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Fashion Disasters of 2011 - 2013: The College Years

1. Hollister Sweatpants –

Teamed up with inwardly-slanting fake UGG boots and a hideous, stained Primark vest top hitched up over my belly, my Hollister joggers were the main 'attraction' of my go-to outfit every Wednesday.

(God, how I admire the confidence of my 17 year old self! I was slim, but I didn't have the flattest stomach by any means. The combination of puppy fat, weekly Chinese takeaways and a regular dietary staple of Smiley Face Potato stuffed bagels didn't deter me from proudly sporting a crop top most days.)

Traditionally, I tended to make less of an effort with my attire on Wednesdays, because all of the BTEC sport lads went to another campus to play football. With the college vacant of people to impress, I could kick back in my sweats. (If only life were still that simple...!)

If you were going to buy overpriced joggers from a shop with a questionably overpowering smell, you had to go all out and get the ones with HOLLISTER spread right down the full length of the leg, just to make sure everyone knew where you shopped.

Obviously, you’d also carry anything that wouldn’t fit in your handbag in one of those Hollister carrier bags with the topless men on the front. Back in 2011, THAT, right there, was proof that you'd pretty much made it in life.

"On Wednesdays, we wear Hollister sweats."

2. Everything Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, or Jack Wills. EVERYTHING –

Back in 2011, absolutely no other brands were acceptable. If you even dared to wear anything other, you would be automatically demoted from the refectory ‘popular booth’ a'la Mean Girls style.

If you wanted instant confirmation that you were going to live an incredibly prosperous life, you could even MIX your brands. Think Jack Wills sweats with a Hollister hoodie...

If a lad waltzed into college in a mixed brand outfit, he was guaranteed his pick of the girls.

It’s a sad state of affairs that the highlight of my 18th birthday was dragging my Dad all the way to London purely so that I could blow all of my EMA and birthday money at the Abercrombie and Fitch flagship store.

(Side note: EMA stands for Education Maintenance Allowance, and was paid to college students who came from a single-parent household. The general intention and purpose of the payment was to, well, help with educational maintenance. I, however, treated it as my personal fake-tan fund. It was a mere £30 a fortnight, but Christ, could I make that budget stretch! Somehow, I managed to go out in town three times a week, buy enough glittery lipsticks to keep Barry M afloat for the next century, and dine out at 'Cheeky Nando's' every other week.)

The best part of visiting the sheer empire that was the A&F flagship was deffo getting your photo taken with the topless guys at the door. I set my snap as my BBM pic almost immediately in a bid to make the guy I was seeing jealous.

I still recall what I wasted my cash on that day: [another] pair of joggers, a ghastly bright pink hoodie with ABERCROMBIE plastered down both sleeves, and a black knitted cardigan, which I wore to death and actually only parted with last year after moths got the better of it.

^ Here I am, aged 18, in my beloved Abercrombie & Fitch joggers. Not too sure what was going on with my fringe either, tbh.

3. TOMs –

I refused to succumb to the TOMs pump craze for so long, and then one day I finally caved and bought three pairs in red, black and navy.

Let's be honest... TOMs suited absolutely nobody.

They weren't widely known for their practicality; once they'd got wet once, you'd had it. Cursed with rain water, they stank to high heaven. It was very difficult to chat a lad up in the refec when you were acutely aware of the vulgar stench coming from your battered pumps.

The only good thing about TOMs was that you got an intriguingly oversized sticker with every purchase. You weren't worth knowing if your college study planner wasn't emblazoned by the unnecessarily large TOMs logo sticker.

4. Branded Trainers -

Forget Jordan's and Air Max - in 2011, Ralph Lauren and Fred Perry footwear was where it was at!

I was 'lucky' enough to have a pair of both, which I proudly sported with absolutely all of outfits throughout the whole of 2011.

My Facebook Timehop sometimes likes to remind me that I once posted a photo of my Ralphs under the caption 'My new babies! #freshtreads xox'

The photo gained over 100 likes (what a world), and even looking back at the comments makes me shudder with shame. A lad I had once met on a night out was the first to show his appreciation.

'Sickkkk them la x' he commented, displaying all of 2011's vocabularic glory.

'Thanks hun xxx' I replied.

'Nahhhh, fresh them gal!' Somebody else piped up.

'Innit xxx' I responded. 'Already lookin' at getting them in navy too, me.'

I spent the next five minutes thinking I was the newest member of the G-Unit Crew.

(Side note: for some reason, the majority of 2011 was dedicated the usage of the word 'me' at the end of every single sentence. For example: 'I'm starving, me.' 'I'm so tried, me [ya no].' or 'Fancy a night out tonight, me.' I have no idea why this was a thing, but it was.)

5. Leggings –

An overall public menace in general, Primark leggings were every girl's worst enemy for the best part of college. If us girls weren't unfortunately realising all too late that flimsy, poor-quality Primark leggings offered very little coverage for coloured underwear, we were battling against the inevitable sagging of material around the knees that completely ruined any outfit.

Seemingly not content with sticking with the standard, traditional black legging fiascos, I even purchased a leopard print version.

I remember Adam - a lad in my maths class - stating that they made me look like a 'Dutch hooker.'

Simon, our incredibly savage and quick-witted teacher, rolled his eyes and sarcastically said, "Yes Adam, and is that in your wide experience of Dutch hookers?"

(I was actually thinking about this memory on the way to work this morning, and I nearly cried laughing underneath my face mask.)

Simon was pretty cool for a teacher, actually.

6. Disco Pants / Wet-Look Leggings –

This could well have come under the ‘leggings’ header, however I feel these monsters deserve a section of their own.

In WHAT world did disco pants EVER look good?!

I had about three pairs from American Apparel, in a variation of revoltingly brash colours. I absolutely swore by the fact that they made me look like Kim Kardashian from behind.

... The reality was that I simply looked as though I needed a good slap from Gok Wan.

When these absolute horrors became [questionably] popular in 2013, I even dared to swap my trusty size 4 Miss Selfridge mini dress for a pair on my weekly jaunt to Tiger Tiger.

Worn with a black bodysuit and chunky turquoise wedges, I genuinely thought I had a pretty good chance of meeting my future footballer husband in such sophisticated clobber.

Twerking was a whole different ball game entirely in disco pants, and I’d spend the whole night shamelessly checking that they hadn’t burst open at the back.

7. Hot-pants –

The Cazza B speciality of ALL garments, a good pair of hot-pants were my trademark between the years of 2011 and 2013.

Seriously, if you mentioned my name to anybody that went to the same college as me, I'm 99.9% sure that they'd ALL reply with something along the lines of, "Oh Cara - the one with the hot-pants?" (Well, either that or, "Oh yeah, the girl who once got her foot stuck in the vending machine?")

Tuesday was my fave day of the week at college, because I had two free periods with the lad I fancied. With this in mind (unlike Wednesdays), I ensured that my outfit was ON FLEEK. This almost always resulted in me wearing hot-pants, which I combined with my long-sleeved Abercrombie polo-neck, tights, and my Ralphs.

It was so widely known that I would sport my infamous hot-pants on a Tuesday that the day was even fondly dubbed 'Hot-Pant Tuesdays.' It was much of a national holiday as Christmas. Even the teachers were aware of it.

I had a proud collection of about 20 pairs of short-shorts, from your classic frayed denims, to my all time favourites, which were white-washed with rhinestone studs covering the pockets and belt loops.

When it came to hot-pants, it was the shorter the better, and if they weren’t short enough, I’d simply fold them under.

8. Juicy Couture –

During my WAG obsession phase, I would tirelessly pour over OK! Magazine, checking out what the ‘other’ WAGs were wearing. One fateful day, I happened to see a picture of an England football WAG wearing a sky blue velour Juicy Couture tracksuit. I simply had to copy it!

I begged and begged my Mum for a full Juicy tracksuit for Christmas. She nearly had a heart attack when she saw the price tag in Selfridges, and swiftly bought me a pink Lipsy version instead. Sweat pant Wednesdays just got a WHOLE LOT SASSIER!!

Eventually, I saved up enough of my EMA and was able buy a genuine navy blue Juicy Couture zip-up top.

... I think I donned it three times, got called a chav, and never wore it again.

9. Paul’s Boutique –

Purchased from BANK (RIP), Paul’s Boutique was another garish brand that I disgracefully indulged in.

I couldn't afford a real PB bag, so I bought a knock-off version from dingy little shop in town. Bright pink with zebra print handles and 2D Barbie logos, I can honestly say that it was THE tackiest thing that has EVER burdened my wardrobe. But back in 2011, it was my ultimate pride and joy.

I blew my 2011 Christmas money on a REAL PB hoodie, which was equally as ghastly. It consisted of a black bodice, with a leopard print hood and sleeves. The letters PB had been chucked across the entire back in pink sequins.

I wore it twice, rapidly went off it, and demoted it to 'weekend horse riding scruffs.'

Yep, that’s right – a £60 hoodie being put to good use up at the farm mucking out stables every weekend. Another incomprehensible waste of money and a fashion disaster I’ll never live down. Pretty sure even my horse hated it too.


Cara Jasmine Bradley ©


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