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Wardrobe 101: How to Prep for Martinmas Events

Ilaria Freccia describes style essentials for the biggest Martinmas Events.

As a lifelong over-dresser with a full year of St Andrews events under my belt, I feel qualified to assemble a list of wardrobe must-haves for fall events. Yes, it might seem early, but they’ll be upon us before we know it.

There’s no question that St Andrews students love an occasion to dress up and this requires a wardrobe of last-minute pull-together outfit pieces. The biggest events of the Martinmas semester that will put these pieces to use are Starfields, Opening Ball, Welly Ball, and Raisin Weekend. But, that isn’t to say nights out at the Vic or 601, ceilidhs, society initiations, and pub nights don’t also require a little wardrobe magic.

Perhaps the best part about Freshers' Week is the weather. It is not yet too cold or rainy to leave without a coat, meaning that with just the right amount of preparation (aka pres), it is perfectly possible and comfortable to head to whichever event you please, even from the hallowed halls of Fife Park. With that being said, eventually, it will get to a point where some sort of second layer is necessary (at least for this California girl), and, unless you have bottomless pockets and the uncanny ability to remember to actually grab your coat, or, better yet get to the Vic early enough that there is still space in the coat check, I highly recommend heading over to your favourite fast fashion brand and buying the first coat you can find for under £20. Ideally, it lasts your time at uni, but, if you lose it on a night out, yes it’s annoying, but not the end of the world. While I don’t normally endorse fast fashion, I do tend to feel strongly about avoiding pneumonia.

Speaking of pneumonia, while not technically an event (at least until we get to May Dip), swimming is a popular practice among St Andrews students. If you have any interest in proving that St Andrews really is the top university in the UK by plunging into the North Sea in November, I highly recommend including a swimsuit (or even a wetsuit) in your luggage.

Back to the actual, organised events, Starfields is certainly the most notable event of Freshers' Week and a highlight of the year. Run by fashion show organisers FS, Starfields is a music festival hosted on the Lower College lawn (just below Sallies). Proving itself as a top event, last year, early bird tickets sold out in under 45 seconds. Starfields is a unique opportunity to be bold. Think disco rave meets festival. Try showing some skin, wearing hot pinks, blues, and silver, mixing patterns, or try layering a mesh shirt under a Hawaiian print button-down and wearing body glitter. The world is your oyster. Events-wise, Starfields is a rare yet shining opportunity to go all out and also let loose, get funky, and play with your personal style.

The Kate Kennedy Club’s Opening Ball lies on the opposite side of the spectrum. A black-tie event, it’s the first opportunity of the year to dress to the nines and dance the evening away. Think tuxedos, Highland dress, and gowns. As intimidating as it seems to find such fancy garb, the charity shops in town offer a decent collection of secondhand formal wear. There’s also the tried and true method of raiding your friend's closet. It’s easy to get carried away. But, as you put on those unbroken-in shoes, try to remember that you have a long walk back ahead of you from Madras pitches.

As you inevitably stumble back from the Opening Ball with blistered heels and aching arches, thinking how nothing is worth that pain, never fear. Welly Ball, also known as the heels-wearing person’s favourite event of the year, will change all your misconceptions about the pain and suffering of balls. Instead of gowns, most people opt for short dresses, and, instead of heels or dress shoes, it is a requirement to wear wellies. Understandably, this allows for hours of comfortable, unbridled fun with no fear of tripping over hems, spraining an ankle, or tearing a tendon.

For the more frequent nights out at the Vic or one of St Andrews' many pubs, the dress code is more flexible. Wearing what you are comfortable in is important, but, with the flaky Scottish weather, most people end up in jeans and a fun top.

It’s important to have a few dressy items in your wardrobe as well. Many societies must be applied to, and when attending mixers or interviews, it’s important to look presentable and dress appropriately. This look includes anything from a sports jacket and slacks to a dress or a long skirt and sweater. Many societies such as the Law Society, GIG and Women in Business also have occasions for business casual or professional dress such as mock debates or discussions and networking events.

Last but not least, the most terrifying (for freshers, at least) and eventful day of the fall term: Raisin Weekend. When it comes to your wardrobe, Raisin is tough. Most academic parents will provide something or instruct their children to purchase items relating to a certain theme. While this practice varies from family to family, there is one very important consideration for Raisin attire. Whatever you wear is most likely going to end up destroyed. I ended up throwing away my whole outfit (or the remaining parts of it) afterward. Raisin is not a tidy, sober, or clean occasion so don’t wear your nice shoes, jewelry, or coat (or anything that has any sentimental value at all).

All the above being said, St Andrews is home to a student body with diverse interests, personalities, and styles. The variety of event offerings allows for freedom of expression. It’s about finding the place you feel the most comfortable — finding events true to your interests, dressing for confidence, and not fearing the tasteful sartorial risk.

Photos: Harriet St. Pier and Ilaria Freccia

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