Class is in session

Take varsity style inspiration from coming-of-age classics

Words: Rosie Goddard | Photographs: Katinka Bester | Styling: Kelly Fung 

Who could forget Clueless’s Cher Horowitz and Dionne in their cooler-than-you 90s pinafores; Reese Witherspoon dressed as the virginal Annette in Cruel Intentions, or the cast of The Breakfast Club dressed according to their distinct high school personas?

Iconic coming-of-age movies like these provide a never-ending source of inspiration on issues of identity throughout school and varsity, and are made all the more memorable by their wardrobes. Relatable to generation after generation, the greats explore forever-relevant themes, with style playing a huge role in alluding to the inner workings of their characters: the collective individualism of the Pink Ladies and their jackets; the revolutionist style in Spike Lee’s School Daze and, more recently, the characters in Dope channelling their isolation into empowerment via bold 90s ensembles. The film manages to turn the badly-dressed nerd trope on its head as essentially, this trio couldn’t look cooler.

Unlike the movies of the 80s and 90s, Dope highlights how your look isn’t always dictated by your position within a friendship circle or your role at an institution (the rebel, the prom queen, the art geek). Things have moved on, genres have merged and we’re finally free to express ourselves outside of traditional social norms – perhaps the person wearing the country club collegiate look is one of the most politically progressive people on campus?

However, a few things haven’t changed: we’ll always use style to highlight our world view; to project the best version of ourself in order to meet like-minded friends or to quietly shield ourselves from the prying light of curious eyes.

Varsity is no time to take getting dressed lightly – this is your moment to make your mark and a chance to express yourself on a daily basis like never before (goodbye uniforms). Whether you’re doing harem pants and hacky sacks or sneakers and the latest sportswear, it’s time to commit to your look (before you change it in a year and have start all over again).

These are the pieces, inspired by some of our favourite coming-of-age movies, to add to your wardrobe and pair as you see fit, whether centre-of-attention styling, wallflower dressing, or opting for comfort first is your thing.


Why: On- and off-screen, slogan or graphic tops have always been an integral part of coming-of-age style. From band tees to varsity sweaters and slogan tops, they show the world what you enjoy, where you stand, who you support – and perhaps give a glimpse into what you’re like. They make a statement about who you are before you’ve even opened your mouth.

The movies: Dazed & Confused, School Daze, The Pink Ladies in Grease.

Wear it: tucked in for a new take on nonchalant style.

Pair it: with just about anything – seriously, these look good under dungarees, over A-line skirts and tucked into jeans, then add some unexpected edge to your look with a choker and cap or bucket hat combination.


Why: Lest we forget, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants was an entire movie dedicated to the miracle fabric that is denim. Thanks to its popularisation by rebels and subcultures in previous decades, denim has firmly established itself as the uniform of the youth. Whether vintage, shredded, or tight-fitting, it gives hints about your tastes – but as the girls in the film proved, it’s also how you style a pair of jeans that sets you apart.

The movies: Dangerous Minds, Thelma & Louise, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.

Wear them: rolled, flared, cropped or tapered – there’s no ‘right’ way to wear denim anymore, and what a relief that is! Find styles that works for you and wear them to death.

Pair them: with pieces from contrasting decades, the best part about the fashion climate at the moment is it’s not prescriptive. Anything goes, so grab a 70s flare and pair it with a 90s bucket hat, or an 80s mom jeans and wear it with a floral 60s-inspired top.


Why: Once the unofficial go-to of ‘the girl next door’, the slip dress has gone from sweet and innocent with a hint of sex appeal to cool girl with a hint of grunge, thanks to its ability to layer with everything. Chokers and a vintage tee? A polo neck and a parka? A shirt and heeled boots? You name it, the slip dress looks incredible with anything.

The movies: 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, She’s All That.

Wear it: with layered separates – this way you can keep the look going all year round. Out for the night? Strip off the layers, wear it as-is, and pile on the jewellery. Too hot for your jacket? Tie it around your waist.

Pair it: with this season’s favourite sneakers – think Puma Suede Classics or Vans, a tee and your choice of outerwear when the weather cools down.