Most UK towns and cities have a large range of shops selling clothes to suit all styles and budgets. As well as high-end luxury boutiques and high-street shops, there are plenty of second-hand and vintage shops. These are perfect for bargain-hunting and are often found in student areas. Many clothes shops offer student discounts with a valid National Union of Students (NUS) card your university ID card.
You will see all kinds of fashion at UK schools, colleges and universities, and almost anything goes. Students usually dress casually during the day – jeans and t-shirts are fine – and more smartly if you’re going out in the evening. Very few student bars and pubs have a dress code.
Some courses require you to wear specialist clothing for health and safety. For example if you are in a science laboratory, you may need to wear protective glasses and a white lab coat.
For parties and nights out, people dress in many different styles, from casual jeans to glamorous outfits. If it's a more formal evening event, such as a university ball, this might mean wearing a dress or suit and tie. You can avoid the expense of buying formal wear by hiring it from a local shop or outfitters.
The weather in the UK is rarely extreme, but it can change quickly. In just one day, you might have warm sunshine, rain and cold wind. Wear several layers so you can put them on or take them off as the weather changes, and always carry an umbrella.
The UK is a multicultural place and it is common for people to wear clothing associated with their culture and religion, for example a head scarf, kippah, turban, sari or long skirt. In major towns and cities you will find specialist shops selling clothing from around the world, particularly Asian and Middle Eastern clothing.
It’s important to wear what you feel comfortable in, but you'll probably find that most students in the UK have these key items in their wardrobes:
- Winter coat – choose one that will keep you warm and dry in all weather, although you can also bring a separate, lighter raincoat for those spring showers. And definitely take an umbrella!
- Gloves, a scarf and a warm hat or earmuffs.
- Trainers (sneakers), or any shoes comfortable enough for running to class if you’re late!
- Waterproof shoes such as Wellington or hiking boots, for rainy and snowy days. Remember: rain can damage leather, so treat any leather boots, gloves and bags with a protective waterproof spray.
- Jeans. For many college and university students, a good, comfortable pair of jeans is like a uniform.
- Jumpers (sweaters), cardigans or hoodies. A woolly cardigan and a big thick scarf are perfect for curling up in a corner of the library when you’re studying.
- Clothes you don’t mind getting dirty! You might be taking part in a charity race, a baking competition, a muddy obstacle course or a game of paintball for somebody’s birthday – and you’ll be grateful for that old tank top and tracksuit bottoms.
- A smart shirt, blouse or dress, and smart shoes for evenings out – it’s common to wear jeans and trainers to pubs, bars and restaurants, but you might want to dress more elegantly once in a while.
- Once or twice a year, your institution might hold a formal event – this means a suit and tie for men and a cocktail dress or gown for women. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re not sure about the dress code.
- You don’t need to bring all this from home, though – most UK towns and cities have shops to suit all styles, including second-hand shops where you can fill the gaps in your wardrobe without blowing the budget!
- When it comes to formal wear, you can save even more money by renting instead of buying.