Subculture Style Series: 1950s Preppy
Clever and as cute as a button, 50s preppies were the
all-American ideal, with bright teeth and even brighter futures.
Taking their name from the "prep" schools they were sent to in the
hope of getting them into an Ivy League university, they shunned
the vices of their greaser peers in favour of sports and
entertaining at home. With the focus being self-improvement rather
than showing off, their clothes may have been practical, tasteful
and understated, but they were never boring.
Dreamy preppy girls didn't need flash flesh to get attention, preferring blouses in high quality cotton, teamed with a circle skirt sitting at the natural waist, flared out with the help of a layered net petticoat, giving the effect of a tiny waist- part of the era's idealised female body shape. This would then be teamed with a neat sweater or cardigan, delicate jewellery- think pearls and silver lockets- and a pair of pretty but comfortable ballet-style flat pumps. Come prom night, the highlight of any preppy girl's calendar, they plumped for a dress reaching to the knee or calf, in a pretty colour like candy pink, buttercup yellow or sky blue. Look for details like a sweetheart neckline, sashes and boning at waist and diamante buttons. Fabrics to hunt for include rayon satin, velvet and tulle. And a silk flower corsage and you shall be the belle of the ball! Check out films starring preppy icons like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn to see the look in action.
Male preppies pioneered the clean-cut sports-casual look, which is just as well as activities like lacrosse, equestrianism and rowing were looked on favourably by good universities and were thus essential skills for any self-respecting preppy guy! Get the look for yourself with some neat, ironed jean or chinos. Add a neat polo shirt (Izod Lacoste, Brooks Brothers and J Press were key brands) or oxford shirt and have a crew neck sweater knotted around your shoulders for when it gets cold- argyle patterns are ideal. Add a madras blazer- an essential preppy item- and some penny loafers. Colours should be the bright and airy without being garish- think pastels. And as a final touch, include some nautical stylings- perhaps some blue and white stripes- for true preppy style.