If you hail from California you probably find that all people ask is, “Why did you leave?”
Why did I leave…why would I leave? Why, when East Coast winters are spent in fleece-lined bras and heat-tech underwear, complaining about the snow and the windchill that can break lips like glass? Why, when humid New York summers turn hair to cotton candy and slick skin with sweat and stain satin like a glazed doughnut does to starch paper?
Because there was something about brick stacked, ivy-lined buildings that called my name. Something about wood-paneled hatchbacks and cable knits and houndstooth, navy wallpaper and a quintessential fall. Something about the idea of attending a “liberal arts college,” classical music playing in the background while poring over literature, and a fresh pair of penny loafers…all of which I probably picked up from F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise” (as opposed to, you know, the book’s more important themes).
But where my fascination in these American-collegiate aesthetics used to revolve around the men — my grandfather, the Dead Poets, F. Scott’s Princeton-inspired words — I’ve recently started appreciating what it was that the women wore. Suddenly I’ve found myself wondering how best to work slacks and blazers into my wardrobe without appearing like a boy but rather, a lady. I want to wear buttoned oxfords with high-waisted heavy denim under camel coats with socks, of all things. Pearls. Thank god fashion brought back the pearl. In a book that recently came out titled “Seven Sisters Style,” fashion historian Rebecca Tuite practically heard my plea then wrote to it.
My takeaway was that there’s four things I need to approximate the women who reigned sartorially over the northeastern college scene: denim, a men’s shirt, something khaki, flats, an unfussy skirt and a blazer. I could do that. We could do that.
“Whether they were plaid, plain, striped, flannel, cotton, brand-new, or a thrift-store find, above all else a Seven Sister’s button-down had to be men’s.” – Rebecca Tuite
“Versatility was the golden rule of the Seven Sister’s style.” – Rebecca Tuite
“…fashion critics quickly noticed how [Perry] Ellis evoked a quintessential ‘insouciant feeling–of a college woman slipping into her boyfriend’s jacket that is a size or so too big for her…’ This was precisely what the Seven Sisters women had popularized many years before.” — from the chapter “Slouch: A Seven Sisters Tradition”
“From the late 1940s, the popularity of denim increasingly became a statement on the preferred functionality of clothing for college life.” — From her chapter on “The Cult of Denim”
And as for that whole thing about acting like a lady of the Seven Sisters? Ha. Well, that’s at your discretion.