In the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland lies the Royal Mile. While taking a stroll down the street, some are instantly drawn to its rich history. Situated at the foot of the Edinburgh Castle, the street is filled with haunted closes and antique shops selling tea sets and paintings. Others see the Royal Mile merely as a tourist trap filled with souvenir shops. Hooded sweatshirts and shot glasses line windows while bagpipe music blasts from overhead speakers. However, to the fashion-savvy Scottish crowd of all ages, the Royal Mile is a catwalk overflowing with effortlessly cool style.
Scottish women know how to spice up an ensemble for any occasion, whether they are quickly running out to buy fresh fruit for tomorrow’s breakfast or grabbing a drink with friends at the local pub. While East Lansing’s own Grand River Avenue may not have the same prestige, it is the best place for MSU students to strut their stuff in clothing straight out of the United Kingdom.
Go ahead, ditch the “do’s and don’ts” of fashion
[cheerala1]”European women are much more fashion-forward. They don’t care about rules and wear whatever they want,” political science and journalism senior Vee Cheerala said. “If you were to [ditch fashion rules] here, people would be like, ‘What are you wearing?'” she said, adding students should be more daring.
Ruth Walker of The Scotsman, a Scottish newspaper, examined style among different generations in her June 2007 article, identifying that while all ages are open to experiment with clothing, those in their 20s have the most freedom. “At this age, you can also get away with retro touches, a skinny tie here, a cardigan there, without looking as though you wore them the last time they were fashionable,” personal shopping consultant Kevin Stewart told Walker. It seems while 20-somethings in Scotland add panache to their wardrobe without a second thought, MSU students often hesitate to venture past the basic staples: a hooded sweatshirt and jeans.
Here are a few ways to take on the plaid-clad UK right here in E.L. It’s time to turn Grand River Ave. into our own version of the Royal Mile.
Spandex goes beyond step aerobics
The comeback of the spandex trend in the United Kingdom was recognized by Nicole Jackson of the UK newspaper,The Observer, who stated in a Jan. 2006 article that “everywhere you look, hip young things are prancing around with nothing buy a slip of tight black Lycra separating their leg-flesh from the elements.”
Spandex leggings and tights have been increasing in popularity in past years, a testament to their timeless appeal and versatility. They can easily be paired with tops and frocks of various lengths. This is a common look both in Edinburgh and at MSU, so be sure to jazz up your ensemble with bright colors, bangles and boots. Urban Outfitters is known for carrying a collection of clothes made just for this style. Lux, a brand sold at the store, delivers the look time after time. The Lux Tank Dress, sold for $38, is simple and perfect for pairing with tights or leggings of all colors. The short cut and scoop neck can be complimented with flats for class or fancier footwear for a night on the town.[edin3]
While black spandex is seen in the UK, Scottish women often opt to bring a piece of personal flair to the look by adding distinct color. “I was sitting in a park near the castle and saw a ton of girls wearing dresses with bright colored spandex underneath. It grabbed the attention of a few Scottish guys, who were looking and calling them ‘trendys!'” said journalism junior Karen Cassidy, who was in Edinburgh in June on a study abroad program.
Pashmina, please
Leggings are still adored with each passing season, and outfits can easily transition from summer to fall by adding a scarf. The scarf is an accessory that is practical for escaping harsh winds and is transformed from practical to fashionable when elegantly draped around the neck.
American Apparel offers a multitude of options both solid and striped. Cotton scarves are sold for $15 to $28 and add an instant pop of color to any ensemble. However, pashmina scarves are the way to go for the most authentic UK look. The textiles are extremely popular in Edinburgh and a wardrobe staple for Scottish women around the city. For the online shopper who can’t quite afford a trip to Scotland, The Pashmina Store offers solid colored scarves for $35.99 that can be shipped straight to your door.
Forever Plaid
When Scotland comes to mind, the thoughts of plaid kilts are not far behind. Plaids are going main-stream, no longer being seen as mere souvenirs thanks to jackets and vests of all kinds appearing in top designers’ fall collections, from Jean Paul Gautier to L.A.M.B by Gwen Stefani.
Forever 21, always a go-to for affordable and fashionable clothing, is overflowing with plaid patterns at the moment. They spill off hangers and racks in the forms of jackets with toggles or zippers and puffy vests with fur on the hood.
Similar designs continue to be served up at vintage shops such as Scavenger Hunt on Grand River Avenue. and W. Armstrong and Son Second-Hand and Vintage Clothing Emporium in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket area. These stores give their customers a little from each decade, and because their merchandise is authentic, shoppers can rest easy knowing they won’t see another person copying an outfit in line at Starbucks.
University of Edinburgh vs. Michigan State University
“I was walking through the mall last night and feel that the current trend is a little bit of everything – 60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s,” Scavenger Hunt owner Eric Merkling said. He takes care of customers at the register and faces a large rack of skirts, some of which are pleated and plaid. Best grab them early, as he acknowledged current culture determines what the most popular store merchandise will be.
You’ll instantly be drawn into the store by music playing on the sidewalk, and will be curious to see what treasures the underground locale may be hiding. Once down the stairs, racks of blazers with shoulder pads become visible, as do collections of vintage ties and T-shirts. Whether shopping for an everyday outfit or one designed especially for October 31, the options are endless.
[leggings2]University of Edinburgh and Art College of Edinburgh students also enjoy taking breathers from class to shop for vintage clothes near the Royal Mile in the Grassmarket area. Armstrong’s is to Scottish students what Scavenger Hunt is to MSU students. “They come searching for something unique that no one else will have. A few people know exactly what they’re looking for, but most just come to browse,” said Armstrong’s employee Becca Drew.
Across the store from her, a mannequin of a swimmer is diving from the ceiling, arms outstretched and filled with white and pink boas. “What I love best about working here is the creativity of the store,” she said of Armstrong’s, which was opened in 1840 and sells clothing as old as the Victorian era.
More mannequins on the floor indicate the styling capabilities of the employees and their ability to put a spin on traditional Scottish gear. One female mannequin is dressed in a kilt with a red, black and white pattern that matches a black sequin top and red vest. Underneath the kilt are layers of ruffles.
While Spartans may still prefer Bud Light to Strongbow with their cheeseburgers, it is undeniable the Scots are making their presence known this season. Look out, East Lansing. It’s time for a UK invasion.

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