Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Currently, I am reading a Rebecca C. Tuite's book "Seven Sisters Style", about America's seven "sister" colleges and their influence on preppy fashion. Some would argue that true American prep owes everything to the seven sisters - Radcliffe, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, and Barnard. It seems that the capable, brainy women who attended these elite institutions challenged fashion's strict status-quo with a casual élan that was often borrowed from the boys. They wore plaid kilts and pearls to classes but added sneakers and ankle socks which lent a playful air. Their campus style certainly influenced the way women dressed and may have "birthed" the visions of some of today's designers; namely, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. Tuites' book is really fun to look at especially if you make the parallels to today's American look.
Last year, I attended the John Meyer of Norwich exhibit in Connecticut where preppiness was laid out thickly with pastel Shetland sweaters, cotton Peter Pan blouses and tartan pant suits. These were the clothes of my beloved Jr. High teachers, one of whom did not attend a seven sisters school but was a very spirited Perdue alum. As for me, I went to a private Catholic college that was barely co-ed, having been all-men until the year I entered. The first day of classes I couldn't help but notice a pretty brunette in a baby blue Fair Isle sweater over a crisp button-down white shirt. A slim gold bar pin which looked like it was snatched from Granny's jewel box, kept the collar pinched closed. The rest of us looked insincere and a little less vivid in our bell-bottom Landlubbers, clogs, and muted t-shirts.
I am not saying that seven sister style is not my cup of tea - I just may be a bit too girlie for its sometimes tomboy flavor. I do think a wonderful mingling of my personal style and seven sisters' occurred in the film Mona Lisa Smile. Set at 1950's Wellesley, I found the fashions evocative of my mother's school style and so I was drawn into it easily. But I adored the full skirted silk dresses and matching gloves in the wedding scenes. In her book, Truite emphasizes that the seven sisters never neglected their lush ballgowns and evening wear, even when wearing wool Bermuda shorts and knee socks to class. They just wore Daddy's fur coats over their party dresses!
Below is the cover of the Seven Sisters Style book and below that is a picture of my mother on campus. I think she made a great preppie in her seven sisters style.