Our Fashion Editor, Sophie Miller, gives some advice for those still scouring through their closet to find that perfect outfit.Read More
Fashion Editor Sophie Miller shares her tips and tricks for surviving internship season in style.
As summer approaches, many university students find themselves staring down the barrel of four long months of coffee runs, copy-making, and cubicle-dwelling. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about internship season! For most of us, this will be our first foray into the professional world, and this can be a daunting prospect. Entering the workforce is no easy task, but, though it may sound trite, “dressing for success” is no joke. Looking impeccably put-together for work everyday shows employers that you’re committed, detail-oriented, and composed - a consummate professional. It may seem like a small thing, but what you wear to work says a lot about you, whether you’re locked away in a research lab or filing papers at a law firm. Below, I’ve outlined ways you can implement the hottest trends of spring and summer into your work wardrobe - because sometimes all it takes is the right belt to get you asked back for next summer.
Silk Pencil Skirts
An artsy spin on a workplace style staple, these provide both breezy comfort and a metallic pop to an otherwise-simple ensemble. Balance is key when putting looks together, so pair one of these with an oxford shirt, a structured top, or something simple and sleeveless. As for colour, these items are pretty versatile, so the only shade I would steer clear of is black -- dark-coloured silk belongs strictly to late dinner dates and the bedroom.
These have long had their place in summer offices, but recently, designers like Prada, Bottega Veneta, and (my favourite newcomer) Gabriela Hearst have reintroduced them with renewed structure and in new colours. When picking one of these, think less bohemian and more New Look: a-line skirts, starched collars, and buckled belts turn these from casual daywear to professionally chic.
Once commonplace in women’s professional wardrobes, these had a bit of a fall after the 1980s, but rest assured, they are back in full force. Seen all over runways for spring and summer, these can spice up your most basic neutral work heels. Always low-heeled, pair these with slacks or loose dresses for an instant boost to the trend quotient of your look.
Thanks to the influence of Kim Kardashian and Yeezy, head-to-toe neutrals are back in a big way. In a season of neon and bold prints, stand out by paring your looks back -- all-white, all-beige, all-navy, and all-black ensembles are timelessly chic, especially when the structure is bold and the tailoring impeccable. Try slacks and sleeveless tops, midi skirts and bohemian blouses, or oversize blazers and cigarette pants in these colour palettes to channel such modern icons as Alexa Chung, the Olsen twins, and Kendall Jenner.
The easiest way to update your work style is to throw on a statement blazer -- whether it be over a simple shirt and pair of pants or a basic shift dress, these are always your friend. They add a touch of 90s laid back glamour to your look, and they go with pretty much everything, making them the ultimate statement piece. Patterns work well on these, though for a workplace environment, stick to tweed, plaid, or solid colours and pair with slim-fitting pieces to balance out the ensemble.
Oversized White Shirts
An absolute wardrobe staple, whether in the office or out, the way to update this classic is to size it up. You don’t even have to go out and buy a brand new shirt - pull a Diane Keaton and snatch one right out of your boyfriend’s closet! Nothing says femininity like menswear. The flowiness and boxy-ness of your top half should -- say it with me -- balance with your bottoms. For that reason, this item is put together best with a skinny pant or a pencil skirt. The only thing to remember here is volume - since your shirt will be large and in charge, a loud pattern somewhere else might not be your best friend. Channel French understated glamour and keep it low-key.
These have had their heyday in every iconic fashion era -- from the a-line dresses and peter-pan collars of the fifties to the power suits, jewel tones, and towering shoulder pads of the eighties. They’ve made their return once again, and though they can sometimes seem outdated, with the right pairing, they can serve a look that is at once contemporarily chic and fabulously vintage. On mules and slingbacks they’re at their best, especially when the heels come in the chunkier variety. Try to keep your legs covered as well - a bare limb with a low heel does not a cohesive ensemble make.
Not a material commonly associated with summer, leather in jacket form should most definitely stay in storage this season. However, spring and summer runways have brought us new mediums to explore with cowhide: dresses, skirts, and pants are a great way to introduce leather into your work wardrobe! In these new silhouettes, the material is simultaneously sultry and serious, mimicking the vibe of the season. Try a leather dress under a white tee shirt, or a leather skirt with an oxford shirt - mix your materials and get to work!
Boxy, Belted Silhouettes
Annie Hall seems to be winning the season, according to the fashion world’s top designers, stylists, and bloggers. 70’s and 90’s inspired and stemming from the menswear-as-womenswear trend, a boxy look cinched with a belt makes you look put together and trend-savvy, and isn’t that all we want from our work wardrobe? This kind of ensemble also gives you the body you’ve always dreamed of - the contrast of a large top and bottom with a belted waist provides the illusion of an hourglass figure. Go monochromatic to give this look an extra fashion-forward push.
Fashion Editor Sophie Miller shares her tips and tricks for how to transform your personal style and build a wardrobe that reflects your personality.
A friend recently asked me for a favor: he asked me to help him transform his personal style. I was initially surprised at the question - as a relatively confident person, I myself had never considered undergoing any kind of “transformation” with regard to my style, and also being a relatively (I’ll admit it) self-absorbed person, I figured those kinds of moments of fashion discovery only occurred in the iconic makeover scenes characteristic of the “RomCom” genre of cinema.
The idea gave me pause: how many of us think about ourselves as completely lost when it comes to style, in need of some drastic rescue mission orchestrated by some astute aesthete? How many of us think of ourselves as necessitating transformation, a process defined as “a complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone”? What this friend had brought to my attention through his request was something intriguing, and I began to think: is a complete and utter change of one’s style ever truly necessary? I’ve always been partial to the opinion that the way a person chooses to dress is an expression of who they are, who they want to be, who they want others to think they are - whether inadvertent or deliberate, the clothes we choose to wear are reflections of our sincere selves, so why on earth would you want to transform that
That’s not to say that everyone’s personal style is a perfect representation of exactly who they are - not everyone has the time, money, ability, or, frankly, interest to spend that much time on selecting their everyday garb. The word I would use to describe those looking for a change would be not a transformation, but an adaptation. To use an oft-cited cliche, we’re always learning, growing, and changing, so it’s only natural that our style should follow us through these ups and downs. Just as you did not become a totally new person, the way you dress should not be totally new. But, as anyone in their late teens and early twenties will tell you, change is hard - none of us belonging to this particular demographic truly understand just who we are yet, and trying to harness some form of certainty about this and translate that into a distinctive look is a daunting task. Once again, it takes time, money and know-how that few students have. In an answer to this, below you can find a few tips and tricks on how to adapt your style and attempt to find your own aesthetic. This list is by no means exhaustive, but its objective is to set you off on the right path, to help you present the best version of “you” to both yourself and to the world.
1. Scale your wardrobe back, both in overall look and size: It’s a trite thing to say, but one that maintains its utter truth: Less. Is. More. First, you should pull all the things out of your closet that you don’t wear on a regular basis. Sure, we all have those statement pieces that can only be worn once a season, and I’m in no way ordering you to throw out that iconic dress that you wore to that one amazing ball that one time. But in this era of fast fashion and double-wide closets, I think we can all afford to chuck at least a few things. I once went to a panel on women in the fashion world, and the head of a major online retailer said something memorable: “If you wouldn’t want to be seen by your ex in it, throw it out.” Truer words have never been spoken. Second, when dressing, being loud doesn’t mean you’ll stand out more - it usually means you’re being tacky (sorry, it had to be said). That’s not to say you should get rid of your hot pink club dress, or your favourite red, studded leather jacket. It just means you should strive for baance, as in all aspects of your life. I’ve been really excited that lately, trends have been heading in a more minimal direction, thanks to brands like The Row, Off White, All Saints, Saint Laurent, and (God help us) Yeezy. They’ve taught us lessons like, if you’re going to wear an extremely-oversized parka with wide-leg trousers and a thick turtleneck, maybe try going monochrome with the outfit. If you want to wear neon, pare back the structure of your look - stick to more conservative cuts and simple, clean lines. It’s all about finding that middle ground and understanding that elegance is almost always understated.
2. Find your personal style icons: “Follow the leader” isn’t just a game for little kids! Finding someone whose style you admire and wish to emulate is the absolute first step in any style journey. There are a few ways to do it: I will admit it - I’m obsessed with Pinterest. People often link the site to kitschy home decor and DIY projects, but it’s a great space to look for style inspiration. Putting in simple key words like “classic French style” or “vintage outfits” or even something as basic as “cool modern fashion” garners thousands of results for you to peruse, aesthetic ideas just waiting to be realised. You can also look to Instagram. I know I spend hours everyday on the app as is - why not add some style inspiration to your daily feed? There are a few great bloggers out there - some of my favourite include Alexa Chung (@alexachung and her fashion line @alexachungstagram), her best friend and partner in style Harley Viera-Newton (@harleyvnewton), Erika Boldrin (@erika_boldrin), Sophia Roe (@sophiaroe) and Vanessa Hong (@thehautepursuit). Finally, there are, of course, the big fasion magazines/sites that are good for high-concept style and fashion porn. The best, in my opinion, are Vogue (British Vogue and Vogue Paris are the ones I like, but it depends on your style preferences - for example, if you’re partial to extravagant style, Vogue Italia is good, whereas if you’re into more mainstream stuff, American Vogue should be your go-to), Women’s Wear Daily (more commonly known now as WWD), and the Cut (New York Magazine’s online fashion resource).
3. Identify your basics and supplement your statements: The way any good wardrobe is structured is very simple: mostly made up of fairly high-quality basics that can be worn nearly every day, with a few extravagant, fun, or hyper-luxury statement pieces as accents. For example, you should always have a great pair of jeans (Paige Denim, 7 for All Mankind, and, surprisingly, Good American are the brands to which I’m partial), white t-shirts/button downs for layering or more simplistic outfits, a classic nude trench, and a great pair of everyday shoes (be they sneakers, loafers, or boots, just make sure they’re a neutral colour and go with most of the other items in your collection). The key with these items is fit and durabilty: they should all fit you like a glove and be built to last - this doesn’t mean you have to shell out a fortune on them, but you also shouldn’t be buying your basics from SheIn or Zaful. Once you’ve laid the groundwork, you’re free to add in the pieces that make your style distinctive - that amazing statement coat, those incredible heeled boots, that gret, perfectly-beat-up leather jacket, what have you. Again, these don’t have to be the most expensive items in your wardrobe (though they might be), but they should make you feel your absolute best whenever you put them on.
4. Look for inspiration in all aspects of your life, not just on the pages of magazines: I already highlighted the importance of searching for your style role models, but developing your style isn’t just about imitating other people - it’s about amalgamating all of the things that make you happy, confident, and empowered, all of the things you find interesting and all of the things you love. Out of this will emerge a cohesive aesthetic. Look to movies, music, museums, places you love, people you love - these will all help you to define your look. For example, for lots of people, the movie Pulp Fiction is a veritable wealth of style inspiration, not just because of the clothes worn by the characters (although, Uma Thurman in this movie was an absolute vision) but because of the feel, the mise-en-scene, the ‘vibe’ of the movie. You shouldn’t just be trying to capture a specific outfit, but the feeling that said outfit conveys. What kind of feeling do you want to present? Do you want to be immaculate, exuding chic-ness and sophisitication? Then try super simple looks, neutral colors, and sharp structure. Are you trying for a more bohemian vibe, expressing open-mindedness and a free spirit? Go for ethereal prints, drapery, and vintage accessories. Do you want to look powerful and confident, emulating such 80s and 90s icons as Samantha Jones and Alexis Carrington? Try color-blocking with jewel tones, highlight your shape, and give campy statement pieces a whirl. These are just ideas, but the message is consistent: go for mood, not model.
Of course, these are all the very basics, and adapting your style will take a lot more time and energy than these four paragraphs betray. However, by following these tips, you can get a better idea of who you want to be, how you want to express yourself, and how to join these two ideas. So take these and begin your adaptation, and keep in mind that those with the best sense of style are those who have the strongest sense of themselves.
Fashion Editor Sophie Miller offers this list of fashion essentials to help you navigate the St Andrews fashion scene in style.
As every small community of college-age students is wont to do, it is a known truth of St Andrews that most of us dress more or less alike. While it is true that the fashion scene here is far beyond anything you’d find in silly places like Oxford or Cambridge, we all tend to follow certain trends. We’ve all encountered a man walking down Market Street in loafers, khakis, and a Barbour, his eyes shaded by a pair of Ray Bans, just like we’ve all seen many a St Andrews woman donning shrunken puffy jackets, mom jeans, and chunky “dad sneakers”. And that’s ok! None of these are bad looks (except for the epidemic of male students doing their best impression of homeless people in baggy courduroys and oversized tee-shirts - not cute, gentlemen), and they help us to hone in on which trends we actually like, which we could end up making our signature. The strongest and best sense of style is one that evolves from trying out many different looks, adding our own touches to them until we find a (fire) fit. However, to get you started, it’s good to track the various fashion moments in our little bubble, so here are a few that can be found in nearly every St Andrews student’s wardrobe:
Barbour jackets, Hunter-brand wellies, and Ray Ban sunglasses
Let’s just get the obvious out of the way - the closest thing St Andrews has to a uniform is the waxed Barbour jacket and knee-high Hunter-brand wellies, often topped off with a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses. Male or female, as a member of our community, you’d do well to purchase these items, as you may be met with shock and awe from your classmates at your lack thereof. However, despite their label as “basic”, they can be great building blocks for your uni wardrobe, so don’t shy away from them just because everyone you know (and their mother) owns them as well. Sometimes being basic isn’t all bad (though that’s likely the last time you’ll hear me use that turn of phrase.)
If you’re a member of the overwhelmingly large female contingent of St Andrews students, then you likely own one of these. A going-out essential for the Fife evening weather, they’re the perfect add-on to everything from your heading-to-lecture turtleneck to your ball-ready sequinned cocktail dress. You can see these bobbing up and down the three main drags of our town in a variety of colours, ranging from pale pink to black, from camel to fire-engine red. Usually either shrunken or oversized fit seems a concept anathema to the chic insouciance these jackets provide.
Straight from the Parisian streets to the sidewalks of Scotland! Not really, but these do add a touch of understated French glamour to our never-ending battle against the frigid northern breezes. Mostly (or what I hope is mostly, because these coats really belong in one of two colours) camel or black, a long pea- or trench coat can make even your most unimaginative outfit unbearably stylish. A variety of lengths work for this must-have, from hip-skimming to calf-grazing (avoid going longer lest you look like a villain from the Matrix), and it will fit any mood, from your broody Sunday morning hangover to your breezy Wednesday afternoon burst of confidence, knowing you’ve finished up the last of your work by 12PM.
Stretchy fit-and-flare pants
Seen mostly on the lower halves of our female London transplants, these pants do everything a girl could ask for: lengthen the legs, highlight the assets, and stretch comfortably to fit your worst hangover bloat. Another transitional piece, these should be either solid black or patterned - save the bright colours and jewel tones for your upper body. These can give a fun, 70s-era twist to your everyday look, and can be paired with everything from a teddy jacket to a tube top to give you a moment worthy of the Chelsea art scene.
Canada Goose Parka
Despite the company’s notoriety, the infamous black Canada Goose parka remains a staple of many a St Andrews student’s wardrobe. Ususally worn with leggings and sneakers (and, let’s be honest, AirPods and whatever the latest edition of the MacBook is), these aren’t so much a fashion statement as a totem of the culture of wealth here - or, if you’re feeling generous, the most efficient way to block yourself from the harsh reality of a Fife winter. Black, oversized and fur-trimmed is usually the way to go, but why not be experimental and try an edgy navy blue? When shelling out for one of these, remember that it will do double-duty: it’ll keep you warm while also letting everyone else around you know that you’re willing to spare no expense to look just like them!
Only at this uni would an essential wardrobe list include both “Canada Goose parka” and “cashmere scarf”. *Sigh*. Anyways, these are usually gray (or camel, if you’re feeling adventurous), and they actually make for a pretty good investment - effortlessly chic, warm, and when paired with a large jacket and sunglasses, they provide the perfect disguise when hiding from someone whom you will inevitably bump into (there are only three streets in this town, and somehow you always seem to cross paths with last night’s drunken hookup at the exact wrong moment). Because we live in a perpetual state of 5 - 15 degree weather, these are year-round accessories, so why not drop the required (minimum) 50 quid?
Animal print isn’t necessarily my favourite trend, but it has nonetheless made an undeniable resurgence, and both male and female students have embraced the cheetah moment with open arms. Showing up on everything from fuzzy jackets to loafters (and, inexplicably, men’s formalwear), this print can provide a touch of whimsy to your otherwise-average ensemble. Of course, some of us aren’t as out-there style-wise as others, so for a more understated look, try cheetah on a belt, headband, or in more muted colours on a larger garment.
Oversized denim jacket
Most likely bought second-hand (there are racks upon racks of these to be found at every 601 vintage sale), this may be the most fashion-forward and on-trend look in St Andrews right now. Usually light-wash denim, perhaps with a few embroidered patches, toss this on over a plain tee-shirt for some 90s-LA realness, or pair with a minidress and the aforementioned white sneakers for something a little more “now”. The most important thing about this jacket, however, is the fit: it must be just baggy enough to look adorably-grungy, but not too baggy that it swallows you. Finding the perfect denim jacket can be a long process, but have patience! The final fashion moment is worth it.
So here you are! All of the pieces that I’ve deemed “essential” for your entry to the St Andrews fashion scene. Of course, this list is doubtless not exhaustive, so go ahead and discuss among friends and add your suggestions to the comment section. But remember: these are only the beginning. The most well-dressed people are those who take the trends and put their own spins on them. So, with that, happy trend-tracking!
In this new series, Nicola Blackburn interviews members of the St Andrews community with interesting stories to tell – all while strolling down Lade Braes. The first installment spotlights Grace Thorner, a student at the university.
It’s safe to say that Grace Thorner is someone you notice. I’m waiting outside Prêt, holding her Americano at the ready, when I spot her leopard print scarf and the cloud of curly hair bobbing towards me. Grace is scarcely seen around St Andrews without a flash of leopard print, a heeled boot, or a red lip, looking suitably fabulous for someone who is always pursuing a new project. She is currently ploughing through a university degree while simultaneously managing Concrete Catwalk’s blog - a go-to for the latest dose of university street style. She comes off as utterly chic, and her extracurricular pursuits suggest an utmost interest in the sartorial. You can imagine my surprise when, as we reached Lade Braes and set off on our wander, she broke the news to me that she’s not all that interested in fashion.
Somewhat controversial for someone who coordinates a fashion blog, right? Grace justified herself pretty well. ‘CC [Concrete Catwalk] is more student style than fashion I would say. While I’m not interested in designer brands, fashion shows - I don’t read Vogue [Magazine] or anything - I do find what people wear and how people dress really interesting.’
Personal style isn’t just an interest for Grace; it’s something she wants to celebrate. And she makes a good point about a particular stigma surrounding the St Andrews fashion scene that we’re all familiar with. ‘I think there’s this whole stigma, especially in St Andrews, about people dressing up for lectures. I personally just think that that’s getting dressed. If people want to wear a dress and heels, or chinos and a blazer, then why is that dressing up? It’s just clothes, it makes them feel good and… happy.’
This is what I like most about Grace. She’s intelligent, constantly voicing ideas that send your thoughts running at a thousand miles an hour. Nodding vigorously, you’ll often exclaim, ‘yes, oh my gosh of course, that’s so true!’ And yet, what’s she’s got to say is never unrelatable. Whether it’s unintentional or not, her profundity never comes across as intimidating. She makes you forget you’re talking to the coordinator of a fashion blog. Perhaps this is because, like Concrete Catwalk itself, Grace preaches inclusivity within fashion. Later in our interview, she tells me she doesn’t tend to follow trends; quite refreshing from my point of view. And when I press her for a favourite timeless fashion trend, she eschews the notion of popular fashion altogether, offering a friendlier paradigm: ‘whatever makes you feel good.’
So what is she currently working on? Today, her answer is The Greenhouse, which she eloquently explains to me is a purpose-built, eco-friendly theatre venue at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival; a venue whose foremost purpose is to exhibit how art can be produced in an eco-friendly way. Grace is managing the publicity for this project. The venue will be built of recycled and reclaimed materials, with no electricity involved in the construction process, nor in the productions themselves. Grace would know – she’ll also be helping with the physical construction of the event.
The Greenhouse isn’t just a venue for theatre. Its productions will include a dance and some musical shows, as well as some workshops, one of which Grace will host. Here, she will lecture about zero-waste marketing. Binding all these elements together is a shared focus on the relationship between man and his Earth, which Grace and the Greenhouse team hopes will ‘open up a dialogue about how we’re treating the environment.’
I hear the passion emanating from her voice as she explains the project, her so-called “all or nothing” attitude comes across. As anybody who knows her will tell you, this is so characteristically Grace. In the past, this has manifested in running a marathon to raise money for cancer research, and touring around the country with a theatre troupe to promote better accessibility to theatre in rural areas. Now her sights are set on eco-theatre. ‘Well, we do only have twelve years to save the planet’ she reminds me, citing a recent UN report.
So what is Grace up to when she’s not pioneering missions to save the planet via eco-friendly art practices? Grace is in her third year of her degree in English and Social Anthropology at St. Andrews. The story of how she ended up here is one we’ve all heard from an English countryside dweller: she liked the idea of going to the city, had her heart set on Edinburgh and then on Durham, was accepted at St Andrews and cried a lot, then came to see it and ‘quite liked it, actually.’ Two and a half years on, she’s come to like being at a smaller university, because ‘you know everyone, so it makes going in to anything a bit less scary,’ and there are ‘more opportunities to get involved in lots of different things. More so than if you were at a big Uni.’
And when she’s not studying? If Grace is going for a night out, you can find her at the Vic. She’s got a pretty good grasp of the place: despite the (admittedly large) ‘amount of pervy old men,’ she thinks it is the best place in St. Andrews to dance, ‘and on a night out I like dancing.’ If Grace throws herself in to a night out the way she does everything else in her life, then you can be sure she’s a pretty excellent dancer.
Grace’s fun fact: she’s a triplet.