Fashion

Back to School: Preppy Style for Grown-ups

The first week of September is when children across the Northern hemisphere go back to school. As I was leafing through fashion magazines while sticking labels on my son’s school clothes, I noticed that the preppy style is also back on trend for the 2013-2014 AW season.

As much as I love the tailored and understated look that is quintessential preppy, it’s also a style that I’ve been cautious about. Being petite, dressing up like a schoolgirl does me no favors whatsoever. Besides, preppy style is closely linked in my mind to school uniform, and this brings back some memories!

As an 8-year-old schoolgirl in the Soviet Union, I rebelled against the uniform: a brown dress with a black pinafore on ordinary days or a white one on special occasions. I argued that it was 1) stylistically unacceptable; 2) unhygienic to wear the same dress 6 days a week; and 3) not conducive to self-expression. Being the child of the Perestroika I somehow got away with it, and a couple of years later the dreaded uniform suffered the same fate as the USSR.

Classic Soviet school uniform for girls. Photo via Frank Vjecy's Soviet Life Collection.

Classic Soviet school uniform for girls. Photo courtesy Frank Vjecy’s Soviet Life Collection.

So it is out with pleated skirts and bobby socks for me, and in with ‘preppy chic’: the green-and-glam and grown-up version of the trend! Here are some tips on how to do preppy style without risking being asked for an ID when ordering a glass of wine at the after-work drinks with colleagues.

1. Do a statement piece rather than wear ‘preppy’ head to toe
Whether it’s a pussy bow chiffon blouse or a faux collar necklace, opt for just one (ok, maybe two) signature items that nod to the preppy trend without looking like you’re off to school yourself. Here is a lovely reed (organic salmon skin, a sustainably sourced by-product of the food industry) faux collar by the eco-luxe accessories Swiss brand ROYAL BLUSH that I can’t wait to wear!

Salmon skin faux collar by ROYAL BLUSH. Photo credit Ellin Anderegg.

Salmon skin faux collar by ROYAL BLUSH. Photo credit Ellin Anderegg.

2. If it’s tartan, make it Vivienne Westwood
If you are dreaming of being a tartan princess, there are many choices out there for you, for example a selection of check dresses by People Tree. Still, the reigning Queen of Tartan is Dame Vivienne Westwood. If you can’t afford a full VW outfit, how about a bag from her Ethical Fashion Africa Collection, which helps create jobs for slum-dwellers in Kenya?

Vivienne Westwood in Kenya promoting her Ethical Fashion Africa Collection. Photo courtesy International Trade Centre.

Vivienne Westwood in Kenya promoting her Ethical Fashion Africa Collection. Photo courtesy International Trade Centre.

3. Go high on shoe shine.
Brogues, Oxfords or Wingtips – closed lace-up shoes are essential for the preppy look. For a bang-on-trend footwear, go for metallic brogues like the ones below, available from fashion-conscience.com. Pair them with cigarette trousers and a college blazer for that well-polished look!

London Rebel brogues. Photo via fashion-conscience.com

London Rebel brogues. Photo via fashion-conscience.com

4.  Knitwear rules: not too long, not too tight.

I am not a huge fan of argyle knit, so I choose a nautical-inspired knit top instead, for example this lovely striped organic cotton top by honest by. Honest by is a sustainable fashion label founded by ex-Hugo Boss designer Bruno Pieters who has revolutionized the world of high fashion by spelling out, penny by penny, the cost of his creations, including the 20% of the retail price which goes to a charitable cause.

Striped off-white organic cotton sweater by MURIEE for Honest by.

Striped off-white organic cotton sweater by MURIEE for Honest by.

5. Keep your look simple.

The final rule is borrowed from WikiHow, which reads: “Prep style is, at its core, made up of clean lines, high-quality textiles, close fits, and modest cuts. If an article of clothing looks particularly flashy, complicated or revealing, it probably shouldn’t be called preppy.”

Emma Watson, the ultimate preppy girl, advertising her collection for eco-fashion brand People Tree.

Emma Watson, the ultimate preppy girl, advertising her collection for eco-fashion brand People Tree.

Voilà, you’re ready for your style A-levels!

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