Whit Stillman’s Guide to Preppie Fashion

04/12/2012 10:23 AM |

There are certain things one likes but it’s a question of how they can be put together so they can be comfortable and good-looking at the same time. There’s always that comfort/good-looking axis. There are certain things I remember fondly. Normally, if you wait long enough, Ralph Lauren will bring it out. And often the revivals aren’t successful, so you can afford it on fourth reduction at the end of August. The thing is, then you’re going to have to buy as many as you’ll need for the next twenty years.


Madras Jackets
I got a really nice Madras jacket from Ralph Lauren, so reduced they almost paid me to take it out of the store. And I was so happy to put it on and see how it looked on a hot summer day in New York, this very light Madras jacket. I remember the cool guys going to work in New York the early 60s, maybe in August, wearing them. I remember it being this very cool thing.

I love them. They’re so light and comfortable, and I think they can be so good-looking.

Chris Eigeman, on the other hand, doesn’t share the same point of view. He hates them. And for some reason I always dress Chris in Madras. There’s a scene in Barcelona where he’s supposed to be a very badly dressed civilian, so we put him in yellow trousers and a Madras jacket. And there’s a scene in Last Days of Disco, when he’s leaving to go to Europe with Jimmy Steinway, and I think he wears another Madras jacket. And when it came to record the DVD commentary, he was going on about how ugly that jacket was and how he hated wearing it, but I was dressed exactly like he was in the film!


Bass Weejuns
As you get older sometimes things become more and more extreme, and my pathology of cheapness has become so dominant that it sort of messes up my life. But I love it when something’s really economical, but also kind of classic and good. So I really like Bass Weejuns because they’re the cheapest leather shoes you can buy. They look good, you know all about them, they’re very comfortable, they slip on and slip off. And it’s almost as if no one is promoting them; it’s hard to get them in stores now. And I think it’s because they’re so economical that there’s no mark-up.

Green Corduroys
My favorite thing are comfortable, cotton trousers. I really like those sort of challenging colors. That summer of Nantucket look: men who are macho enough to wear pastels. I love a deep green. And corduroys don’t always look so good, they can sort of bulk out, but they’re so comfortable. I find a pair of hero trousers and I like to wear them all the time. Do you think it’s ok to wear corduroys when the knees are sort of worn?

Isn’t that when they’re best?

Because I remember wearing trousers like that that I thought were totally cool, these green corduroys with the knees totally worn through. But I went up to my sister’s apartment, and her five-year-old son was pointing right at my knees, saying there was something wrong with my trousers. Because things that we accept as fashion, or shabby genteel, children just spot as a defect.

5 Comment

  • He probably said “shabby genteel,” not “shabby gentile.”

  • On my lazy Sundays, I tend to be a shabby gentile.

  • I grew up in a “preppie” family…at one time or another ALL of my brothers and sister “rebelled” against the look…but as we’ve aged…every damn one of us could be models for the old “Preppie Handbook.”…LOL

  • Good lord, when did we start spelling preppy “preppie”?

  • Well Pierre, Nathaniel Elliot Worthington III is staring down at me from the wall of my study. Mr. Worthington has lived on the wall of my fraternity house, dorm room, jr. associate office, corner office, and has followed me through two divorces and even survived living in a damp Connecticut boathouse for almost three years when an ex wife exiled him there.

    Mr. Worthington still asks the same question as he did when he was printed in 1979, “Are You A Preppie?”