Monday, May 11, 2009

preppy moment: revisiting classics

This season, maybe because excess and indulgence have become bad words lately, I feel like investing in classic clothes and accessories that will still look great (or even better) in a few years.

In the spring and summertime, what I wear each day tends to follow one of two themes: a boho mix of patterns and airy blouses; or a more classic and preppy style. I often feel like a poor man's Tory Burch, the creator and queen of a whole line and look she calls "preppy bohemian."

I can't afford to outfit myself in Tory Burch, (if I could, I would - from head to toe) so I try to infuse my summer wardrobe with little dashes of prep to create a similar feel.

Click through for my favorite classic/preppy picks...

1. Sperry Top Siders. Boat shoes are a preppy staple, and Sperry makes them in a myriad of styles and colors. On guys they're a cant-miss classic; on girls a quirky and cool alternative to sandals. (Styling note: My well-soled friend Duncan says sporting brand-new top siders is a major misstep. "Nothing is more tool than new boat shoes. Wear them to the beach and walk around in the water, then leave them out in the sun.")

2. Ray Ban Wayfarers. These retro shades have experienced an explosive revival over the past couple years. Unlike the bug-like over-sized frames that have simultaneously been all the rage lately, a pair of Wayfarers or Oakley Frogskins emanate timeless style.

3. Pearls. To keep this rather demure accessory fresh, try over-sized pearl post earrings, a long strand knotted or wrapped around your neck a few times, or wear that simple pearl necklace from your grandmother with a couple gold chains. I personally love to jazz up a plain white Am. Ap. deep V and jeans with a long strand of faux pearls I purchased for $10 at Nordstrom Rack. (Faux pearls are a totally affordable alternative to the real deal, just make sure they are heavy so they hang nicely!)

4. Khaki Shorts. My favorite versions of this summer staple come from J.Crew. For women, they come in lots of great colors like white, yellow, coral and navy, as well as different inseam lengths and fabrics. I cant also see rocking out a pair of the patterned ones (especially since they will probably go on sale first). For guys, with a simple tee shirt or oxford, you can definitely pull off a pair of colorful (yellow! light blue!) shorts without looking too feminine. And if you want to rock the ones that are a little shorter, more power to you.

5. The Oxford Shirt. This button-down basic is a versatile piece that belongs in every closet. On women and men, tucked in or out, stripped or solid, structured or soft...I could go on and on. This summer I'm thinking that a loose white men's oxford with a belt and gladiator sandals will be perfect for the beach. A more fitted one looks great juxtaposed with distressed boyfriend shorts. (Styling note: For guys, Duncan remarks that vintage Oxford cloth shirts from L.L. Bean look great and last forever.)

6. Lacoste. I've owned quite a few polos shirts by Lacoste in the past. They have all ended up shrinking to an unwearable size after an accidental run through the drier. Not to say they aren't fantastic shirts. They were all the most vibrant colors and initially fit like a dream. However, if I were to invest in something from this classic label today, I would probably choose a sweater like this one. The iconic alligator retains the overall preppy feel, but the cut gives it a more updated feel.

7. Braided Brown Leather Belt. For guys, no matter what your style or taste, this is sort of a no-brainer. You probably already have one, since it is actually for holding up your pants, not just for the look of it. On women, a woven belt over a loose shirt and worn at the natural waist looks very au courant. When actually worn through the belt loops with a tucked-in shirt, the look is polished, trendy, and of course, a little preppy.

8. The Cardigan. Something as simple and wearable as a solid color cardigan is worth spending good money on. I think every girl should have a few, and at least one in black. My mother has at least a dozen, many of them inherited from her mother and grandmother and all in cashmere. Because they are high quality and have been properly taken care of, they have lasted through three generations! However, if you can't invest in cashmere (I certainly can't at the moment, I have to borrow), you can find inexpensive versions in lots of colors and styles at the B.P. department of Nordstrom, Gap, and Express.

9. White Pants. Always a great choice in the summer, the best white pants this summer are either trouser fit with a wide leg, or a slim fitting skinny jean. This is the item I am most excited to add to my wardrobe for the summer. White pants can be worn with any color top, and would look great with any of the above mentioned pieces (except shorts, obviously.) A pair of white skinny jeans are hip enough of off-set an otherwise overly preppy combination of a cardigan, tucked in blouse and brown belt.

10. Rugby/Polo Shirts. This item is a given in any preppy wardrobe. Myself, I wore too many of them in my uniformed days in Catholic school as well as during my early teen obsession with Abercrombie & Fitch, so I feel no need to revist them just yet. However, they always look great on guys, especially in unexpected colors. For women, a men's rugby shirt, cut-off jean shorts and a great pair of sandals is a casual, BBQ-perfect look.

(A great big thanks to my friend Duncan for his input and expertise on distinguishing preppy classics from poseur riff-raff.)


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