With the resurgence of the navy boyfriend blazer (it was all. over. the. place. this season), it’s no surprise that the prep school aesthetic is back in a major way. (Thanks, in part, to Blair Waldorf, Serena Van Der Woodsen, and the other cast of characters on the CW’s Gossip Girl.)
Just take a gander at Anna Sui’s Spring/Summer 2010 runway collection:
I spy with my little eye band uniforms, East Coast preppy madras, and cricket sweaters. Are we headed back to school before summer’s even out? Apparently, if designers like Proenza Schouler, Luella, and Rag&Bone have anything to say about it. They received high marks for their 2010 spring/summer collections, which featured heavy-handed plaids, navy blazers, and other woolen school-child goodies. Because I attended private Catholic school from 1st grade through high school, I’ll always feel a little sheepish riffing on what was once a daily uniform that I despised. But based on the offerings I’ve spotted this season? I might just have to forgo my concerns and enroll.
It all begins with a classic, gold-buttoned blue blazer like the Theory Blinn above ($415, Barneys). J. Crew’s Wool McCoy ($298, J. Crew) and Ralph Lauren’s Thelred Crested Blazer ($290, Ralph Lauren) receive A’s as well:
If you’re petite, test out one of the Brooks Brothers Boys’ navy blazers — they’re the real deal ($228, Brooks Brothers). For a slightly less expensive version of the shrunken, little-brother fit, I’m loving Madewell’s version ($168, Shopbop):
This summer, I’m pairing mine with nautical striped tees and crisp little white pencil skirts for work, but I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect short circle skirt to carry out a little fashion fantasy of mine. Think, for example, how fresh you’d look sporting your blazer with the J. Crew Cavalry skirt in white or khaki (on sale for $49.50, J. Crew):
Reese Witherspoon went for the same look — and looked positively varsity in it.
For a day at the gallery or an afternoon lunch, I love the idea of pairing the look with some gold BCBGirls gladiators for a trendy take on the traditional style ($78, Zappos):
For something a bit dressier, slip into some patent navy peep toes ($249, PeepToeShoes) or maybe swap out the girlish Cavalry skirt for a rugby-striped, high-waisted Alice & Olivia circle skirt ($165, Net-A-Porter):
And — if you’re a bit on the bolder side — check out this precious printed high-waist skirt from Mod Clothing ($69). I’d pair with some heavy gold chains — maybe this Nicol knotted necklace ($220, Shopbop), this Giles and Brother ($295, Shopbop), or this Fiona Paxton version ($296, The Hip Chick):
Alternately, pair a Marc by Marc Jacobs primary-school styled blouse — Peter Pan collar and all! ($178, Shopbop) — with a tidy little skirt-and-jacket uniform combo (both by Diane Von Furstenberg, $325 for jacket and $185 for skirt, available at Diani Boutique):
I’m so in love with the lines of a circle skirt, a fitted blouse, and some super-high heels, I think you could even get away with a full-on plaid skirt like this little Joie “Willa” (on super sale for $54 at PiperLime) with a prim little short-sleeved blouse (Y, $440, Forward):
But beware: you’ll receive fashion demerits if you’re in a straight-up kilt, as you’ll wind up looking too much like a college freshman on Halloween. The proportions are crucial: you’ve got to have the hem hit just above the knee and the waist appear high and nipped-in. Take your cues from buttoned-up-chic Blair Waldorf of Gossip Girl:
(If you’re loving the bow-collar white shirt look as an accompaniment, you can find a killer version by Max Mara at FarFetch for $151.)
If you’d prefer to avoid a literal take on the schoolgirl getup, there are some awesome variations on the navy blazer that will get you just where you want to be. Consider, for example, this navy Ida double breasted car coat by king-of-cashmere brand Goat ($429, My Wardrobe):
I’d pair it with this cashmere, crested Burberry scarf ($295, Burberry):
But before I launch myself into the fall season (which can quickly happen when we’re thinking schoolyard fashion), let’s check out some other summer alternatives to the navy blazer. Maybe this unstructured “sweater” version of the classic blazer by Splendid ($107, Bloomingdale’s) or a piped boyfriend sweater in timeless navy ($88, J. Crew or $79.50, Rugby) will suit your needs?
All would look extra-crisp and of-the-moment with skinny white jeans and some strappy brown leather sandals or — if you’re into the preppy style — some classic Sperry topsiders ($74.95, Endless):
If you’d prefer a slightly more feminine version of the topsider classic, I’m kind of in love with these Joan & Davids (I know, uncool label, but…so precious — $130, PiperLime):
Other add-ons? A cheeky Anya Hindmarch canvas tote that reads “Homework” in schoolchild script ($120, Bloomingdale’s):
And then you’ll need a classic charm bracelet. This vintage Chanel caught my eye ($1,550, Shopbop):
And while on the subject of fanciful jewelry, I just adore this little La Mer ring watch ($58, La Mer Collections). I’d probably wear it on a chain around my neck, but — how darling?!
Or maybe this crest-bearing “cigar” ring? The coat of arms imprint is ideally suited to the boarding school prep look ($70, Couture Candy):
For after-school extra-curriculars? I love the idea of trim little shorts, like these rosemary jacquard shorts (also come in canary yellow!) by Marc Jacobs ($124, Shopbop):
How cute would it look with a little roll-neck rugby sweater (this one is from the Crew Cuts sweater at J. Crew, $39.50):
You could also pair it with any of the many lovely bateau-neck tops that are out this season (check APC and J. Crew for options). Alternately, imagine how precious this little madras top ($90, La Garconne) with some crisp white nautical shorts would look:
Both school’s-out outfits would look darling with some boat shoes or some gold or white Jack Rogers and a classic canvas bag ($17.95-$30.95, L.L. Bean):
Ideas for outfitting your home in updated prep school style? Start with a tartan throw ($49 down from $150, Eddie Bauer) and accent with a super-cool “book box” ($49, Wisteria) and a vintage-style globe ($29.99, World Market):
Spruce up your couch with these awesome needlepoint pillows featuring prepster repp ties and belts by Jonathan Adler ($195 apiece, Jonathan Adler):
The pillows above remind me of the classic needlepoint belts by Smathers & Branson (one of the founders is the son of my high school English teacher — it all comes back to education):
I snagged the crab version above for my fiance last summer from Cape Cod-ready clothing outpost Sherman Pickey in Georgetown. You can buy yours (for your hubby or yourself!) at the Smathers & Branson online boutique for $165 apiece.
And — just to round out your wardrobe — make sure you invest in some quality loafers. I’m mad about these Tod’s mocs ($385, My Theresa):
And why not invest in a lady-like plaid handbag, like this darling Brooks Brothers frame bag ($74, Brooks Brothers)?
I feel as though Blair Waldorf would pair it with this Peter Pan collar sheath dress by L’Wren Scott ($2,206, My Theresa):
If the style is too dainty for you, Brooks Brothers also sells a larger structured tote version for $150. Plenty big enough for your books, your pens and highlighters (to be stored in your Rag & Bone tartan pouch — $100, Saks), and your cheekily-titled notebook (the cover reads “Academics I Met and Liked — $10, Velocity Art and Design).
Let’s not forget your guide to etiquette and style: “The Preppy Handbook,” a tongue-in-cheek look at Waspy life originally published in 1980 ($23.95 and up for a used copy, Amazon):
(It’s hilarious.) So study up!
After-School (or Anytime) Magpie Snacks
Because studying and shopping for just the right look can be draining, refuel with some of my go-to “after school” snacks. First — my fiance’s absolute favorite treat: LU’s Petit Ecoliers (slabs of chocolate on top of buttery, crumbly cookies). You can find them in most stores for around $4 a pack.
Second, we have my Magpie Munch — a slight variation on the traditional chex mix that I make regularly. You’d be astounded at how quickly this stuff goes, especially when placed out during cocktail hour.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups corn chex, 3 cups wheat chex, and 3 cups rice chex. Add some mini pretzels and garlic-flavored bagel chips (if you can find the mini ones, great! If not, just break the larger ones into bite-sized pieces). I usually add some other little munchy item — peanuts, rye bagel chips, goldfish, etc. Meanwhile, melt 6 tablespoons butter in microwave. Whisk in 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce, about 1.5-2 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoned salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoon onion powder, an 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay. Because my fiance likes a little heat, I’ll occasionally whisk in some hot sauce. Pour over the chex, toss to coat, and then spread out on foil-lined baking sheet. Place in oven, stirring mix every ten minutes or so, until cereal is toasted (usually around 20 minutes, but sometimes takes longer). Test taste a cereal square for seasoning. I frequently add quite a bit more garlic powder and seasoned salt by sprinkling it on top and mixing, but always test first. Yum!