduation, I had not idea what to wear!

    1. Thanks Angie! I think girls are becoming more and more conscious as to what to wear uni. Which I believe is a great thing to prepare them for the work force! As you can see the ‘flanno’ is still around today 😉 Glad you enjoyed it – Sammy

  8. Thank you so much you gorgeous girls, what a great post! My daughter heads off to UQ next year (fingers crossed) and already she is so worried about what to wear after being in a school uniform for the past 13 years, she will find this info invaluable and I am sure we are going to have a lot of fun shopping later this year for some new pieces for her new life.Thanks again. x

      1. Thanks Nikki, I already have your Formal posts for Miss SY from a couple of years ago bookmarked for later on this year 🙂

  9. What a stylish bunch you girls are,I wish I knew my style in my teens ,I probably thought I did but you girls are all gorgeous.Well done Samantha,Alex and Amberrose!.Big congratulations to Samatha on the internship with Nikki Xx

  10. Great fashion for uni, great fashion for being at home with the kids! I’m totally knocking off a few of these looks – thanks, ladies! And congrats on the internship, Samantha.

  11. Great advice and gorgeous girls
    You know Australia has a future with young women like this, intelligent and following their own style. I have two of my very own and love that they hold their own.

  12. Love this post! My daughter is not at uni yet, but reading it with her I’m getting some great ideas on tween fashion tips. It’s so nice to see outfits that don’t belong in the red light district for young girls (that makes me sound SO old). I look forward to your post next month Sam.

    1. Ha, ha – glad you enjoyed it! Keep your eyes peeled for my monthly posts. I’m sure there will be plenty more tips to help out your daughter. Don’t hesitate to ask me for any teenage style advice! – Sammy

    2. Ha, ha – glad you enjoyed it! Keep your eyes peeled for my monthly posts. I’m sure there will be plenty more tips to help out your daughter. Don’t hesitate to ask me for any teenage style advice! – Sammy

  13. Lovely to read some young thoughts and views on fashion. They all look great! Beautiful girls, and good luck with your studies 🙂

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