Mummy Knows Best: The Look for Women

Preppy Handbook New

Every once and while I will get a question from a reader about women’s fashion. This is not my area of expertise, but I do have some thoughts on the subject. I started to pull together my ideas for a post, but after looking over them I realized that the OPH (Official Preppy Handbook) does a much better job than I could and there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Straight from the OPH, I bring you Mummy Knows Best: The Look for Women.

Mummy Knows Best

Vintage PRL ad

There is one sartorial goal for Preppy women: To look like mummy. It starts with mummy/daughter bathing suits and gingham dresses. Then daughter starts borrowing the clothes her mother wore in Prep school. Before long, they share a charge account at The Talbots, and their wardrobes are virtually interchangeable. They what they like: The ultimate accolade for a piece of clothing is “useful” (with “cute” a close second).

1. Men’s Clothes – Either actual garments from the man’s wardrobe (button-down shirts, Shetland sweaters, anything from L.L. Bean), or near imitations. The blue blazer, the khaki skirt, and the gray flannel suit are cornerstones of the female Prep’s wardrobe. Some women go as far to shop in the boy’s department at Brooks, and have things (slightly) altered.

Girl in Barbour

Barbour for her

2. Navy Blue – The new neutral, it is the automatic first choice for shoes, purses, suits, sweaters. It serves as the perfect foil for colors that do not exist in nature – shocking pink, poison green, brilliant yellow, windex blue. Purple is not Preppy.
Girl on a boat


3. Don’t wear black – With the exception of evening clothes (never say “gown”) and the little black dress, black clothing (shirts, sweaters, bathing suits) make you look like a fast woman.
Very LBD

Fast LBD

4. Someone else’s clothes – Other people’s things have inherited charm. Your roommate’s needlepoint belt, your boyfriend’s Lacoste, your mother’s old hacking jacket are all very classy.

girl in man's jacket

The always classy Sarah Vickers in something borrowed: Classy Girls Wears Pearls

5. Underdressing – Always in good taste. Key advice from Mummy: “Get completely dressed for a party, then take off one piece of jewelry.”


Keep it simple

6. Layering – Turtlenecks, then oxford cloth shirts, then a fair isle with three buttons undone. Women often dispense of the crocodile (Lacoste) layer, in the fear that it will make them look fat.


oxford cloth button down
Jerrod Swanton is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

3 Comments on "Mummy Knows Best: The Look for Women"

  1. Craig says:

    I would advise them to read The Daily Prep.

  2. LIn says:

    Classy but kind of boring. No sparkle? No ruffles? It would be appropriate for my horse farm or yacht (ha!) but I embrace my feminine side! That’s not to say that Muffy doesn’t look great :-)

  3. oxford cloth button down says:

    I would take classy, but boring as a great compliment. My mantra is, “Classic, Simple, Boring.”

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