How to Mix Fashion Styles: Preppy and Professional


Preppy and professional go hand-in-hand!“Preppy and professional go hand-in-hand!Photodisc/Thinkstock

In the early 1980s, the bell bottoms and tie-dye of the ’70s began to give way to a much different style of dressing — about as opposite as you can get, in fact. As the hippies evolved into yuppies, it provided a jarring transition from the era of free love into the era of opulence. The style coming in vogue at this time was preppy, and a single book released that year had a lot to do with defining the look. "The Official Preppy Handbook" was a humorous dissection of everything prep — the clothing, the attitude, the social dos and don’ts. The book did a great job at capturing, in a very tongue-in-cheek way, the WASP-y essence of preppydom. From the plaid skirts and shorts, to the cords and turned up collars, preps were all about reflecting their distinct fashion sense, which typically exhibited a degree of wealth.

Over the years, styles and trends inevitably change, but the preppy look has endured to a certain degree. Some of the more dated examples of preppy style have been forced from the fashion scene, but the classic preppy look, consisting of tailored button-down shirts, khaki pants and topsiders has always had a home in certain circles. Because preppy can be both casual and dressy, you can fly your prep flag in many different ways, including at the office. In fact, many offices these days allow more casual clothing so you may even be able to integrate even more of your preppy favorites. Keep reading for tips on mixing your professional look with your preppy style.

Tips on Mixing a Preppy Look with Professional Style

If you want to dress preppy in the office, you’re in luck, because many current fashion trends fall under the preppy umbrella. If your eyesight isn’t great, don’t worry — glasses are not only a staple of the prep, but they’re back in style and perfect for the office. Because the "nerd chic" look is hot right now, more and more people are ditching their contact lenses for preppy specs.

Depending on how dressy your office is, you can also mix up your preppy look with seperates. Tweed blazers and plaid or khaki skirts can both be preppy and appropriate for the workplace. Pairing a traditional blazer with a crisp white Oxford shirt, well-fitting ankle length jeans and heels can also dress up the prep some.

Plaid, tweed, khaki and seersucker are all materials that can come into play for the overall look of your preppy professional style. You can find slacks, skirts, dresses and tops in these classic preppy materials for mixing and matching with your more typical professional look. Sweaters can be worn with any number of combinations. Pair a pastel crew neck sweater with a traditional blazer if you need to dress it up a bit. Madras plaid and Capri pants are other preppy holdovers that have never quite gone out of style, though they’re probably more appropriate for casual Fridays or work functions.

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  • Birnbach, Lisa. "The Official Preppy Reboot." Sept. 7, 2012.
  • "Nantucket Brand." Sept. 7, 2012.
  • "Preppy Chic Workwear Under $100." Sept. 7, 2012.
  • "Preppy Professional." Sept. 7, 2012.


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