Fashion: A degree of style is crucial

This was the test for three new students: Take a clothing grant of pounds 150 and spend it wisely in the time allocated. Did they gain A-grades ?
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The average student grant barely covers a term's rent, never mind books, equipment and hooch. But high on most students' shopping lists is clothing; not just clothing in the practical "covers your modesty and keeps you warm" sense of the word, but fashion - and, increasingly, designer fashion. University life is about more than attending lectures, after all.

There was a time when the typical geography student would look at his or her counterpart in the fashion department with a mixture of horror and glee. Horror that anybody could think of wearing such ridiculously impractical clothes, and glee that they themselves were able to scoff from the safety of comfortable anoraks and sturdy boots.

Looking around the canteen or student bar at the freshers of October 1998, however, there appears to be little to differentiate between the geography geeks and the fashion frights. The university prospectus that is still using pictures of students from the science lab circa 1974 has a lot to answer for. Students are so horrified at the thought of long, lank hair, horn-rimmed specs and brown, holey tank tops, that they do their utmost to dress up and shine.

Now the science students are giving the arts and fashion students a run for their pin money. If anything, fashion has gone full circle.

It is the fashion students who, in their knowing irony, are adopting the dress of the geography geek - anoraks, shrunken jumpers and pasty shoes - and the geography students who are dressing themselves from head to toe in designer labels.

In an exercise to find out what will be ringing students' bells this autumn, The Independent presented three fortunate undergraduates with the princely sum of pounds 150 each as a supplementary clothing grant. Their brief? To buy an outfit that will see them through their first term at college.

The three include a geography student, a student of communications and a fashion student. From their choices, can you spot which is which?

Before

Hanna, 21, from Stromstad in Sweden, is going to the London College of Fashion to study product development for the fashion industry

"I'VE BEEN living in London for two years and have worked for Joseph for the past year, so I normally get clothes from there. I mix these with second-hand things and sometimes things from H&M, with designers when I can afford it. What I have on today is a typical outfit: Joseph T-shirt, home-made skirt and Office shoes - altogether about pounds 100. I am seriously into fashion and spend most of my money on clothes, and love going out shopping. I like it when something new is happening in fashion and I like to look trendy.

I felt great when I got the pounds 150 to spend, and I started in Portobello Road by buying the skirt, then got the shirt from H&M, leaving pounds 127. I went to Selfridges and fell in love with the shoes when I tried them on, and so had to get them.

I thought it would be really difficult to find a complete outfit for pounds 150, but I think I found an outfit that I can wear for college and that I really like. I sometimes go out to get a whole outfit, but normally if I have money I'll get lots of different things that I love.

London style is much more interesting than Swedish style. Everyone in Sweden dresses the same with one trend that everyone sticks to, and no one dares to dress differently - which is why I love being in London."

After

Shirt, pounds 12.99, from H&M Hennes, 261-271 Regent St, London W1 (enquiries 0171-255 2031); skirt pounds 10 from Suite 20, Portobello Green Centre, Portobello Road, London W10 (0181-969 1399); shoes, pounds 120, by Who from Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London W1 (0171-629 1234)

Total cost: pounds 142.99

Before

After

Sweater, pounds 49, by Cerruti, from Liberty's sale; jeans, pounds 52, by YSL, from Dickins and Jones's sale; shoes, pounds 35 from Buffalo; glasses, pounds 5 from market stall.

Total cost: pounds 141

Jack, 19, is from London, and is going to Leeds University to read communications

"I FOUND that pounds 150 was more than enough to spend on an outfit, and I was screaming and shouting about getting "free" money which made my friends very jealous. I did think of buying shorts and a string vest, and then spending the rest of the money in the pub!

I normally wear Gap, or Carhartt, and not designer labels as I can't afford them; the outfit I wore today is by Gap and Levis and the cost comes to about pounds 100. I spent eight months teaching in Hong Kong and got convincing designer fakes from there, though mainly things like wallets and watches rather than clothes.

To be honest, I don't go shopping for clothes much, and borrow lots of things from my friend Rufus, who came shopping with me to get this outfit. I used to be into labels when I was younger and would save my money to buy expensive things, but now I spend it on going out. My mum gets a lot of stuff for me from charity shops as well as places like Gap. She got me a leather jacket for pounds 30 and is always buying me other bargains. I think because she's such a shopaholic she feels guilty and has to get me stuff.

I've got a useful outfit for university for less than pounds 150, which will go with the rest of my clothes, and I've got things that I really like. I made a deal with Rufus that, as he had been my fashion adviser for the day, he could wear the jumper to go out in on Friday night, and he could borrow the jeans too."

Before

After

T-shirt, pounds 14.99; trousers, pounds 44.99; jacket, pounds 64.99; mules, pounds 24.99; all from Oasis, 35 Chapel Walk, Sheffield, S1 2PP, (0114-273 1740).

Total cost: pounds 149.96

Charlotte, 19, is from Sheffield and is going to Bristol University to study geography

"I DON'T normally wear combats, and prefer smarter things, like suit jackets and higher heels, so the outfit I chose was unusual for me. I'm pleased with what I got and think the different items are versatile, that I can wear in the daytime or evening.

I originally wanted the skirt in the same fabric as these trousers, but they didn't have it in my size, so I tried the trousers instead. The sales assistants, along with my mum, were very helpful, helping me to put an outfit together, and brought me lots of different things to try. High heels look dodgy with this sort of trousers, and as I'm not a trainer person, the shoes I got will be a welcome relief to aching feet. The jacket is great; the sleeves and hood zip off so I can use it to go on field trips and to go out in, and it goes with almost anything.

I generally buy from the high street, getting suits and jackets in the sale. The outfit that I'm wearing now is from Warehouse and Oasis, and comes to about pounds 135 including my shoes. I wouldn't set out to buy a whole outfit; I just get bits and bobs. I do have lots of clothes and spend any extra money on them, rather than anything else.

Sheffield town centre isn't amazing for shopping, as everything has moved out of town to Meadow Hall, and I sometimes go to Leeds or Manchester for more variety. I wouldn't normally have bought these things, but I think that they're practical and versatile for going to university."

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