The Rise of Preppy Fashion

by Sarah Clark
Fashion School Review Columnist

May 17, 2006

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Polo shirts, striped narrow belts, and leather loafers have been back in vogue for the last several seasons. Though this fashion trend has nothing to do with tucking or pressing--the new preppy clothing design is best described as "casual elegance," as Abercrombie and Fitch's slogan puts it.

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Getting today's preppy fashion right requires keen attention to detail and making sure you don't look too refined. Button up shirts should never be starched; rather, it's preferable to carry off a look that suggests you grabbed your shirt from a crumpled ball on the floor (a clean floor, that is, because stains are a big no-no with this style) and put it on as you searched for your keys and gulped an espresso on your way out the door.

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Getting this style right also means having an awareness of contrast and restraint. Reinvent a classic cardigan by adding a bit of sequin (though not too much--that's where the restraint comes in) and some gold trim. Update a classic look by using bright colors. Philippe Starck did this for furniture, updating a Louise XIV chair by rendering it in plastic. Clothing designers at places like J Crew and Abercrombie and Fitch also find contrast in choosing a cashmere v-neck sweater to pair with ratty distressed jeans.

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As you prepare for a career in fashion, you probably won't find too many of your peers obsessing over preppy style. It's the kind of fashion that makes couturiers cringe. Though there's a case to be made for taking an interest in preppy style during your career in fashion as it's one that continues to persist in the culture. And it's easy to see why--it's practical and given the simplicity of its lines, it's likely fairly cost effective to manufacture.

So for better or worse, it seems that preppy clothing design is here to stay, or at least remain for the near future until its next comeback.

About the Author
Sarah Clark is a freelance writer specializing in career development and postsecondary education.

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