Lessons learned from fashion

July 19, 2005|by HANNAH McINTOSH-BURKE

The class of 2005 has graduated and moved on and preppy fashion is winding down - like all mortal things must do - and making room for something new and different. While my aviators are with me 'til death do us part, it is important for all of us to remember what we've learned this past year.

When I arrived at my New England liberal arts college last fall, I, like every other college and high school student in America, popped the collar on my Lacoste polo shirt, slipped into a pair of green Top-siders and gave up make-up and hair dye in favor of sunburnt cheek bones and grosgrain hair ribbons.

Through the winter I rocked in my androgynous down vest and parka, cable knit sweaters layered with oxfords. I never left my dorm without pearl earrings, red watch and LiveStrong bracelet.

Unlike most of my contemporaries, I'm a second generation collar popper. My dad rocked the cover of the Hamilton College calendar for 1978 wearing aviator sunglasses, a Lacoste (collar up, of course) and the kind of flowing hair that would rival James Spaders' in "Pretty in Pink."


Because of my prep lineage, I have long been a fan of grosgrain ribbons and the combination of pink and green. But I also have grown up with the important lessons that prep fashion imparts to us.

- Equal rights between the sexes. The foundation of the prep look is androgyny.

Men and women alike wear seersucker trousers, chinos in colors like "lettuce" and "tomato," navy blazers with the collars up, oxfords and polos, topsiders, cable knit sweaters, pea coats and down vests. So what if your Lacoste is pink? Your boyfriend's is, too. Prep-dom is an equal opportunity dresser.

- For the love of the game. Preppies play sports. That healthy tan is not the result of something in a bottle but rather of hours on the lake, rowing crew. Those lean muscles are the product of hours of tennis, lacrosse and horseback riding.

While the tan and the muscles are fun side effects of the hours of sports, they are not the reason we play. The tennis skirt is fun, but the tennis game is better. And while it might be fabulous to have the riding outfit (everyone has to admit those boots and helmet are adorable), we ride because we love the thrill of clearing a 4-foot jump and the smell of the hay and the horses. So play field hockey because you love it, not because you like carrying the stick.

- The less fortunate are always around our wrists. One of the must-have accessories of the fall and winter was the LiveStrong bracelet. Worn with our Coach watches and Tiffany bracelets, they represented everything that is important to the prep. They are sporty and look cool and casual, and come on, Doesn't it also make you feel good to contribute to the LiveStrong Foundation?

With more bracelets for more charities, now you can wear green pink and the green around your wrist while saving the rainforest and supporting research for a cure for breast cancer, too.

- Underneath it all, it's the real thing. Unlike the majority of American women, preppy girls don't perm, straighten or dye their hair. They don't wear make up. There are no fake nails and no hair extensions. Prep curls are natural and strawberry blondes were born that way.

After years of trying to make dirty-blonde curls lie flat and look strawberry-blonde, covering freckles with concealer, disguising a snub nose look more structured, making short thin nails long and red, it's a relief to let your freckles shine, your curly hair go wild and that snub little nose point to the sky. With a nail buffer, some moisturizer and waterproof mascara (in black-brown, please) you are as perfectly done as you ever have to be.

The preppy fashion moment is winding down. By the time you head back to school, you will probably have moved on. Sweater sets and chinos may no longer be your daily uniform.

But remember the things prep-dom taught you, if you return to your Converse High-Tops and ulta-low jeans: Play because you love to; Give because it looks good and feels good; And you are fabulous and complete with your own hair and complection.

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