Preppy is a dress style, a social culture and a way of life. Preppies have been around a long time. Their dress style and much of their way of life has changed only slightly since the 1950’s. While sometimes assumed to be rich, snobs, most preppies I know are very down to earth and nice.
My mother tells me that in the 1950s preppies were upper class kids who wore kilts, cashmere sweaters, madras plaid and Bass penny loafers. Name brands really were not the focus as much as quality. She attended private “prep” schools and attended debutante balls.
By the 1980s, when I was in college, the “Preppy Handbook” was published and preppy became all the rage and mainstream America embraced the look. True preppy kids still attended private schools, belonged to country clubs and enjoyed sports like sailing, golf, and lacrosse. The clothes that were in were more “matronly” than today’s preppy styles but certain brands became status symbols. Preps wore Polo shirts with the collar up (Izod Lacoste or Ralph Lauren), plaid wool kilts with knee socks and Bass penny loafers, Talbot’s, Lilly, Papagallo changeable purses, Pierre Deux purses, Nantucket reds, (guy shorts), kakis, LL Bean (especially the Bean Boots and blue and white checked sweater), ribbon belts, Brooks Brothers, Verne or Ray ban sunglasses, Timberland boots, Tretorns and and Sperry topsiders. Whales, ducks and the nautical theme were on everything from clothes to glasses. Mercedes, Volvo or BMW were and still are the cars of choice along with the Jeep Vagoneer with a wood panel which preceded today’s SUV. Older homes decorated in antiques and old chince were where they lived. Preppy names were popular. I even named my cat Muffy. Southern preps liked to “shag” to the 60’s oldies.
Today, my daughter, Caroline is also prep who attends The Norwood School in Bethesda, MD. Her friends belong to local country clubs with Chevy Chase Club being the preppiest, they attend Ms Simpson’s Dance Class which leads to cotillion and many summer in preppy locals like The Vineyard. Sports are still a popular past time for her group especially lacrosse, field hockey, golf and tennis. In the early 2000s Preppy again became mainstream. Stores such as American eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch (not to be confused with the original Abercrombie & Fitch that was a very expensive upscale store in the 1980s in Georgetown) were established. These stores are a more more sexy interpretation of preppy made for the common consumer and are not truly preppy. Caroline and her friends wears some of this stuff but prefers J Crew, the new Lilly Pulitzer (only recently started up again and more stylish), Vineyard Vines, Polo, Black Dog shirts, Lacoste (no longer Izod Lacoste), Tiffany silver, ribbon belts, head bands, CK Bradley (the new Pierre Deux), Eliza B flops, ribbons in their hair, colorful clear water bottles, canvas totes, clothes picked up from boutiques while on vacation or from private boy’s schools like Landon. The preppy designers go on and on and are more plentiful than in my days. In the DC area some younger preps occasionally spice up their wardrobe with designer duds like 7 for all Mankind and Juicy, but wear it in a more conservative way.
So, as time goes by and clothing styles change, for many the “preppy style” will go out of style again. For true preps it never goes out of style. Preppy means a happy, fun life as well as a great wardrobe!
Caroline, Sumner and Lisa look so preppy in their Lilly skirts and Eliza B flops.