The Color of Prep: Accessories in Pink, Green & Old Money

updated Jul 23, 2020
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When you type “preppy” into Google you get a screen full of pink and green — colors that seem incongruous alongside plaid, grosgrain, LL Bean, nautical motifs and the other more sober and staid symbols of preppiness (which is making a big comeback, by the way). So, why pink and green?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

In a fascinating post on his blog Ivy Style, Christian Chensvold puts these iconic colors into historical perspective. The article quotes a 1976 Esquire article in which author Tom Wolfe describes preppy Bostonians summering in Martha’s Vineyard:

“The jackets were mostly navy blazers, and the ties were mostly striped ties or ties with little jacquard emblems on them, but the pants had a go-to-hell air: checks and plaids of the loudest possible sort, madras plaids, yellow-on-orange windowpane checks, crazy-quilt plaids, giant houndstooth checks, or else they were a solid airmail red or taxi yellow or some other implausible go-to-hell color. They finished that off with loafers and white crew socks or no socks at all.”

Why did the Brahmin, old-moneyed elite of New England confidently don such “go-to-hell” colors? In part because “colorful sportswear signals the wearer is at play, not work. Easily soiled, the clothing is thus impractical, making it a symbol of both conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure.” These were, after all, the people who made “summer” a verb.

When it comes to preppy home decor, the same may be true. Preppy homes are very traditional, old money affairs, full of antiques passed down from elite forefathers, faded oriental rugs, rustic and practical outdoorsy accessories. Sailing, camping and hunting motifs abound. Worn plaid throws rest upon faded leather Chesterfields. You get the picture. And then there’s the pink and green. The bright, playful “go-to-hell” colors of the home, unabashedly popping out in the form of wastepaper baskets, quilts, knick-knacks.

1 Cape Madras pillow, $42 and up.
2 French Bull, $15.
3 Thomas Paul coasters, Velocity Art and Design, $16.
4 Jonathan Adler desk dock organizer at Preppy Princess, $24.50.
5 Grosgrain napkin rings at Social Couture, $20 for set of 8.

6 Lilly Pulitzer melamine plates at Preppy Princess, $9.50.
7 Outlet cover from Loxlee Designs, $4 each.
8 Vintage garden stool, Circa Who, $250.
9 Lilly Pulitzer Home at Garnet Hill.
10 X-bench in red Sunbrella fabric, Ballard Designs, $239.

11 Serena and Lily.
12 Brooks Brothers pillows.
13 Monogramed coaster, iomoi, $26.
14 Doorstop, Uncommon Goods, $40.
15 Well Appointed House, $200.