Friday, November 23, 2012

Smartening Up about Style

Last Saturday, I started the day with brunch with my cousin at the Hotel Chantelle. It's the perfect Saturday brunch spot: affordable, not crowded, and inspired by 1940s France. Dandy Wellington performed and the crepes were incredible.  Dandy liked my outfit so much he Instagrammed it. I was dressed for my second stop, the Ivy Style exhibit at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.



Bet you didn't know I wore jeans - Seven
70s sweater vest - Etsy
Bow tie - Reminiscence
Scarf - pashmina bought from random street vendor                                                          



The sweater vest seemed appropriately collegiate but I had to add a touch of Columbia blue (go Lions!) lest someone see my outfit and mistake me for a Yalie.


The exhibit, which runs through the first week of January, traces the development of classic men's style from Ivy League campuses during the first few decades of the 20th century and into the mainstream by mid-century. Tweed, the sport jacket, the tuxedo--the history's all there. All the clothes we consider preppy menswear were things that the well-dressed, privileged man was supposed to bring with him when he went off for his Ivy League education. Princeton became the epicenter of Ivy style, where young college men started to wear tennis sweaters off the courts, tweed coats when they weren't hunting. Princeton was so important to preppy style that the first room of the exhibit includes quotes from This Side of Paradise, the fictionalized store of F. Scott Fitzgerald's time at Princeton.


I loved how the exhibit was organized in scenes like the chemistry lab, the football field, the dorm room, the quad. Alums donated really great, old stuff, like reunion jackets or varsity sweaters from the 20s through the 60s. But they curators were careful to include contemporary designers' take on Ivy style, like Thom Browne and Jeffrey Banks. 

Jeffrey Banks tartan prep on the quad.


There are so many interesting historical tidbits--Bass' "Weejun" loafers are named after Norwegians who first started wearing the style, but of course, the name is bastardized. I also learned that chinos began appearing on college campuses when men taking advantage of the GI Bill reused their standard issue pants. It was so fascinating and I'm sorry I couldn't take pictures (I tried and got yelled at but for God's sake, FIT, your sign is so damn small!). As a proud Columbia alum, I was a little disappointed there wasn't more Columbia stuff because we're one of the original four that formed the IV (hence Ivy)  League. 

Around here, I'm all shirtwaists and petticoats, but I do love menswear, so I was especially excited to see the exhibit. I had a little think about my own brushes with preppiness. I went to a prep school and to this day, the prep uniform of a blue blazer and chinos makes my skin crawl. I always thought of the preppy kids as people without imagination because I loved my jeans in crazy patterns and big sweatshirts. But I can embrace touches of prep, like plaid, bow ties and of course sweater vests. Prep is changing, becoming less traditional and, well, less white. Because let's face it: prep style was originally about privilege. But Jon Caramanica wrote a great article for the New York Times last year about black men starting to gravitate to styles considered preppy, even becoming dandies. The style blog Street Etiquette did a gorgeous shoot called The Black Ivy a couple years ago showcasing a modern take on the classics. So even if there are no female dandies, I don't see why I can't do the same. 

9 comments:

  1. Fabulous:) You look totally ready for the exhibit and are dressed perfectly:))

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  2. Jean Dotts with Bop and Awe on EtsyNovember 24, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    You look darling! I love it!

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  3. i love your outfit, the punch of yellow is warming. :)

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  4. Love the way you accented your outfit with yellow. I just got a tweed coat which I love to wear with my steampunk boots. :)

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  5. Always enjoy your vintage vixen views. That touch of yellow made me think of something... I'm thinking of maybe doing a Dick Tracy theme wedding. What do you suggest for bride/groom wedding attire? BB2U

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  6. I've never been a huge fan of preppy style, probably because I do associate it with snobby rich people. But I will agree that sweater vests are awesome and I love yours! I think it's fun to dress menswear-inspired sometimes.

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  7. Cute outfit!! Love the ring. What a great way to feminize the entire set.

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Thanks so much for your comments!