To say we are living in hard times would be something of an understatement. Yet, with tales of economic disasters and financial disparity, we in the fashion department remain optimistic as ever. Armed with a fashionista will-of-steel and our trusty post-war ideology; being thrifty doesn’t necessarily mean being trampy. To be a student is to be cheap. Any student found splashing the cash in Vivienne Westwood during term time must immediately be deranged, delusional, or of course, in possession of “daddy’s credit card”. Either way, as students, our shoulders weigh heavy with the burden of frugality. Whilst it all may sound like a challenge of epic proportions, it isn’t. With a sewing kit, a haberdashery shop, and a pair of scissors, anyone (and I do mean anyone) can transform their wardrobe, their style and, ultimately, their lives for the princely sum of, absolutely nothing.
Let us take, for example, the much sought-after aviator jackets of the A/W Burberry catwalk and replicated bountifully by the British high street. A good one, made of real sheepskin, will set you back from anywhere between around £100 and £350, depending on the style, material and shop (of course, this doesn’t include the Burberry jacket). £100 in the student world is a lot of money, considering that the whole job could be done and dusted in a matter of a meagre £5. Here’s how: simply take any last season leather or suede jacket, get yourself down to your nearest haberdashery shop, buy a metre (or two) of shearling and quite simply sew the material onto the lining of the jacket.Why stop there? Sew some shearing or a fur collar (easily purchasable at any good fabric shop) onto your denim jacket which (so long as it isn’t highly reminiscent of the stone-wash nightmare that was the 1980s) is still perfectly fashionable.
The sense of personal achievement is gargantuan, and with the money saved and creativity fulfilled, it’ll be pretty hard not to walk around campus with a smug grin. Here’s another example: take a pair of old jeans that have become short and cut them to a reasonable length of your discretion, and you’ve gained yourself some new denim shorts. And don’t worry about fraying or exposed pockets, channel your inner Alexa Chung and Agyness Deyn and embrace the frayed denim. Team with a pair of thick tights, a preppy cardigan (sew an old school crest and piping onto a cheap cardigan) and your fabulous new aviator jacket and you have frugal fashion in minutes.
Don’t stop there; girls, raid your boyfriends’ cupboards – the boyfriend look hasn’t quite dissipated from the fashion scene, and during winter provides a stylish (and warm) alternative to traditional winter coats. Guys, do the same – borrow your girlfriend’s scarves, unisex hats and even jackets for a truly metrosexual look, à la catwalk shows throughout LFW.
Further to this, attending clothes swap-parties and vintage fairs are a great place to meet new people and pick up real bargains. On that note, there’s the sanctuary of any frugal fashionista: the humble charity shop. Just off campus, near Catherine House, many of us are lucky enough to walk past the “Retreat Spa Charity Shop” and peruse its many wondrous delights. If, like my mother, you are dubious of clothes from charity shops, accessories are equally, if not more so, fantastic. Back at home, I was lucky enough to find a vintage Chanel handbag for £45 and a pair of Blahniks for under £100. Stories of great charity shop finds are always floating around, so try your luck.
Certainly, if you’re feeling more ambitious – and chances are you will soon enough – venture into the world of designing and making. Urban Outfitters sells an absolutely spectacular book, Basic Pattern Making In Fashion, and sells sewing machines for modest prices. Take it from me, once you’ve mastered the art of a tube dress, you’ll never look back. There is something particularly beautiful about creating your own clothes, and chances are, it’s cheaper too! Despite our financial difficulties, the enduring British fashion spirit triumphs and remembering the women of the 40s and 50s who used kohl eyeliner to draw artificial seams onto their legs, reminds us of the importance of style and the fact that it – thankfully – costs nothing.