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December 15, 2015

The Pioneers of Preppy: Seven Prestigious American Women's Colleges Gave Us a Way of Dressing That's Still Going Strong Today

In the 1930s, women attending the Seven Sisters colleges began rebelling against the dress code restrictions, eventually developing a new, empowering style of clothing: preppy.

The Seven Sisters-a prestigious group of American colleges: Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar, and Wellesley, whose members include fashion icons such as Katharine Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy, Ali MacGraw, and Meryl Streep-perfected a flair that spoke to an aspirational lifestyle filled with education, travel, and excitement.

Their style, on campus and off, was synonymous with an intelligence and American grace that became a marker of national pride and status all over the world: from jeans and baggy shirts to Bermuda shorts and blazers, soft Shetland sweaters and saddle shoes, not to mention sleek suiting, pearls, elegant suitcases, kidskin gloves, kitten heels, and cashmere.

Smith students are seen on campus in 1968.

Vassar students seen in the 1950s: Skirts were required for dinner at 6pm every evening, so many students kept them on for after-dinner studying or gossiping with friends.

Radcliffe, 1954

Hoop rolling at Bryn Mawr, c.1950s.

A Vassar student reclines in her dormitory during the 1950s

Barnard College, 1928.

Mount Holyoke.

Vassar students stretch out in their cuffed jeans and sweaters (including both a Fair Isle sweater and a cardigan buttoned backwards, which became a popular campus trend), outside in 1950.

Vassar, 1967.

Mount Holyoke students, 1945.

Smith, c.1930s.

Sleek hair, turtleneck sweaters, and preppy blouses, all seen enjoying an on-campus revival here at Bernard.

Radcliffe students stroll together on a winter's day in 1954 - bare legs, socks, saddle shoes and oversized topcoats were a Seven Sister's style trademark whatever the weather.

Vassar student hard at work, c.1930s.

Vassar student clad in her normal attire incl. saddle shoes, flannel skirt & Brooks Brothers sweater w. jacket drawn up over her head to fend off the rain because umbrellas are taboo, on campus, 1936.

Photo: Courtesy of Rizzoli


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