Preppy Chic Clothing Ideas

by Katherine Mitt
A model walking the runway during a Tommy Hilfiger show displays the brand's preppy chic style.

A model walking the runway during a Tommy Hilfiger show displays the brand's preppy chic style.

Preppy style originated in the 1930s and ‘40s on the campuses of the schools that we now refer to collectively as the Ivy League. The look, which was quite fashion-forward at the time, has endured and is still recognized for its dressed-up campus aesthetic. Preppy chic clothes are characterized by clean lines and shapes, classic colors and vivid patterns, and the fit is always tailored – never too tight and never baggy.

Must-Have Blazers

If one piece of clothing is essential to preppy chic style, it’s the blazer. A classic, well-tailored blazer can be worn with anything and instantly adds a dose of preppy polish to whatever you’re wearing, whether that be jeans and a T-shirt or a slinky cocktail dress. Although blazers in classic colors and patterns like navy, dark plaid and tweed are the most versatile options, other fabrics also fall under the preppy chic heading. Pinstripe blazers are widely considered to be very preppy, as are blazers in more eye-catching patterns like madras. Over time, build up your collection of blazers so that, eventually, you’ll have a blazer to go with just about everything else in your closet.

Nautical Necessities

Preppy chic styles often mimic the clothes worn by those who participate in hobbies regularly associated with the so-called preppy lifestyle – golf, polo or tennis, for example. Another such hobby, sailing, has led to the popularity of preppy chic nautical-inspired fashions, which can be identified by their use of navy, white and red, stripes, and accessories like boat shoes and sailing-themed jewelry. For an easy nautical-inspired preppy chic outfit, pair bright white denim with a navy blue sweater, classic boat shoes and delicate gold jewelry – perhaps a thin gold chain with an anchor-shaped charm, for example. If you’d like to add a pop of red to your outfit, accent with a red purse or a red pair of sunglasses in a traditional shape.

Preppy Bold Patterns

Bold, vibrant patterns – like those made famous by Lilly Pulitzer – are associated with the preppy chic style, particularly during the spring and summer, when cheery sundresses become the go-to for girls and women who embrace this style. So as not to overpower yourself when dressing with bold patterns, accessorize with neutrals or complementary colors and tones. If you’re wearing brightly patterned pants, for example, pair them with a solid white shirt, some gold jewelry, nude or tan shoes and a classic leather bag. If you need an extra layer, throw on your navy blazer to complete the look.

Tennis Whites

Tennis has serious associations with the Ivy League set and exerts a major influence on preppy chic. Although tennis outfits are now available in a wide range of colors, historically, men and women wore all white on the court. That color – or lack thereof – is prevalent in preppy styles, serving as the contrasting background to a print in a vivid pink or classic navy or taking center stage in head-to-toe white looks. Along with a blazer, another preppy chic staple is a pair of bright white pants. In the summertime, nothing looks fresher than a pair of white pants and a white top, accented by brightly colored or bright gold jewelry.

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About the Author

Katherine Mitt has been contributing to online publications since 2009, focusing primarily on fashion and style topics. She holds a B.A. in English from a small liberal arts school.

Photo Credits

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