A 12 Piece Modern Preppy Summer Capsule Wardrobe 2024

A white background with 12 clothing items plus shoes and accessories for A 12 Piece Modern Preppy Summer capsule wardrobe. In the middle is a black box with white text that reads, "A 12 Piece Modern Preppy Summer Capsule Wardrobe."

When we think about preppy style often our minds go back to the classic ideals which originated from the Ivy League schools in the U.S. and are characterized by a polished, collegiate, and a somewhat traditional look.

Or maybe just like from our favourite 80s movies with stripes, polos, and sweaters tied around our shoulders all the while carrying a tennis racket.

We also think of Ralph Lauren.

But who doesn’t when it comes to this type of classic dressing?

His impact has been huge, and it is being hinted that his most recent collection might be the last with him at the helm which would be a devasting loss to fashion.

No one does iconic Americana better.

Remember when he was on Friends and Phoebe mistook Kenny the Copy Boy for him?

Personally, I like to step outside the style boxes and think of the preppy fashion aesthetic in a modern prep way which blends these traditional elements with current fashion trends, resulting in a fresh and updated style.

Think Dries Van Noten’s s/s 2024 show.

It was majorly inspirational with how I thought about my wardrobe this season, and I am going to miss his genius collections. They are always one of my favourites.

I was channeling it a bit when I out together this outfit a few weeks ago.

So when we are creating a versatile and timeless wardrobe of a preppy capsule rooted in classic, polished styles, it offers both practicality and effortless elegance.

But then we add that bit of modern to make it fresh and easy to wear.

A 12 Piece Modern Preppy Summer Capsule Wardrobe

A white background with 12 outfits for A 12 Piece Modern Preppy Summer Capsule Wardrobe.

Yellow Vest | Jeans | Boat Shoes | Necklace | Brown Handbag | Blazer | Mesh Flats | Animal Print Bag | Dress | Sneakers | Striped Sweater | Black Shirt | Shorts | Skirt | Red Tank Top | Short Sleeve Button Up | Black Headband | Animal Print Shirt | Brown Trousers | Black Handbag | Sandals | Sunglasses | Pink Heels

What is The History of Preppy Fashion?

Preppy style, is a fashion descriptive term that often falls within the same style circle as quiet luxury, and classic because it has a rich history rooted in elite American educational institutions and builds from a similar core.

After many years at that level, it eventually emerged as a distinctive fashion subculture, drawing from the traditions and activities of the privileged upper class while evolving over time to become a widespread cultural phenomenon.

If someone says preppy you immediately know what they are talking about.

Preppy style finds its roots in the Ivy League schools of the Northeastern United States during the early 20th century.

Colleges such as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale cultivated a specific social environment where students engaged in sports like rowing, sailing, tennis, and golf.

Activities that we equated with rich and privileged living.

And we often still do. Apparently not much changes.

These activities required appropriate attire, leading to the development of a distinctive sportswear aesthetic characterized by blazers, polo shirts, and chinos.

In the 50s, we had what was known as the “Ivy League Look” and this was an aesthetic that gained popularity beyond the campus grounds spreading out into the mainstream.

Companies like Brooks Brothers and J. Press became iconic brands, in which they supplying tailored suits, button-down shirts, and loafers to their affluent customers.

This look was about exclusivity, just like many luxury brands are trying to do with constant price increases to weed out “undesirable” customers and elevate their brands.

Which honestly makes me sick.

The 1980s version of preppy is the first one that pops in my head, and during this time we saw it transition from collegiate to mainstream culture for the first time.

Lisa Birnbach’s “The Official Preppy Handbook,” published in 1980, outlined the preppy lifestyle in a humorous sort of way and served as a guide to its fashion and etiquette.

I have been meaning to read this book, and then keep forgetting so I have officially added it to my wish list.

This era also introduced vibrant colours, bold patterns, and playful motifs, making the style more accessible and appealing which is maybe why I think of it first.

These prints and colours made an impact on me and how I view the aesthetic. The movie Heathers for example, with those bright coloured and bold print blazers.

Now with modern preppy style, it has shifted again to adapt to changing trends and lifestyles over the years.

It still continues to draw from classic elements like tailored blazers, polo shirts, and loafers but also incorporates contemporary twists.

Things like athleisure and streetwear influences, sustainable fashion practices, and more inclusive representations reflect the evolving preppy wardrobe.

Brands such as Vineyard Vines, J.Crew, and Tommy Hilfiger have embraced this modern interpretation, blending preppy aesthetics with current trends.

But you can also find preppy style pieces in any retailer, most often in fall with pleats, tweeds, and corduroy, but this year it was a strong force on the runway so we are seeing a lot more of it at the basic store level.

Bring on the boat shoes that are a huge trend right now. Remember when I talked about them making a comeback months ago?

They are everywhere now.

Speaking of trending shoes, just a heads up in case you have them in your closet, but the classic slip on checkered Vans that Spicoli wore in Fast times are coming back in.

So it is time to dust off yours. My toe went through the canvas of mine so I need an upgrade, unfortunately.

Preppy style emphasized practicality and polish when in its traditional sense using classic pieces like blazers, cardigans, and pleated skirts with button-down shirts and pearls.

Now we take those same elements and add fun and modern pieces to bring in some edge, fun, and wearability like bright coloured sneakers, animal print, and track pants depending on the season.

With this summer capsule wardrobe, I really wanted to retain the core of what preppy style is but I also wanted to bring in that aspect of what makes it accessible to everyone.

Summer is a hard season to layer in which is an important part of this aesthetic so we have to play with proportions and colour to bring more personality to this wardrobe while still maintaining the distinct preppy vibe that it is known for.

I kept the core aesthetic of preppy style within this capsule with the button-down shirts, pleated skirt, dark denim, and boat shoes but I also wanted to bring in modern version of many of these pieces.

The chino-inspired shorts are in the trendy Bermuda length, and the sneakers are a vibrant colour.

With the button down I went with a short-sleeved, oversized version instead of a classic slimmer fit. You could also opt for linen since it is for summer.

A men’s linen blazer is used as a light jacket for summer nights, and air conditioning and brings that sporty uniform look to life.

If you want an authentic looking preppy blazer, there is a pricey but fabulous vintage version here.

Instead of classic pearls I went with a black beaded necklace in a classic single-string style.

And for headbands the classic preppy choice would be a simple schoolgirl style slide-on band, but I opted for a 90s inspired wide, stretchy headband instead.

Maybe more of a 90s preppy vibe instead of an 80s and late 00s Blair Waldorf version.

And the tank dress is the modern iteration of the shorter tennis dresses that were worn. Plus, it doubles as a skirt if you layer over it.

Tennis dresses are circulating in retailers right now though, most are shorter lengths which I avoid so I much prefer this version.

If you remember, I included a red and white striped sweater in a post a few weeks back that was from United Colors of Benetton.

So no, you are not seeing a duplicate post or piece. I saw this one yesterday at the Gap. It was on a mannequin when I walked past and it caught my eye enough to go in a look.

I really liked it so when I came back home I searched to see if it was available online. The polo style neck with collar really brings out the preppy feel, especially in a stripe.

Very summer in the Hamptons lunch by the beach feel.

This style remains polished and functional, adapting to current trends but maintaining a nod to its traditional roots.

The end goal is to keep the traditional vibe but make it modern to appeal to a wider audience. Wearability in embracing the preppy look for modern fashion.

Modern Preppy Outfit Ideas for Summer

A white background with 12 outfits for The 12 Piece Modern Preppy Summer Capsule Wardrobe.

A white background with 12 outfits for The 12 Piece Modern Preppy Summer Capsule Wardrobe.

Yellow Vest | Jeans | Boat Shoes | Necklace | Brown Handbag | Blazer | Mesh Flats | Animal Print Bag | Dress | Sneakers | Striped Sweater | Black Shirt | Shorts | Skirt | Red Tank Top | Short Sleeve Button Up | Black Headband | Animal Print Shirt | Brown Trousers | Black Handbag | Sandals | Sunglasses | Pink Heels

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Sara is the founder and creative behind livelovesara. A George Brown College Fashion Styling Graduate, she provides advice on finding your personal style regardless of age and budget. She is always on the hunt for the perfect wardrobe piece and is a vintage and thrifting enthusiast who can't wait to share her newest finds. She is also trying to learn French.

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