Then&Now: The Preppy

“It is the inalienable right of every man, woman and child to wear khaki…” – Introduction to ‘The Official Preppy Handbook’ by Workman Publishing, New York.

Then- In 1980 a small plaid handbook promised young adults that anyone could be Preppy. All they had to do was read how and they could go “…from crib to coffin, from desk to date, from the city to the island without one false step, knowing full well that whenever emergencies arise, you’ll know what to do, be it gatoring, debuting, or choosing a charity….”

(click handbook images to enlarge)

According to the handbook a preppy woman is to dress like a younger version of Mummy. It starts with the mother/daughter outfits and then later the daughter borrows clothing from her mother’s extensive wardrobe. Before long they’re sharing a charge card at Talbot’s.

Some guidelines

Shoes- “Women’s shoes are divided into two distinct categories: work shoes and play shoes…”

Shirts“They must be cotton and always tucked in. Collars, if possible, are turned up…

Dresses- “Although less practical than separates…they do have the advantage of being simple, neat, and comfortable…”

Skirts- “Skirts like pants, tend to disguise rather than emphasize the female body…neat but not gaudy might be the best description…”

Pants- “Preppy women would never wear the kind of pants that you have to lie down in to zipper…”

Sweaters- “Apart from being useful in keeping the body warm, sweaters are part of layering, often British, and make dandy accessories…you can never have too many…”

Accessories- “More is more, and it all matches…Note: Prep women never take off their jewelry-pearls on the squash court are perfectly acceptable…”

Stores and Mail Order Catalogs- “L.L. Bean, Bass, The Country Store of Concord, Lilly Pulitzer, Murray’s Toggery Shop, Hillhouse, Orvis, J.Press, Brook’s Brothers, Paul Stuart, The Bermuda Shop, Burton Clothing Ltd., H.Stockton, Harold’s, Leslie and Co., Land’s End, Molterer Sports, Cable Car Clothiers, The Tog Shop, Trimingham Bros., Sousa & Lefkovits…”

Now- What’s old is new again! Preppy clothing from makers like L.L Bean, Orvis and Bass are back in the fashion spotlight as adults seek quality for their hard-earned money.  But instead of dressing like Mummy or Daddy as the handbook dictated… the new Preps are putting their own fun and creative spin on these classics.

(Bottom photos- American Vogue Magazine)

Related Nibs post-

Vocabulary #46: Preppy 101


Early Fall Dress Code

Classic Knits, leather shoes & ankle socks!

Cotton knit dress at Next with Betty Jackson backless leather loafers (similar from Urban Outfitters) and Topshop socks

Waffle knit cardigan by Surface To Air (over Carven wool shorts) with Paul Smith leather boots and Topshop socks (same as above)

(Photos- Ben Weller for UK Vogue)

Related Nibs post-

Tipping Point

A Change Of Seasons

Fall Preview- J.Crew

Fall Shorts

Design Dilemma- Where Do I Hang Pictures In A Room With High Ceilings?

Newer homes have vaulted ceilings in entry ways, great rooms and master bedroom suites, and they give the feeling of lots of space. But therein lies the problem. You end up having to decorate with over-sized furniture to make the rooms feel grounded or weighted. And then there’s the question of  hanging pictures. Where do you put them? One answer is to use a picture rail system.

What is a picture rail? In old homes, whose walls were constructed of plaster and lath, these wooden rails or mouldings covered the transition area between wall and ceiling. A small gap was left so metal clips could slip over the rail and hold the chained frames.

The same basic idea can be used in newer homes by strategically placing a metal rod on the walls. See how the rod (photo above) forms an imaginary boundary line reinforced by the larger paintings and smaller pieces of artwork. This brings the eye level down and creates a more intimate room.

You can find metal rods, hooks and chains at home centers. ‘House of Antique Hardware‘ is a good source for picture rail clips.

(Photos by Ricardo Labougle for World Of Interiors)


Photo-A-Day started out as a series of daily emails and photographs to my family in North Carolina. I thought it would be fun to occasionally post some for the readers of ‘Nibs.’

Mom, Dad & Sarah-

Curtis is at camp now for the next two weeks. He was so looking forward to it…especially the prospect of sleeping in a tepee. And as for me… I’m looking forward to some time by myself.



(Photo- Martha B.)

Related Nibs post-


Coat Tales- 2010

The military influence continues with coats like this classic navy wool one from Tommy Hilfiger. Worn under it is a Céline pin striped shirt and Levi’s jeans. Loafers are by Cole Haan.

Look for details using shearling on jackets and coats. DKNY leather/shearling bomber jacket with Missoni crocheted skirt (left) and a Philip Lim shearling coat over a pair of Marni shorts (right).

Gray makes a strong comeback this fall. MaxMara wool coat trimmed with fox fur.

Forecast for fall-  romantic and opulent brocade! Coat and bag at Roberto Cavalli.

(Photos: Steven Meisel for Vogue. Fashion Editor: Marie-Amélie Sauvé)

Related Nibs posts-

Fashion Inspiration- Coats & Leather Belts

Going Gray

Shop Your Closet #6

More Coat & Dress Ensembles