Fabulous fashion on a student shoestring

With the autumnal weather fast approaching Paula Burns offers some advice for students ahead of the new term with some trends that won’t break the bank

THE September issue of all the major fashion magazines is always the heaviest. It is the most important issue of the fashion calendar, so much so that they even made a documentary about it.

The transition from summer to autumn wear requires military precision. Choosing the precise pieces to make your back to college look the envy of all can feel like entering a battlefield. Over the past few seasons, fashion has been feeling nostalgic. The ’90s have been reigning supreme on the runways.

For those of you in college now, you were probably only born in the 1990s. A trip into the archives of the decade’s TV shows and music videos will provide the perfect back catalogue of what to wear. Take inspiration from the TV show My So Called Life where Claire Danes’ character, Angela Chase, is the epitome of ’90s chic and Jordan Catalano is the boy every girl falls in love with. Use old Nirvana album sleeves, Spice Girl posters and Oasis videos to create a vision of the fashions of that era. Mix elements of ’90s inspired pieces with the statement trainer or pleather leggings to bring the style into 2014. For a little help here is a guide to some of the key trends this season to form the complete back to college look.


Penneys Denim Dress, €15; River Island Leather Jacket with fur collar, €87; Penneys Leather Leggings, €8; Penneys Trainers, €8; Penneys Plaid Knapsack, €10


Denim has always been a failsafe for students. It has become an integral part of their everyday uniform. This season there’s a shift away from the much-loved skinny to the boyfriend style jean. This has been brewing for a few seasons but not until now has the high-street really embraced it. River Island has a diverse denim collection which includes the boyfriend fit jean. Back in the ’90s the strategically placed rips were handmade in secret. Today there’s no need to get the scissors out or get in trouble with the folks for putting holes in a perfectly good pair of trousers, the designer rips are already made.

But denim doesn’t have to stop there. Just like the Little Black Dress, the denim dress should be an essential piece in every Irish girl’s wardrobe. The denim dress very easily transcends summer to autumn. Once the evenings get longer, match it with leggings and boots or black opaque tights. The slight stone wash in the Penneys denim shirt dress is a definite throwback to the ’90s.


River Island Check Dress, €47; Penneys Chelsea Bootswith Buckle, €22; Arnotts French Connection Jumper, €85; Penneys Knee High Socks, €3; Penneys Hat, €4

Fashion’s feeling of nostalgia is the perfect trend for students. The grunge effect has been creeping in over the past few seasons. It’s been mixed with a touch of punk, with leather and studs previously being the star show. Now it’s the turn of plaid to be in the spotlight.

Grunge fashion would have been lost without the check shirt. The instant image of the era which comes to mind is of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, in a blue plaid shirt. Cobain without a check shirt is like Tom without Jerry; it just would not have worked. The check shirt should be worn in the most blasé way possible, literally just thrown on. The essence of grunge was that you looked as though no thought was put into what you were wearing, where the reality was actually the complete opposite. The check shirt is ideal for college wear. It’s easy, comfortable and can be matched with jeans or a leather skirt to give it more of an edgy vibe. It can be worn either fully buttoned up or open with a funky slogan tee-shirt underneath.

The plaid dress is the supreme extension of the check shirt. River Island has converted the plaid shirt to the plaid dress which can bring you from the lecture halls straight to the student bar in the evening. Having an extra layer is always handy in our climate. Take the ’90s trend and tie a sweater around your waist so you can look effortless and breezy at the party and then sung and warm on the walk home.

Keeping our heads warm is always a must in the colder months. Model Cara Delevingne made the beanie hat cool and with our Irish winters it is the ideal practical yet trendy accessory.

Parka Jacket

River Island Boyfriend Fit Jeans, €55; Arnotts Levi Crop Jumper, €75; River Island Check Shirt, €37; Arnotts Barbour Parka, €310; Penneys Denim Bag, €10; Penneys Trainers, €8

Britpop defined the music culture of the ’90s. With it came its own trademark fashion. The Gallagher brothers (right, Liam with his parka jacket) were big fans of retro tight-fitting tracksuit tops and the bucket hat. The bucket hat was the must have accessory at every festival for both boys and girls. Rihanna brought it into the 21st century when she was pictured wearing one at this summer’s World Cup. But the most distinctive Brit Pop trend was the parka.

The parka is an all-time fashion favourite for the winter months. It is the ideal companion during the harsh cold spells. Its appeal is that it’s the in-between coat. It’s not as heavy and limiting as the duffel or office-like as the trench — instead it’s a college staple.

The bad boy Gallagher brothers gave the parka its first licence of coolness. Finally there was a coat that was warm enough to hang out at the skate park in without looking as though your Mum dressed you.

This is why season after season a small variation of the parka hits the catwalks.

It’s nice to be warm while striving to stay catwalk chic. This Barbour parka from Arnotts is hard-wearing and guaranteed to get you through your degree.

The Knapsack

The retro favourite is back and has been restyled to be better than ever. Whether you prefer lux leather or high-function details there’s no better time to zip up than now.

Coming straight from the Chanel catwalks, the knapsack has been a firm contender on the street style circuit. What better way to carry around the college essentials while staying on trend? Penneys have some great variations for as little as a tenner.

The Chelsea Boot

The Chelsea Boot began its reign as far back as Victorian times but it acquired its name from its popularity back in the 1960s. The Chelsea Set was a group consisting of young artists, film directors, musicians and fashion designers who had started frequenting the King’s Road area in West London.

Given the nickname by the media at the time, they made the name Chelsea synonymous with a new way of living and dressing. The style-conscious group started wearing the boot and hence the name Chelsea Boot came about.

For the past few seasons the Chelsea Boot has been gaining pace on the women and menswear catwalks. What started out as a menswear shoe is now a unisex fashion item. However this season the women’s wear has taken the Chelsea Boot into the ’90s. The platform was brought back to life in that decade by the Spice Girls. This season the chunky heel is growing in momentum, and even finding itself on the Chelsea Boot. The platform is easy to wear while giving that extra bit of height, providing the perfect heel for turning a look from day to night.


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