Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What "Preppy-Isn't"... But I Do It Anyway

Life is about truly living and not simply being absolutely defined by a certain lifestyle either inherited, cultivated or experienced by default. I grew up, and certainly have always been, a Southern Preppy through n' through especially now on into my midlife years as one's habits and preferences become even more habitual however, like my jaunt out into the mountains of Park City, Utah to enjoy being a ski bum for a couple of years, various life experiences have offered up a variety of non-prep things that I found myself enjoying. And... still enjoy today. Here are a few of them listed as examples and for a good chuckle:

Mowing the lawn. Oh, how I love to be out on my John Deere riding mower under mostly bright blue sunshine skies mowing the 5 acres we have out here on this island. For me, this is a time of almost Zen-like calm and "being" in the moment at hand: chop wood, carry water. Contemplatives such as Buddhist monks, Christian monks, desert father contemplatives, retreat seekers and gentleman farmer-poets understand the value of physical labor work that rests the mind. I also have always maintained wherever we've lived, a small organic kitchen garden with seperate herb and cutting-flower beds. We do have a yard-guy that helps out with the heavier grounds-work but I'm the one who mows the two lawn areas around here... the above picture is of part of one of the lawn areas that I enjoy mowing.

Eating Salsa. Mexican food, and for that matter Hispanic culture in general, isn't really on my radar-screen to be honest though I once studied the Day of the Dead festivities for a World Arts course and found that interesting. However, I make an exception with my love of salsas- all salsas except the ones so fiery-hot that they're about inedible. And, being southern, Peach Salsa is of course something that I can eat until I literally can't take another bite, yum!

Looking like a page out of the Patagonia catalogue. Being outdoors in the woods, out on the water in kayaks and scampering around southwestern desert areas, practicality necessitates morphing into wearing togs that look a lot more river-rat/tree-hugger than preppy. I absolutely enjoy the natural environment and I support many environmental efforts plus am always reading essays and literature pertaining to our natural world however, I don't feel that I need to cultivate "the look" of environmental-political-correctness for my general life or each time I go into a natural foods emporium. But these types of outdoor-gear clothing are wonderful to be wearing, especially the drip-dry and moisture-wicking stuff, whenever I'm out hiking, paddling and the like. James is talking about us camping in order to get back into great spots to fly fish and so this section of my wardrobe no doubt will increase a bit. I call these pieces of clothing my "island wear" and the rest of my wardrobe, "off-island" since when I go into town or am in the process of traveling, I'm back-to-Preppy. Yes, L.L.Bean has some outdoors-wear that's Preppy and of course there's Orvis and Barbour that I love to shop as well but for some things, especially kayaking, Patagonia, North Face, etc. just have better offerings.

Enjoying Bluegrass music. I do like all types of jazz music since it counterbalances my listening to classical however, some expressions of Bluegrass does veer awfully close to Blues n' Country for most Preppy listeners. This must be a "southern thing" like grits and collard greens: to like Bluegrass even while listening to Country music which is, in my book, akin to hearing nails scratched down a chalkboard. I just bought James a Robert Johnson CD and we'll be listening to it a lot I know.

Academia. I realize that for the most part, Preppies endure years of school and subsequent MBA's or JD's in order to get to prime earning-potential if their trust funds seem to be dwindling away. I also realize that for most core-Preppy people, unless you're working in business, law or various high-end antiques/art auction houses or galleries, your career is "suspect" however... after experiencing 15 years of business management, I am utterly happy to be back into academia. In fact, I'm having such a blast getting my MA that I am already seriously looking into PhD programs since I graduate this coming December. I hafta' laugh that the forerunner of PhD programs in the Humanities I'm researching is Salve Regina University in Rhode Island which is considered a "Preppy school". Hopefully it'll be a natural-fit for me; we'll see. I am intrigued with their emphasis on Ethics which, as we all know too well, has been rapidly departing the business area especially certain financial institutions recently. I have always loved learning and challenging myself intellectually but at the same time, I can party-in-madras with the best of 'em.

Nailpolish in the Summertime. There's just something-fun about having a great tan, cute outfits, darling strappy sandals and one's toe nails polished in the summer. It's lighthearted frivolity that finds me either painting sweet ballet pink shades or more daring coral brights on my toe nails and even fingernails at times in the warmer months we have here on the island.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Preppy is... Southern Preppy is...

Preppy is: plenty of pink and green
Southern Preppy is: oodles of pink and green Lilly Pulitzer patterns

Preppy is: Bitsy and Chip
Southern Preppy is: Anna-Kate and Buddy

Preppy is: Princeton and most Ivy League institutions
Southern Preppy is: Ole Miss, University of Virginia, Sewanee and any all-girl's school

Preppy is: hunting dogs
Southern Preppy is: hunting dogs named after Confederate generals

Preppy is: Madras and Seersucker in the summer
Southern Preppy is: wearing these almost year-round in the lower coastal south

Preppy is: using Florida as a gateway to the Keys and other tropical destinations
Southern Preppy is: denying that Florida is southern at all

Preppy is: bar glassware with mallard duck motifs
Southern Preppy is: Tervis Tumblers for the porch, boat and the beach

Preppy is: silver flatwear, serving trays and so forth
Southern Preppy is: the above plus old silver flatwear turned into bracelets, rings and keychains

Preppy is: an uncle who works on Wall Street, lives in Connecticut and summers in the Hamptons
Southern Preppy is: an uncle whose office is unknown but who can be found boating on the back river almost 24/7 and who never feels the need to summer or vacation anywhere at all

Preppy is: living in the nicest areas of Manhattan pre-children necessitating a move to Connecticut
Southern Preppy is: flying up to Manhattan to stay in the Waldorf Astoria's Junior League rooms while taking in a play and the opera

Preppy is: a station wagon, sedan or SUV of the appropriate brand
Southern Preppy is: an old, much-loved green n' tan truck that's seen better days

Preppy is: knowing about your ancestors
Southern Preppy is: literal ancestor-worship

Preppy is: Mummy and Daddy
Southern Preppy is: Mother or Mama and Daddy

Preppy is: There are certain sports to watch on television
Southern Preppy is: What's there to watch beside southern college football?

and so forth and so on...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

White Dresses- Wedding

My wedding dress has a funny story behind it.

Like my mother, I had planned to "just add sleeves" to my deb gown and use it as my wedding dress. However, going into a wedding boutique to look for bridesmaids' dresses, I saw this incredible champagne silk ballgown with rosettes trimming the neckline that reminded me so much of a gown my great-great-grandmother Birdie had of which we have a portrait of her in...

My mother and I loved it, I tried it on and we left the store without it.

A few days later, I left to go to Ole' Miss to be with my older brother who had just started law school there. I stayed a few weeks bumming around the law library and the cute carriage house he was renting just off of Oxford Square.

When I returned home, what was hanging up in my childhood bedroom by my four poster bed but this amazing wedding dress! My father had gone and purchased it while I was in Mississippi- what a wonderful, truly sweet surprise! I always treasure that memory.

And the bridesmaids' dresses we went into the wedding boutique for? Well... we ended up getting them at Lord & Taylor in the evening gown section where I found tailored, elegant midnight-plum ballet length dresses with simple cummerbund-like sashes and plain sleeves.

This photo above is my favorite candid-shot of my husband and I taken just before we walked downstairs to get into our "getaway" horse n' carriage. Hard to believe that it was 18 years ago...

White Dresses- Savannah Debut

I love this picture- it always makes me smile. It was taken in a backyard swing where I was teetering on the tiny seat trying hard not to slide off of it while also not gripping (in a very unladylike way) the swing's ropes to steady myself with...

This ballgown I chose in a matter of minutes at the Lord & Taylor in Chicago. I didn't try any others on because when I walked into the boutique area and espied it, I knew it was "the one".

It was worn twice: to my Savannah Cotillion Club Debut' and to my Milwaukee Service Club Debut'. Both balls were held at Christmas so for two years, my family experienced very busy holiday seasons.

White Dresses- Sweet Sixteen Party

This is one party dress that I absolutely loved! I wore it first to my Sweet Sixteen Party which was held in a hotel's ballroom and exited via a friend of my mother's Rolls Royce- what a blast that was. Truly a special night filled with family, friends and a lot of dancing and laughter.

To me, this dress was sweet but still had a little bit of 1920's Flapper-girl flair...so much fun to wear and dance in.

I wore it also to my Junior Prom where it stood out very elegantly against a bevvy of bright taffetta and big bows which, in the mid-80's, was all the latest style. But a Preppy isn't about the latest fashions; a preppy is always elegantly and appropriately attired despite them ;)

White Dresses- 8th Grade Graduation

Recently I ran across a box of pictures in storage that I had so much fun looking through and while perusing through these, I realized that for many of my life's special occassions, I have worn a white dress. I know that in childhood I certainly sported many white dresses from baby dresses to my christening gown to Easter outfits but these were pictures of the following:

8th Grade Graduation where I was wearing a Gunne Sax dress- all the rage that year ;)

Sweet Sixteen Party where it was an all flat-lace sheath style that I still think was so elegant.

The Savannah and the Milwaukee Debutante Cotillions where the lace was kept to being just the sleeves of an otherwise very tailored a-line silouette ballgown.

The Wedding where I went totally Viennese-Ballgown with lace, silk rosettes, and pearls galore'.

So here's starting with the 8th Grade Graduation photo taken in our backyard in 1982. Note the pearls, pinkie signet ring, ribbon sash and Princess Di haircut...Prep-a-rama to the core!

Sperry, Top-Sider that is, Soliloquy

Ahh.... Sperry Top-Siders! They have been a part of my life n' lifestyle long before The Official Preppy Handbook was published in 1980. Coming from a family where a passion for sailing existed on both sides, Top-Siders were part n' parcle of casual outfits, bumming around the water and being cast-off onto wooden porches like some still-life vignette featuring all-things-lowcountry-southern.

I wore them as a child, teenager, collegian and continue to wear them now as both fashion and function. Sailing with my parents, aunts n' uncles and cousins plus taking some sailing lessons myself that were formal lessons and not just scurrying around family boats, my various Top-Siders sure came in handy for messing about in boats. I also still love to wear them as a fashion statement though being so "islander" now, my favorites are the sandal versions.

In the above picture that I took this afternoon, my 10 year old Sperry flip-flops are still holding up well and so very,very comfortable. I keep these right by the door and constantly slip my feet in and out of them throughout the day. Between these and my English gardening clogs, I'm pretty well covered for days of lolling around the island here whenever I need to be more than simply barefoot of course.

Currently in my closet are the following Sperrys: The brown leather flip-flops, the pink thong leather sandals that are featured up at the top left of this blog in the "Summer Finds" section, a light taupe leather pair of slip-on mules and the traditional Top-Siders that lace up which are a combination of light brown leather and canvas.

This is nothing compared to the masses I had in junior high and highschool but I won't even begin to list them here... at summer camp each year, I had a pair of Top-Siders and an Izod polo shirt for each day of the week for several weeks- no joke. Of course it goes without saying that I didn't pack-light at all each year I headed up to the northern woods for summer camp.

Sperry Top-Siders are wonderful for boating, bumming around and literally...f.o.r.e.v.e.r.....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Mother, My Mentor

Much closer to home as a gracious-lifestyle mentor of all things elegant and preppy was my late mother. She could have written the book on Southern Preppy! Here is a picture of my parents circa mid 1980's standing in our backyard.

Mother is wearing one of her Lilly Pulitzer dresses and the omni-present strand of pearls that was on her person unless she was going super casual instead with her gold add-a-beads. Remember those?

Wish I had those Lilly dresses of both hers and mine from the 80's but at least I still have the pearls. Lately Lilly Pulitzer is making a fashion trend comeback and I have picked up a piece or two of it along the way. Lilly's a style perennial here in the coastal, beachy South :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Mentor From Afar

For over two decades now I have been collecting, reading and re-reading the works of Alexandra Stoddard. Her design ideas, personal philosophy, gracious lifestyle, gentle focus on family and friends plus her career both as a designer and writer...all quite inspiring! I was able to personally meet her when she was the main speaker at one of our Junior League of Charlotte monthly meetings many years ago.

I recommend her books for anyone who enjoys cultivating an elegantly-preppy lifestyle and desires ideas, inspiration and affirmation along their own journeying...

“All forms of self expression are linked.” -Alexandra Stoddard

Perennially Preppy

Musing about my preppy-roots stemming themselves down long generational lines, it occurred to me that indeed, "preppy is perennial". Just like a stalwart rose bush, it blooms season after season. I find comfort in wearing pearls from a great-aunt, a Repousee' silver cuff bracelet of one of my grandmother's, my mother's family tartan shawl and the assorted preppy-classics I myself picking up from time to time. I've already passed along a couple of things to my young nieces that I'm sure they'll pass along to other family members in future years to come.

And it's not just the material things, it's also the culture and inherent customs as well. Oyster roasts and hanging out on small sailboats with cousins, ballgown fittings and learning to waltz, dog paws and Wellie boots making mud tracks onto the porch, baking cheese straws while sipping sweet iced tea in the dead of winter and being sure to write thank you notes the very first minute that there is the time available to do so.

Southern Preppy has followed me from my childhood in Georgia up to teen years in Wisconsin then college and young married years in North Carolina, a fun two ski bummin' years out in Park City, Utah and now back here amidst family in the Savannah-Beaufort-Charleston lowcountry environs. Even after the 1980's hey day of Preppiness, I still had elements of it coursing through my life and never rebelled into any alternative lifestyle posturing itself away from the basics and classic renditions of what is essential-preppy. Aside of course from dropping out of tennis lessons and playing which I frankly did not enjoy being made to do from age 6 into my teens. I'm glad that others like playing this particular sport but as for me, I'd rather watch than swing a tennis racket any day. My poor mother, she tried ;) Even Izod tennis dresses didn't do the trick for me... cute to wear as they were...

Here in Beaufort with its salty, sun-soaked and gently sauntering kinda' local atmosphere, I'm happily back into a relaxed islander version of Preppy that's less about the glaring obvious and more about a casual, off-handed expression of taste and style where faded khacki shorts and old topsiders paired with a bright coral tee shirt and madras belt work so well with a coozie in-hand at an impromptu dock party. And where a much-worn cashmere sweater twin set and pearls underneath a Barbour jacket that's overhanging wrinkled jeans and battered, re-soled leather riding boots are just fine for a sport shooting afternoon. And of course, anything cute and stylish is always just right for church however long I've been pulling these outfits out of my closet.

I'm much less "starched and primped" than I was back in my North Carolina days and yet do now wear a bit more makeup and far less clogs than I did when being a ski bum out in the mountains of Utah and... am realizing overall that here in the lowcountry of South Carolina, I am finding this to be a very happy place for me to be.

I'm back full-circle to my Southern Preppy roots and feel full-rose-bloomin' ;)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Preppy Patriotic stylin' for Fourth of July 2009

This year's annual 4th of July island parade had my father as its Grand Marshal which was a lot of fun. It was inevitable that I'd be wearin' some piece of madras, being the middle of a hot n' humid summer here in the lowcountry, and I received many comments n' compliments on my "patriotic preppy" look. The Prep-style goes anywhere very appropriately and IS a slice of genuine Americana...

Being a professional writer and having once written a long-standing fashion column for a wonderful suburban newspaper some years ago, I've missed writing about fashion n' lifestyling and all that fun stuff so I've decided to do a blog about my lifestyle look which essentially is Southern Lowcountry Island Preppy.

In posts to come, I'll muse some more about this...