Femininity: why is dressing ‘girly’ in Bristol a fashion faux pas?

Fashion Editor Katie Bend asks why Bristol’s girls choose grunge over glamour when heading out for the night.

Why is it that many girls no longer feel ‘fashionable’ if they decide to go out in a bodycon dress and heels?

Before I became a university student, sixth form nights out were always a fun time to ‘doll up’ and enjoy a girly night of alco-pops and vodka shots.

Curlers in my hair, fake tan slapped on and probably too much leg on show always made me feel confident and flirty. Now, I feel somewhat out of place if I am not in Converse and vintage shorts whenever I hit the clubs.

But it’s not just on nights out where ‘girly’ has been replaced by ‘grungey’. Walking the streets of Bristol, you can tell that army jackets and creepers are the new vogue. But why is this?


Five years ago, anyone purchasing the items now popular in shops such as Urban Outfitters would probably be thought to be ‘batting for the other team’.

However, now you see even the prettiest little blond things walking around in clothes ten sizes too big in order to create that ‘I-don’t-care-what-I-look-like-but-secretly-I-am-trying’ look. You can tell these girls are cool.

Can someone be deemed ‘cool’ and ‘fashionable’ by others whilst dressing in a feminine style? Or will they just seem as though they have not kept up with the ‘fashion times’? The scary thing is I fear the latter may be the case.

Even in my once beloved Topshop it is now difficult to find anything that doesn’t resemble 1980s punk. What happened to the pretty dresses and floaty tops which easily flatter women’s figures?

When I went into Topshop on Saturday afternoon with a £50 voucher I left having only spent £16 on a top which I feel was frankly overpriced and not even that nice.

But is this just a ‘Bristol’ thing? When I look at my friend’s photos from Exeter and other universities such as Newcastle, I see girls enjoying themselves looking sexy, confident and feminine in pretty dresses and heels. If I wore that out here I would feel the exact opposite.

No Dresses And Heels In Sight…

In Freshers myself, and many others who have since been ‘transformed’ by Bristol, were able to ‘get away’ with dressing in this manner, but second year I feel a sense of ‘well now you are too old to dress like that; you don’t want to seem like a first year do you? You need to show those younger how it’s done!’

At Bristol, I feel as though it is committing a Cardinal Sin if one hates vintage shops and Urban Outfitters. Sure, in order to try and ‘fit in’ on many occasions I have browsed the rails, but whenever I pick something out I think to myself; ‘if this wasn’t from UO, would I buy it – and at THAT price?’

The answer is usually ‘Hell no’. It’s unflattering, boyish, and it’s pretentious (not to mention overpriced).

This is not to say that some girls don’t look great in such clothes. I am not against genuine people dressing in this way; what I am against is the pressure that dictates everyone must conform. What’s wrong with looking feminine?

I have seen many girls come to Bristol feminine, and then felt the pressure to ‘change’ into another ‘everything-I-buy-is-vintage’ entity. The scary fact is, I am worrying that I may fall into this category. And I don’t like that thought.

I don’t believe that you can be elegant and classy whilst dressing in doc martins and throwback old man jumpers from ‘oh…Oxfam on Park Street darling’, and the former is what I strive to be.

What I would like to know is the social psychology behind it all; why don’t other girls want to look beautiful, elegant and classy anymore? Is it a new strand of feminism?

I think not, because we all know that those who dress in this manner do care what they look like to the highest degree, which, ironically, is the exact opposite of the impression that they are trying to achieve.

Perhaps girls would just rather conform and receive some sort of sense of belonging and praise for being ‘stylish’.

I know that fashion is an organic concept; growing and changing with the times. But on this issue, I desire to stay as the flower, rather than the fruit which comes after.