‘The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity.’ – Douglas Horton
This was rather my first opinion when researching the preppy style. Wading through pages of cable knits and Oxford shirts, I found myself appreciating the art which is acing that long sought after clean-cut look. From Zack Morris in Saved By The Bell to Eddie Redmayne, I’ve always had a thing for a smart looking man and envied the characters from Gossip Girl for managing to look so effortlessly put together. This timeless trend, unlike many others, has always been reliably fashionable, modestly looking faultless throughout the years and as far as I can see will only ever remain to do so, because let’s face it... what’s not to love about dapper guys and sophisticated girls? So, I’ve put together a simple list of suggestions as a little guideline for those looking to achieve that seemingly unattainable ‘always heading to an interview’ look.
E.g. Oxford shirts, Chinos, Sweatshirts, Jeans
Foundations are the perfect place to start for every wardrobe. The best thing I find about the foundations for this style is that they are eminently wearable and totally interchangeable. Try to keep your collection minimalist and family friendly (a classy look has never been achieved in fishnets and a crop top). Feel free to spend a bit more on foundations than you usually would for this look, it’s something you’ll be wearing over and over again, so don’t skimp on an item that you’ll be wearing day in day out.
E.g Pastels, Grey, Nautical themed, Navy, Beige, Bright colour paired with simple colours
Embrace it, soak it up, we love colour from here on out. I don’t mean mix and match so that you look like you’ve fallen over in the paint section at Homebase, but block colours are perfect for adding a touch of character to your outfits. Keep it subtle with pastels or team a bright blazer with plain staples for an eye-catching twist. Restrain overindulging in colour by sticking to the time tested rule of having one quirky aspect per outfit, this way you can play with all of the hues you like, whilst still looking smart.
Eg. Tartan, Herringbone, Houndstooth, Stripes, Check, Argyle
Now as a pattern fanatic, this is hard for me to type, but don’t mix. Limit yourself to timeless patterns like tartan, herringbone or houndstooth and more importantly dedicate yourself to that pattern for the day, mish-mashing together patterns is interesting but will not help you to achieve an expensive seeming aesthetic. So try a striped shirt done up, tucked into some straight leg jeans and hey presto, you’re putting the ‘class’ into ‘classic’.
E.g. Jumper over a shirt, sweatshirt over a dress, jewellery over a blouse
Layers improve everything. A rainy day, layers. A cold, layers. Your goldfish dies, layers. Trust me with this one, adding layers to your outfit is a sure fire way of looking amazing. Pay attention to detail by wearing some knee high socks beneath your equestrian inspired boots or popping a plain sweatshirt on over your dress, the simple collegiate effect of a collar peeping out over a jumper should never be underestimated. I don’t know why it works, but it just so does.
Become / Find a trusty tailor
As a size 10 I will usually wear anything from a wishful size 8 to a plus size T-shirt. However, it’s easy to see the benefit of a good fitting item, the idea is to look refined and to do this you’ll need well made and fitting clothes. An easy turn-up of cuffs or cinch at the waist can transform how an outfit ties together, so whether you want to tweak your own or trust someone else, you’ll need this tip for those pieces that are a sleeve length away from perfect.
I love to bargain hunt, as much as the next ex-student, however nothing feels quite as great as wearing something you spent a hefty amount on for years and years. The idea is that these items are an investment, they’ll last you season after season. Preppy clothing is usually amazing quality, from rugby tops to loafers, they’re created using great fabric and designed to be durable which is extremely handy because, with this style you’ll mix and match so much. The rule of thumb is that a few good quality, versatile items make a sturdier wardrobe than a cheap one full to the brim. If nothing else, virtually everything in this style is also work-wear friendly, so just think, you’ll be collecting compliments no-end when you rock up in that sophisticated blazer whether you’re heading to your desk or out for dinner.
By following these few rules you will be somewhat closer to looking like Alexa Chung, well maybe, let’s face it if you’re even remotely close to looking like such a fashion icon you’re doing a pretty good job. Anyway, the underlying values of this style are undeniably smart, to acquire good quality products that are versatile and eminently wearable wonders. I know for sure, if I could bring myself to get rid of my crazy assortment of clothes and start afresh, this would be a style that I would embrace whole heartedly.
Written by Harriet Burgess-Barker