Sewing & Style Inspiration: Vintage Prep

Last week I talked about my first source of inspiration for this my upcoming sewing, Kate Middleton. Today is part two!


A lot of vintage bloggers (sewing and otherwise), if they wear 50s & 60s styles, tend towards the sort of pin-up, cheesecake styles popularized by clothing companies such as Pinup Girl. I really enjoy this look, but as a slender pear (read: non-busty) lady this look doesn't always flatter my best features. I also feel like it can veer towards campy/novelty. Besides, there are so. many. different styles from this era--by focusing on just this one (and a sort of pastiche at that), we lose a huge diversity of styles!

So today, in order to do my little part in diversifying the 50s/60s styles we see running through our blog feeds,we're talking about preppy.

Some of you are thinking "noooo, not preppy!" but I encourage you to hang out--I promise there are no critter covered burmuda shorts in my sewing queue! My vintage prep-inspired plans include:

1951 Students Select Dress
1. A Menswear-style shirt: The foundation of any Vassar girl's wardrobe in the late 50s and 60s. Period appropriate colors would include white, blue, or pink, just like the boys--because they began by buying the small sizes straight from the men's section at Brooks Brothers. Despite the several little 60s blouses I've made, I still usually reach for my ancient Ralph Lauren OCBDs. I think it's time I get over my fear of making proper plackets and collars, and make a real shirt! I've heard awesome things about Grainline's Archer (everyone but me has made one), so I think I'll start there since they have a sewalong. I need some hand-holding on this one! Does anyone have good sources for oxford cloth?


2. A Practical A-Line Skirt: I have several vintage skirt patterns that I always put aside in favor of a quick and easy (and twirly!) dirndl, but I would like to make another a-line skirt like the yellow one I made last year. I really like the shape of the one on the right here, but I don't have an exact pattern in mind for this project yet. I do have some nice plaid though... Am I ready for some serious plaid matching? We shall see.

3. A Pair of Navy Cigarette Pants: Since Gertie's pants were successful, I'd like to make another pair of those in navy. I'll probably eventually make another pair in black since the puppy poked holes in the original, but navy really does coordinate with most of my closet, more so than black, actually.

1956 Students Lounging
You might notice that I left a classic blue blazer off this inspiration list--that's because I already covered that in my Kate Middleton post! I'm hoping to make the items on both lists mix-and-match, so I guess expect a lot of navy in upcoming posts?

Since preppy style is intended to be timeless and classic--you could find all of these items at a Brooks Brothers today or in their first women's collection in 1949--if you are going for a really retro look, I would amp up the hair. Now is the time for pin curls!


ps: if you are dying for more information about this style, here's a little mini-history--"Ivy League" style began in the first quarter of the 21st century, but really gained ground in the 50s. Northeastern college men (notably at the Ivies, which gave the style its name) began dressing in a distinctive manner furnished by Brooks Brothers and J. Press. if you are interested in men's fashion, there are a ton of blogs devoted to this style, but i'll leave it at that and move on to the ladies. 

"Seven Sisters" can be thought of as the women's version of Ivy League style. it is named after a group of colleges (which were all at that point women only) that mirrored the Ivy League (then all men only). it is generally more androgynous (relatively, I mean, it was still the fifties!) than your average ladies' wardrobe and borrowed heavily from Ivy League menswear--in some cases, even wearing the exact same Brooks Brothers shirts as the men, just in smaller sizes. the photos i used here all came from the Vassar archives flickr account. 

Ivy League style has become popular in recent years, with the men's fashion blogging world really going nuts over ivy style. there seems to be less interest in the ladies' version, but if you want more there is a whole book about it!

allie J.


  1. I love the preppy style of the midcentury! But as a girl of the opposite shape - busty and thicker waisted with no rear to speak of, unfortunately these styles tend look terrible on me, or at best, a bad satirization.

    1. Isn't it funny how different styles are more flattering than others? It's all about finding that balance, I guess.

  2. What a fun style! I don't know much about this particular range of fashion, so I appreciate the photos! good luck with your sewing plan!



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