There seems to only be a handful of North American universities that can boast two seemingly independent — but not necessarily unrelated — traits: the first being a highly diverse and achievement-oriented study body, and the second being a unique and one-of-a kind sense of style.
Having a campus located in the heart of Montreal is most likely part of the reason why McGill is among these select few, as many will agree that the city’s european influences have much to do with the style here.
What takes the fashion choices here to a trend-setting level, however, is the students’ masterful ability to push the boundaries with what they wear, all within the confines of a student budget.
Experts in the art of thrifting, many students at McGill will tell you that they are inspired by vintage pieces and various trends from past decades.
Don’t frown when you hear someone on campus say that their Parisian great-great-aunt gave them this fabulous ’60s coat, or that they bought that necklace on an exotic trip to Peru, because thrifting is as much about luck as it is about patience and a keen eye.
What you’re really looking for is affordable and thought-provoking pieces that can be integrated into your look with your own modern twist.
Take this Fashionista, for example. In the midst of the usual shuffle of exam-burdened students (or should I say, zombies), I spotted her casually strolling to the library.
The mixed prints of her dress and head wrap conjure a furious battle between leopard print and floral… and I mean that a really good way.
When asked where she found those pieces, she hesitated before saying that she’d bought the dress at a thrift shop and that she couldn’t remember where the head wrap was from.
This is both the best and the worst part about many looks around campus: they may be inspiring, but they are often absolutely impossible to re-create.
As for the rest of the look, one can easily spot a few recent trends: knee-high socks with Steve-Madden wedges, shiny jewellery stacked one on top of the other, and an emerald green purse from Primarck that she bought on her recent trip of England (and for a measly six pounds!).
Throw in hippy-inspired braids, the classic black ray-bans, and if you look closely, that’s a glossy pair of leather gloves that she’s got wedged between her fingers.
It’s hard to describe McGill fashion as a whole, mostly because thrifting often means finding items from a span of decades, and the whirlwind of trends that have come and gone within that time period is dizzying.
Overall, the students tend to strike that delicate balance of looking polished and exuding this I-just-got-out-of-bed-and-threw-this-raggedy-thing-on attitude.
Students wear polka-dots, floral, and stripes, sometimes all at once. Girls and boys button-up their oxford shirts all the way to the last button, and sometimes leather and grungy doc Martens paired with a lace dress is a genius mashup.
Maybe what makes the style here is the way students don’t often look to high-fashion for inspiration, but rather at their own closets and the plethora of combinations that can be created from things that they already own.
If you’re ever in Montreal, or if you’re lucky enough to live in the city, a good place to stop by and harness your inner vintage goddess is Annex Vintage. Here you will find anything from soft floral blouses to leather saddlebags to faux fur-lined pea coats to bedazzling jewelled pendants.
On a final note, recent research has shown that people’s moods can be affected by what they choose to wear: when you’re picking something out in the morning, you’re really setting the mood for the day.
So, the next time you trek out to the library, choose something you feel comfortable in but also that’s a little snazzy (one of my favourite things to wear when I’m stressed is deep red lipstick).
Or, to amp up the confidence — especially when you’re off to that terrifying final exam — try dressing up a little.
Confidence may not be everything when it comes to academic achievement or even personal style, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
This article is part of the ongoing, exclusive column series for USA TODAY COLLEGE. A new post will appear every Wednesday. Be sure to tune in each week for the best in university fashion trends!
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