Back to school fashion: New year, new me

You know that meme where they make fun of some international students for over-dressing for 8 a.m. lectures? Well, I may have been that international student showing up to lectures looking ready to walk on the runway. The funny thing is that I live on campus, so on days when I show up like that, there is a 90 per cent chance that I will just head straight back to the dorm after my class ends at 9 a.m.

But the real question is: Are these students ‘overdressing’ or is the campus just underdressed?

Whether you naturally like to dress to impress or dress for comfort, let me show you how you can make your return to campus a bit more glamorous and your morning lecture outfits a bit more interesting. Rather than focusing on commonly known concepts like ‘accessorizing with jewellery’ or ‘layering,’ we will be looking at ways to create your own sense of style and upgrade your outfits.

Stand out in athleisure

Once in a while I like to ‘dec’ myself out in a leather jacket, a long linen coat or a posh-looking cardigan, but my heart still belongs to that snuggly and comfy athleisure-wear — and I know I’m not the only one. Although it is effortlessly good looking, it can get repetitive sometimes, so here are some ways to upgrade your outfits.

Get adventurous with pastel colours

It’s common knowledge in the fashion community that white, black and grey are the easiest colours to look good in, but pastel colours may just be your new wardrobe secret weapon. For me, a full pastel purple combo fits the look the best — think lavender or lilac. It’s still the same hoodie and sweatpants look that everyone is used to but with a colourful twist.

Get a better bag

Although bags aren’t necessarily classified a part of the athleisure ‘ensemble,’ a nice backpack/tote (if applicable) usually ties the outfit together. I see a lot of great looking athleisure outfits that were destroyed by a slightly mis-styled bag, so here are a few suggestions.

Backpack suggestions:

  • Rains
  • STATE

Tote Bag suggestions:

  • L.L. Bean
  • Garmentory

Style it with a scarf

Fall is approaching so why not pair your outfit with a checkered or houndstooth scarf? Normally hoodies and sweatpants can be plain so play around with the pattern contrast – it is a known hack that works 100 per cent of the time.

Try something new.
Try something new. Ryan Yip

Add a touch of uniqueness

What’s better than owning something so unique, you’re the only one that has it?

Customized Converse


Chuck 70’ Hi is one of the most popular and most versatile clothing items (tied with Vans Old Skool) and because of that many students, including myself, wear them almost everyday to classes or to run errands. Plain-coloured Chucks are good on their own but why don’t we seize the opportunity of this perfect canvas to express our unique creative identity?

Converse design by Ryan Yip, inspired by tarot.
Converse design by Ryan Yip, inspired by tarot. Ryan Yip

You don’t need to be an artist to decorate your sneakers. Let your creativity flow freely, combine simple shapes into bigger pictures or flourish it with quotes (this always works). It is the art of custom sneakers but also the art of subtly standing out.

Leather/Denim Jackets

Once you get comfortable with drawing on small canvases, why not move onto something bigger? Leather and denim jackets are two fall and winter outerwear favourites. However, despite quality and slight colour differences, it is really hard to distinguish the individuality of these items; your leather jacket has a 90 per cent chance of looking the same as everyone else’s. So why don’t we decorate it as well?

My go-to method for any DIY pieces is always to paint whatever I like so that my art acts as a visual introduction of myself.

Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction on a denim jacket (left) and a leather bomber jacket with a skull graffiti art style (right) both designed by Ryan Yip.
Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction on a denim jacket (left) and a leather bomber jacket with a skull graffiti art style (right) both designed by Ryan Yip. Ryan Yip

If drawing isn’t your strong suit, or you think it’s too much work, you can try to decorate your jackets with special pins, badges and iron-on patches which can easily be found on Amazon or stores that sell skateboard or streetwear products. Another way is to look for custom apparel artists on Instagram that do customized sneakers and clothes, it may cost you a bit more but it will ensure great quality!

Use pins and badges to personalize.
Use pins and badges to personalize. Ryan Yip

Wallet-friendly advice

I understand that as students we often have a limited amount of money and time to spend on our everyday outfits. The aforementioned advice is either free or comes in a form of investment that will last for a few good years.

Don’t worry, there is no way I am stopping at two tips and calling it a styling guide. There are more to come as the covered topics on this article are merely based on what is already popular on campus, these are just the foundation of ‘style elevation.’

Stay tuned for more and keep being stylish – hopefully the 2021/22 UBC campus is going to be much more interesting place to be!