Saturday, September 18, 2010

True Prep: further Foundational Preppydom and some neo-architectural rendering as well

Defining Preppy Foundations both traditional and neo is a tall order indeed...

AH, I just put down the latest of all-things-Preppy currently out and about...the book True Prep- It's A Whole New Old World by Lisa Birnbach with Chip Kidd. What an interesting read.

It IS indeed a whole new world out there but I am left to ponder how much of this is actually within traditionalist Prepdom and how much of it really isn't despite being mentioned in print as so? Shades of gray, shades of pink and green and shades of cultural change and political correctness blur defining lines all about us. Overall, in my humble opinion, I found True Prep remaining yes, fairly true to the foundational principles and personal backgrounds that make a Preppy an authentic Preppy.

And as always there are exceptions to the rule. I will never refuse an upgrade to First Class seating on any flight just because my fellow Preppies tend to remain stanch to being in coach according to the authors of True Prep. Especially on the international flight routes I take quite often. Are you kidding: being resigned towards always flying coach??? The difference between being in a sardine-like conditions with one tepid meal served about midnight or... being within my own personal pod where it turns down into a flat bed and I'm being waited on hand and foot plied with champagne, fruit plates and fairly decent meals is an immense difference. Now I'm Preppy enough to not PAY for this but of course...the full amounts for First or Business Class seating but a free pass or nominal upgrade fee...yes, sign me up! And so some Preppies indeed may be spotted at the front of the plane upon occassion.

As well, there are other nuances within the Preppy world and worldview beyond regarding which kind of plane seat to sit in. Take for instance the fact that Northeastern Preppies are a bit different from the Southern Lowcountry Preppies whom I am from and grew up around. A Boston debutante is essentially different from a Savannah debutante despite their commonality of donning a white ballgown, long white kid gloves and conscripting one of their brothers to being suited up into White Tie tux in order to be their post. At the same time, these two debs would instantly spot one another and for the most part understand one another if they ended up being upgraded together into adjoining seats within Business Class on a flight to Paris.

The biggest change it seems within this update of what-is defined as being Preppy for our new century and globalized world is how the Preppy Realm has been expanded out from being a land populated by WASPs, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, to a more multi-culturalism contexting. On the one hand, I can see this growing desire of today's earnestness towards embracing more people into the Preppy fold and thus define them less from their family backgrounds and generational cultural heritage to defining them much more as to where they went to college, what Prep clothing looks they're sporting and if they vacation on Martha's Vineyard or Hilton Head Island. Perhaps as well, Preppy has actually burst out of its tightly defined, multi-generational private WASP club to be something more like a Chamber of Commerce filled with Brooks Brothers suited men and Tory Burch dressed women from all backgrounds and walks of life who've nicknamed themselves Skip and Mitsey after they purchased the columned Colonial house on the corner and joined the local tennis club? I'm still pondering this and am not totally-sold on it yet... as I said in the previous post, being Preppy isn't about purchasing-it, it's about living within it from the start.

Another question then is if this socio-economic-demographical expansion of inclusion by earnest activity and acquiring thus ultimately relegates being-Preppy to simply being a fad or fashion one manufactures for oneself out of personal style interest and/or getting ahead within the business world, politics, academia, one's neighborhood, book club and such rather than being an authentic lifestyle one lives within from birth to beyond? Can we all really be true to ourselves if we're "costumingly cultivating" our defining looks n' lifestyle? Hmm...

Preppy isn't just wearing a well cut navy blue blazer, going to Harvard and being an attorney with a summer cottage in the Hamptons. Preppy isn't just investing one's paycheck in Lilly Pulitzer and being an ASID certified designer working out of an elegant sunroom filled with potted orchids. Preppy isn't just playing the family-slacker living ski season to ski season somewhere out west. Preppy isn't looking like a Prep to tick off one's decidedly non-Prep family.

Preppy isn't redefining yourself. *Preppy is being defined, partly-defined or heavily influenced by the Preppy Life you were brought up within wherein you just assumed that everyone else in the world lived like that until you went to college and discovered that wasn't necessarily so.*

Just as I enjoy wearing a piece or two of exquisite Navajo jewelry and love listening to the Navajo flute being played and yet fully realize that I can never imagine myself as being an authentic Native American within any definition of that fascinating culture and lifestyle, so I think a young lady within their culture may enjoy wearing pearls and sailing along the salt marshways of our southern lowcountry here but wouldn't imagine herself to be just like me, an authentic Southern Prep Debutante. And thank goodness for our different lives and life experiences....that's what makes living life so interesting....this wide variety of peoples....

America is indeed the land of reinvention however in the realm of Preppydom existing within its borders, it IS what-all you're from that counts in the actuality of having true Prep-authenticity.

In this current day culture where it seems anyone can reinvent themselves with the aberration of Lady Gaga perhaps being the crazed-end mutation of endless cyclic individual mutations going on (and at this point, frankly Star Trek's Borg freaks seem as real a future possibility as anything), HOWEVER... Preppies remain changeless. Preppies remain true unto themselves.

Preppies "just-are" with their hand-me-down clothing, family's summer house, the kid's car that's barely running happening to be an old luxury sedan, several generations' alumni status at good universities, penchants for tennis, tailgating parties featuring good wine and picnic baskets, international travel, cotillion season each December, kilt-wearin' men at weddings and everyone concentrating more on the drinks than the food at any and all gatherings.

Preppy isn't a clothing choice or a series of lifestyle choices..... for true Preppies, Preppy is a given.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Resurgence of Preppy... It's Not Lifestyle Purchasing, It's a Life Perspective

P is for Preppy-trending...the oxymoron of this season

As American culture seems to be embracing once again to some degree Preppy Style with the True Prep- It's a Whole New Old World book now out, various reviews of it commencing and fashion trends of course following suit... there seems to be some confusion as to what it means to be an actual Preppy and what is just either trying out a lifestyle trend or enjoying a bit of posing.

That being said, it's perfectly fine for anyone to put a bit of "Preppy" into their current fashion interest or even reinvent themselves by becoming-Preppy to a degree. Sometimes however, folks endeavoring to be-Preppy mistake Preppy for what is a whole lotta' Nouveau Riche' Spending. There's a world of difference between the two.

Take watches for instance. This is no political statement but rather a lifestyle, cultural-background statement about two former US presidents: George W. Bush wears a Timex, Bill Clinton wears a Rolex. In general, most true Preppies wear Timex watches or occasionally an ever-classic Cartier Tank but the cash-flash inherent in sporting a Rolex, especially diamond encrusted ones, just isn't within the traditional Preppy's cultural vernacular. Maybe a neo-Preppy's vocabulary at this point in time but not a traditional, true Preppy's.

The film Caddyshack pits Preppy character (real or posing) Judge Smails head-on with totally Nouveau Riche' Al Czervik played wonderfully by Rodney Dangerfield. Not all people get so utterly splashy loud with their newly gained money but if The Real Housewives television empire is anything with which to glimpse into as to socio-economically realities within the world of the Nouveau Riche', well, "Preppy it aint'."

Preppies will indeed buy expensive items. The difference between Preppy-spending and Preppy-poser and/or Nouveau Riche' spending is in the intent and impact. A Preppy will buy say a Mercedes however it is in a quiet color and will be driven until it falls apart. Preppies part with their money whenever it will be for quality investment purposing. Non true-Preppies will buy in order to impress and make a statement with what will most likely be a flashier color and style of Mercedes.

Preppies gravitate towards spending from the perspective wherein a lifestyle is lived being filled with family items valued and passed along through the generations. Hence grandmother's pearls, an uncle's cast-off shooting jacket, old oriental rugs that have seen the floors of living rooms, dorm rooms and the summer house as well. Yes, Preppies purchase replacement things and new items occasionally but overall, we sure seem to epitomize the essence of shabby chic even more than the home decor' line does which is featured at Target.

And that's why this new surging of Preppy lifestyle goods and fashion trending is so interesting to dyed-in-the-wool Preppies.

As with all reduxes and of-the-moment trends in books, fashion and decor'... this Preppy Part-Two Moment too will eventually pass. Once again in the not too distant future, true Preppies will have to search harder to find things that perhaps our favorite prep purveyors are out of stock with or not carrying at the moment. But hey, why not stock-up now while we can?!

There will always be good ole' plain Timex watches available for us Preppies just in case our current well-worn one needs replacing however there may not be an autumn-hued, leather handled madras tote bag on offer next fall or for many more fall seasons to come....

Preppy-trending: an oxymoron but it's this year's fashionably-trending oxymoron indeed.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Orange... naturally going on into the autumn...

Gerber Daisies are Preppy-pretty flowers for late summer into autumn...

Orange Lantana and Monarch butterflies are bright spots to my path...

To be honest, the color hue of orange is not one of my favorites. It is bright, bold and when used in er, "interesting ways" quite garishly gaudy at times. Yes, it nicely graces the color change of tree leaves however it also IS the theme color of Halloween which, aside from real pumpkins, gourds and candy corn, I (yes, shockingly a Halloween-baby) don't really get into. Unless it an Hermes' gift box but of course! Though I do occassionally infuse a bright, island-tropical flash of orange hue into my late spring and summer wardrobe once in awhile.

However... in these still-hot and humid Lowcountry SC days of early September, it can be a perfectly delightful, perfectly Preppy color burst to have out and about in one's garden. Orange flowers can serve as a transition from late summer into the Indian Summer we seem to be having around these islands here. In the midst of heat, orange in the garden is a harbinger of cooler times to come.

This morning I enjoyed watching a bunch of butterflies circling around both the front porch and side walkway of our in-town cottage. The Monarchs especially seemed to dance throughout the lantana in a joyful fluttering of pure bliss. Their orange wings adding to the tapestry of color.

Here's to the orange flowers and butterflies out there among us announcing that autumn is yes indeed on its slow but sure way....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ah, Orchids... such pure elegance-of-nature!

The birthday-gift orchid in our island house... a wonderful bloomer...
Orchids galore' in a Parisian restaurant James and I throughly enjoyed...

Orchids in Australia: a plant shop I pass by regularly when down-under...

"Each of us comes to orchids when we are ready, or is it the other way around?" So begins a wonderful book all about orchids published by Smith and Hawken a few years back. 100 Orchids for the American Gardener by Elvin McDonald has become one of my much-referred-to orchid tomes: this one which I picked up for next to nothing at our church's annual holiday bazaar.

I absolutely love orchids. From a very young age of espying them in the botanical gardens and around people's homes, I knew that one day I'd indulge in having a few of my own. After settling into our first cottage post-wedding, I promptly purchased my very first orchid, plunked it down into an oriental porcelain cache pot and placed it by a window which let in dappled sunlight. It thrived despite my neophyte blundering with when to water, how to fertilize and all that.

We took it along with us out to the mountains of Utah when we did our fun couple a' ski-bum years in Park City. It also thrived (along with a couple of other orchids) set to the side of the large picture window off of our tiny old miner's cottage's front porch. When our neighbor's dog ate it, I about got sick. That had been the BEST orchid- such a loss. For two years in a row out there in Utah, it had bloomed three times and never went into dormancy. I had given it to the neighbor to "watch" when I had to run back suddenly to SC to care give for my dying mother and it seemed that she didn't put it up high enough out of her dog's reach. I returned to Utah with losses all-around. James and I began packing up to go live in SC on this island near my father and it was strange to pack up the cachepot without this orchid in it.

Happily however, for my birthday one year a dear friend here gave me an orchid and this has equally thrived. It's the one pictured above... I have a few more now at this point and they are spread out between the island house and our in-town cottage.

Here's another couple of quotes from McDonald's book:

"Orchids began to make their mark on the western world around 1850. Because of the tremendous effort to acquire them, and their need for heated glasshouses in the winter, orchids were initially the sole province of the wealthy."

"What separates orchid culture from that of common houseplants, and even other exotics, is the treatment of their unusual roots and growing mediums."

And here's a fun poetic ditty regarding the sentimentality of orchids:

You never gave the orchids I sent a glance!

No, you prefer cactus plants.

This is a fine romance. - Dorothy Fields

And finally, a fascinating book about the orchid world is The Orchid Thief- A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean.

Orchids are indeed Preppy but they are also so easily enjoyable within every lifestyle out there...