Designer Ralph Rucci’s apartment
Robin Williams reading
Yves Saint Laurent
“Life has been some combination of fairy-tale coincidence and joie de vivre and shocks of beauty together with some hurtful self-questioning.”
from “The unabridged journals of Sylvia Plath”
American college fashion has always influenced designers but the subject is having a big moment with the launch of two books at the same time. One is Seven sisters style by Rebecca Tuite published by Rizzoli. The other is “Dress casual: How college students redefined American style” by Deidre Clemente.
The book takes its name from seven American colleges opened between 1861 and 1889, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley. As written in the book, the Seven sisters colleges were "to be to women what Harvard and Yale are to young men". These were prestigious schools for daughters of a certain elite, definitely intelligent and free-spirited girls who not only strived to obtain academic and athletic success like young men, but also created a very unique way of dressing which has built foundations for the American casual elegance.
"Seven sisters style" takes a deep look into the so called "Preppy style", invented in American colleges’ class rooms. Seven sisters style is not only a fashion statement but is also the way girls challenged the “Ivy league” with their own feminine interpretation of masculine clothing, like jeans, oversize coats, shorts, loafers and of course letterman sweaters. As always fashion was a way of giving a message, this time that of “breaking the rules”. For women of today wearing jeans and shorts is a normal routine, but Seven sisters college girls had to fight for them, in order to be more active in the school and social life. Wearing dirty and worn out jeans was in fact like a revolution. It is particularly interesting to discover that girls didn’t give up the feminine touch by personalizing their jeans with their names or with different fabric patchworks. Remember they were all capable of sewing, unlike us!
Names like Katherine Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy, Sylvia Plath, Meryl Streep all graduated from Seven sisters colleges. What else would you need next to this coolness?
So put your two tone saddle shoes, little white socks, button down blouses and striped scarves on and yes don’t forget the blazer…and read about Seven sisters style.
I would like to read the second book in order to compare them and suggest, but overall I believe Rebecca Tuite’s book is a well written introduction to the world of preppy style and its influence on fashion in general. It definitely makes you want to know more, because you want to know about the creators of this style, more real-life stories… Therefore I checked the references on the book and seems like "The group" by Mary McCarthy is a must read to dive into the lives of Seven sisters girls. You can also read Simone de Beauvoir’s "America day by day" written during her trip to America and to Vassar.
Wellesley school girls in a letter to the editor of Life magazine, November 1944. From the book Seven Sisters Style by Rebecca Tuite published by Rizzoli