Feeling springtime preppy

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Before I had any idea what style even was, I was drawn to the preppy look. I have told you before about my affection for The Official Preppy Handbook, but I was equally influenced by a 1976 Texas Monthly article that ran down the style choices of the University of Texas’s top sororities (I’m pretty sure this is behind a paywall, but Texas Monthly is a publication worth supporting, and a digital subscription will run you just $15 a year). I’ve gone through multiple style evolutions over the years, but I always return to this look, because it’s so clean and snappy, and easy to build a uniform around. One of the most important components of this look is a pair of khaki chinos, and I think these are pretty great.

A button-down in an end-on-end fabric—meaning they use both blue and white thread to make it, which adds dimension.

A slightly shrunken unstructured blazer that looks as easy as it does spiff.

I think this conductor stripe chore jacket is just about the cutest thing ever. I have a kind of fixation on chore jackets and own a few, so I can’t possibly give myself permission to pull the trigger on this one. But I wish I could.

Such a cute striped polo sweater; I also like this one in navy, which looks like it’s not as cropped.

An polo shirt with dramatically oversized dimensions: so slouchy cool.

A denim skirt is a key component of this look for me (I’m mightily inspired by this vintage image of Lauren Hutton in one) and I like how faded-out this one is.

A cute striped tee at a very easy-to-digest price.

This Breton stripe sweater comes in about a zillion colorways, but I’m partial to this classic blue and red (with a fun pop of white on the sleeve)

I really really dig these Gola sneakers—they’re pretty cheap, and cute, and a slightly fresher choice than Tretorns or Stan Smiths.

I always like a woven belt because it provides an effortless pop of color; here’s one that’s cool and cheaper.

 

 

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27 Thoughts on Feeling springtime preppy
    Justine
    18 Apr 2022
    1:02pm

    Any clue about those white/green sneakers in the lead photo? Those are amazing!

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      Mamavalveeta03
      18 Apr 2022
      2:17pm

      They’re by J Crew. I sure you can use Kim’s link to navigate to them, Justine!

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    Hannah
    18 Apr 2022
    1:05pm

    Love this post! I do hate the return of the cropped top though, just shoot me lol. I didn’t even like it or look good in it during the 90s.

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    Tahe Z
    20 Apr 2022
    1:05pm

    I still have my sister’s copy of the Preppy Handbook which I still leaf through for fun. It’s so far off from the life I have had (or wanted), but I do love the memories it drums up from when my sister, who’s now in her mid-fifties, was into add-a-beads, monograms, and anything pink and green. It lasted all of a year until she got into the punk/new wave fad which was more my jam. What’s funny is that my style definitely has been influenced by both, but I find myself going for preppier pieces these days.

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    cw
    18 Apr 2022
    10:11am

    Love the chinos and the blazer and the red-stripe-tee which, added up together, probably makes me a preppy person. I’ve also never had luck with a denim skirt, but a friend of mine wears one all summer long and she looks smashing in it––she also has legs for days so maybe that makes the difference––the proportion of legs to torso.

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    JenM
    18 Apr 2022
    8:30am

    Kim–would love your fashion wisdom on denim skirts. I absolutely love the look on others, but have yet to find one that is comfortable or flattering on me. The first problem is that when I walk in them, they twist around on my body and if I didn’t stop and tug it back into place regularly, I think the skirt would be on backwards after 10 blocks. Am I buying them too big perhaps? (even though this happens in a skirt in my “normal” denim size). Maybe I need to wear them more like a sausage casing? (Which is decidedly not my look in general! But…never say never?) Secondly, they always seem to add bulk around the hips in a way jeans do not. I feel I look like a dorm-sized, denim-covered blocky little refrigerator from waist to knee. I’m wondering if this would be solved by a thinner, stretchier denim? THANK YOU!

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      Heather
      18 Apr 2022
      11:29am

      Totally hear you! As someone with a belly, they do not work on me, at least not the A-line versions. I would love a 70s-style denim wrap skirt like the ones my mom always wore in the summer! Also I have found that it is integral to have one with buttons rather than snaps, as the snaps immediately pop open!

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      Tanya
      18 Apr 2022
      10:47pm

      Same, JenM!

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    Kate
    18 Apr 2022
    12:17pm

    I bought those khakis last year (after complaining here about not being able to find any good non-stretch khakis) and like them quite a bit. Still thinking about pulling the trigger on the same pair in green.

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    kara
    18 Apr 2022
    12:31pm

    That Texas Monthly article was so enjoyable. I can’t believe they’ve digitized it all–even the images were attached. How awesome. Thanks for linking!

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    Rosemarie
    18 Apr 2022
    12:36pm

    The gold and the gold-filled. There will always be devices to parse wealth and class, but I’m glad the Greek system is imploding on campuses nationwide. It’s both depressing and a bit wistful to read about each clothing element in this TM piece and how it supposedly signified what class of meat these sorority sisters were. Wistful because of the clarity—Here’s the code, folks!—amid today’s relative smudginess, although I think that’s feigned a bit for humor with this article, and depressing because of the system communicated. Today the code is blended to temper overt elitism. To be cynical, crafting our own cocktail of gold and gold-filled is what we’re doing here, after all, within the space of a contemporary handbook. However, I make a daily “cocktail” in the hope it’s a means of self expression and discovery and not an overt expression of status. I’m likely fooling myself, though. Design is always a cultural interpretation and a currency of status at the same time, regardless of intent.

    As for preppy, it now swims mainstream as a type of default (Eddie Bauer, LL Bean, JCrew) with occasional spins adding edge and interest and, because of their cost and design cred, status (Kule, Engineered Garments). Is it entirely divorced from “White, East coast upper/upper middle class”? No. I still enjoy some of these elements, though, not played straight, but subverted, stirred.

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      Viajera
      18 Apr 2022
      1:27pm

      Very interesting. I must disagree with some of this. I agree that having to be aware of one’s economic status is a burden to most people, perhaps – regardless of their relative spot. Yet human beings tend to care about status, and I don’t think that’s going away. I don’t know that anyone here is here to try to look rich. Is that even difficult? One could just go and buy a bunch of stuff with logos on it. Of course, that wouldn’t communicate *taste.* For me, I *would* like to know what message is sent by various items, perhaps mostly so I can avoid accidentally sending a message I don’t mean. I also think to some people, a shirt is just a shirt and they should be allowed to not care about it. (Believe it or not, I know people who disagree with this. They think you should always try to look good, because other people have to look at you. Whereas I say, some people just want to get dressed …) At the same time, I am pretty much unable to read fashion coverage. Huge mental block for me. I can’t understand it at all. So I just look at the pictures. What does it all mean? I have noooo idea! Otoh, I do agree that there are women who care a lot about being fashion elitists and they dress for each other. We’ll never get rid of them, and, who even cares really? They are just bored people with too much money. Whatever. I know a few people who were in sororities and they made real friendships. Sort of like we do here, in an online somewhat limited kind of way. This is all a long way of saying that fashion has an aesthetic appeal to me, and I find it interesting, even though I would never in 1000 years wear about 95% of it. I guess I just don’t want people to take these things too seriously. I think most people pick their friends based on behavior, not clothing, in the long run. What I thought was funny was that non-sorority members didn’t exist. Ha.

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    Tricia
    18 Apr 2022
    11:17am

    These are all cute choices. I can’t wear chinos to save my life. I have hips. They never hang on me in a tomboy cool sort of way. I just look dowdy. I like them on other people though!

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      Rosemarie
      18 Apr 2022
      1:05pm

      I recently read while cruising those meme-ey articles on body type (coronet, apple, pear, blah blah blah) about a theory (I tend to enjoy and then pick at sweeping theories) that women could be divided into two camps based on the position of the hips: High, which is usually accompanied by thinner legs and a bit of a stomach, and low, which usually involves a smaller waist and fuller butt. Those with higher hips look great in lower rise jeans and I suspect the typical design for a chino.

      I’m in the latter group, though, as maybe you are. I’ve found what you describe with chinos, too, and seek out higher waist, wide-leg chinos that are cropped or full-length and made of a fabric with a bit of heft for structure. This cut doesn’t typically convey slouchy, boyish cool (I’ve found slightly big army pants do that for me), but it could. Anyway, this is the chino type I look for and here’s a link to the content on hip shapes I mentioned.

      https://www.style-yourself-confident.com/hip-shape.html

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        kimbersam
        18 Apr 2022
        5:33pm

        I didn’t get hips until menopause. This is useful, thank you!

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    Elisabeth
    18 Apr 2022
    10:49am

    Love this post! Being about the same age as Kim, I, too, dog eared a copy of the Preppy Handbook, and I agree that this is an evergreen style. I also think almost any of these pieces would integrate with other styles, which is why preppy really is 4EVA.

    I have had two pairs of those Golas and they’re super comfy (note that they’re lined in terry) and they come in a million cute color ways, including exclusive ones at J Crew.

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    JP
    18 Apr 2022
    12:40pm

    Holy moly! That 1976 Texas Monthly article? So fascinatingly specific. Thank you for linking to that.

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    Kate
    18 Apr 2022
    12:48pm

    Re: the Kule, I get irrationally angry when when retailers show us clothing nips-out these days (looking at you, Doen). It’s like, you’re not cool enough for our clothes, you bra-wearing freak who could run into a coworker on the street at any moment. As I said, rather irrational. Is this a common look in bigger, more fashion-forward cities than my own?

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      Elisabeth
      18 Apr 2022
      1:34pm

      I wish visible nipples could be normalized for women the way they are for men. I find it crazy that we spend so much energy on disguising the fact that we have them! Sadly, I suspect it’s an effort to discourage negative male attention, as if there were ever anything we could do about that. I remember in HS, maybe earlier, other girls would signal to you to cover up because your nipples were showing, and oh, the shame of that. Sad.

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        Kate
        18 Apr 2022
        3:23pm

        It doesn’t feel like normalizing in the clothing pics I mention, but still, very good point, Elizabeth. Thanks.

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        Viajera
        19 Apr 2022
        12:54pm

        I don’t have a set opinion about this issue. I wonder though, would I think the same way if men’s jangly bits were closer to eye level? I mean, there can be a distraction factor with the non-bra look. They move around. Whereas nipples by themselves, I might not notice. (I am not sure I notice enough really, in general – I think being observant is good. Perhaps not in this sense of course.) Or if I saw the non-bra thing more often, maybe I would stop noticing it all one way or the other. I kind of don’t want to know that much about strangers, you know? Yeah, you know, I think I am happier trying to pay attention to what people say. Oh well. Anyhow, it is interesting to know that there are women who are genuinely happier without a bra, bc to me it seems like it would be uncomfortable. That must be nice.

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        y.k.
        18 Apr 2022
        8:14pm

        thanks for that comment Elisabeth. i have never thought of it that way, that’s exactly right. amazing.

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      Karin
      18 Apr 2022
      6:55pm

      My hubby and I are 70s TV show freaks and we always comment about how in our 70s childhood, nips showing was totally normal. Just watched an episode of Rockford Files where the female attorney is in a DVF wrap dress with nips showing the whole time. When did hiding nips become so important? The whole thing mystifies me!

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        Jenny
        18 Apr 2022
        9:56pm

        Suddenly I want to watch an episode of the Rockford Files more than I want to do anything else in the world. That answering machine beeeeeeeep. That said, I’m not sure it was so much nip normalization in the 1970s as much as hyper sexualization of women no matter what their role or context.

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        Liz
        19 Apr 2022
        1:32am

        Rachel on Friends never really seems to have worn a bra. I’m always surprised the network allowed it back then.

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    Suburbohemian
    19 Apr 2022
    2:57pm

    Thank you for the link to the Texas Monthly article. I recall it from back in the day as I marveled at the social stratification from the distance of life in Married Student Housing and a job at the UT CO-OP while attending classes. I wonder what happened to all those Greek monogramed hair bows and add a bead necklaces?

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    cw
    18 Apr 2022
    5:47pm

    This has nothing to do with this post, BUT I just received my new crossbody phone bag by Everlane that is made out of cactus and I’m impressed. Feels good, looks good and fits my phone. You can’t see me, but I’m doing my happy dance.

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About

Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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