Graduate fashion – goodbye, Primark

It’s graduation time, and for me this means it has been a whole year since entering The Real World, looking back and reflecting on what I was doing this time last year. The main thing I was doing was getting incomprehensively annoyed at my lack of ability to find an outfit to graduate in.

I kid you not, I must have tried on 30 different shirts. I bought around 6 of those, only to keep the most expensive and then have it entirely covered up all day because my graduation robes were pinned slightly wrong at the front, making me look like I was wearing a black bed sheet all day. But what’s an awful set of photos when you have your whole university experience to look back on?

My university experience (fantastic though it was) meant I have lived off beans, bread and Primark clothes for the last five years. Besides all the regular life ambitions that come with completing a degree (go travelling, secure a job, keep in touch with friends, etc, etc) I promised myself as a third year student, that once I began working in a ‘proper job’ with a real income, I would leave my days as a Primark Princess behind and emerge as a successful adult into the likes of Topshop and places with nice things that don’t fall apart. Basically, my wardrobe was shit. Even the wardrobe itself gave up and collapsed at one point, trying to consume everything within it in a pile of MDF like a rugby player holding the ball to the floor, furiously trying not to let anyone get hold of what is in their grasp out of fear of what they will do with it. But one thing at a time, functioning furniture can come further down the line.

Now I have said job, I’m struggling to leave behind the clutter of £3 tshirts and jeans made out of an incomprehensible wax-like material. I got rather good at hunting out the single dress in the entire shop that didn’t yell out ‘I cost less than an hour’s wage!’ to all other dresses and their owners.

The trouble with Primark, and similarly priced shops, is that they ruin your price perception. I remember the day Primark opened in our city. I bumped into a friend in town who showed me the contents of her carrier bag (back in the day when they dished out plastic ones that didn’t require you to only shop on sunny days in fear of soggy paper bag syndrome) and announced that she had managed to find a belt, bag, shoes and top, all amounting to a total of £12. Great, get me there now! Where else am I to find such delirious bargains? The honeymoon period was short lived, however. The next time I entered my beloved Topshop all that greeted me were price tags that now appeared to be written in poisonous ink. My eyes! My purse! Get me back to Primark, quick! And there I stayed.

Now, cautiously venturing out, I am wondering if my graduate vow to buy nicer clothes was thought out too hastily. Last week I bought a dress from a small boutique. It is a one-off design guaranteed to keep me from having to dive behind a pillar in the bar because four other girls in the room are also wearing my outfit. This one-off design comes with the downside of having to cater for several sizes to increase its chances of being purchased, and as a result the S-M size guide ends up looking cheap and ill-fitted.

The next day to work I wear an outfit consisting of approximately 80% Primark pieces, all which fit relatively well (excluding underwear. Primark should NOT make underwear), and sit at my desk in clothes that may not be the same shape after a few times around the washing machine, and definitely not after once in the tumble dryer, but they do fit fairly well and hardly made a dint in my wages. It wasn’t even long before I got complimented on my outfit: “I like that cardigan, doesn’t someone down the corridor have that one on today too?” Primark doesn’t come with a hefty price tag, but you do have to be willing to pay the tax of the mass-produced instead. Sigh.


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