Privilege Blog

Do You Embrace Your Heritage Style?

I might have titled this post, As Preppy As I’m Ever Going To Get.

We’ve all got some sort of heritage style. Maybe your Grandma had grand panache? Maybe your great-aunt refused to stop wearing hairnets? True story, that one.

Pause to reflect and honor the past.

In my case, the heritage is straight-up New England preppy. Which I avoid, truth be told, as respectfully as I can. Too much baggage, too much repression for a native blurter like me, wrapped up in a culture too heavily patriarchal.

But occasionally, clad in my grandmother’s Harris tweed jacket, and a cream-colored, generic-label cableknit turtleneck, I approach Prep Canyon. The culture is good at wool, after all. Excellent at refined and disciplined silhouettes. I look over the Hail Fellow Well Met edge. Teeter on the brink. And then pull on bootleg 7 for All Mankind jeans, a pair of two-tone heels, and step away. Towards Northern California, where we mix prep with 1970s college kid. True Preps would wear this outfit with straight-leg cords and cordovan loafers.

The dance with one’s heritage is always a two-step, is it not?

This week I’m joining the admirable Not Dead Yet Style in Visible Monday. Please go visit the rest of the crew, if you’ve got time. It’s a gathering of no-longer-twenty-year olds, vowing to emerge from invisibility.

52 Responses

  1. Hello, am I the first?

    If I embraced my heritage style I would always be clad in navy blue pleated skirts with a white blouse and a navy cardigan.

    oh and knee socks and oxfords.

    Though I imagine the daily wearing of blue jeans comes pretty close to the original outfit.

    I often throw in a dash of prep for good measure.

    Is Prep Canyon close to Fiscal Crisis? Shouting distance?

    xo Jane

  2. During a brief and misguided period in my late 20s and into my 30s I decided that I would break out of my preppy/Ivy leagye/WASP dressing heritage and become sartorially modern and with it. The results were most embarassingly unfortunate, and I hope that all photographs from that period have been destroyed, as they are worthy of black mail. With the expectation that not all of them have been, I shall refrain from ever running for public office as the publicity would be ruinous, should any of the images come to light. What WAS I thinking?!?! RD

  3. I like a bit of prep and this looks great. You’ve provided inspiration for my own off white sweater.
    I think the cords and loafers look would be cool too.
    I’ve just this year began wearing button downs and am recalling that my mother (and grandmother) wore them a lot. Funny I never seemed to remember that or really take notice before. And now wearing them somehow makes me feel a connection with her…or have more of an appreciation of her style. I no longer live near her and it somehow helps me feel closer in a some way.

  4. That is your grandmothers jacket? How luckily stylish you are. You look great whether you are Eastern, Northern Western or Southern.

  5. I do admire a sort of inherited style with a twist and my dear your heritage speaks volumes. That tweed Jacket is marvelous. I would dress her up and take her out.
    I wore my Grandmother’s Navy Wool Ottoman suit on my Honeymoon flight.

  6. I think my heritage style would be either the homemade housedresses and laceup shoes that my farmer grandmother wore or the polyester, elastic-waist pants and wildly patterned shirts that my other grandmother wore. Blesstheirhearts.

    Granma #2 was never without done hair, red nails, and red lipstick. I mean, NEVER. So when she died and I saw her in the casket with a ring on every finger, red nails, and pink lips, I knew we couldn’t send her off like that.

    My females cousins, my aunts, my mom and my sister agreed: we had never seen her without red, red lipstick. “There must have been 12 tubes of it in her bathroom,” my aunt Pat said.

    Which was when my friend Ilene, who had come to the funeral with me to see how a small Midwestern town Catholic funeral goes (casseroles and salads – and Snickers salad is a salad – in the church basement after the service), volunteered to use her red lipstick to touch up my grandma’s makeup.

    “I had to touch dead bodies in med school,” she said matter of factly. “I don’t mind.”

    She took out her lipstick and carefully applied it to Grandma as the rest of us formed a protective cordon around the casket. We turned and looked: My grandmother looked like her ungapatchkeyed self again. And Ilene earned the eternal gratitude of my family.

  7. I love that jacket, and how cool that it was your grandmothers! And that cream turtleneck sweater, looks so cozy and great with it. Although I was born and raised in LA, my mother dressed me in a very New England/WASPY sort of way, and she and my grandmother both dressed that way as well. I haven’t strayed too far from it, but I try hard to mix it with an “edge”.

  8. You wear New England prep so beautifully, Lisa. And thank you for sharing your post with Visible Monday – you raise a fascinating style question. I lived in New England for about 10 years and still adore tweed jackets and cozy sweaters.

  9. You will be part of the county set here in the Shires,we all love our HT especially when it is inherited.

    Mine is more green/brown,don’t they age well,your G/mother must have been slim also.

    Those are my every day type of clothes,except for the polo neck jumpers,and jeans,I wear beige slim legged chinos.
    I still wear velvet headbands,pearls, and worst of all I have one twinset cannot seem to escape the sloanie heritage….in the countryside only.

    You look good gel proof that our heritage stands the test of time.Interesting post as always.Ida

  10. Sorry writing off topic, but that jacket of your´s has great potential in it!
    Dare I even say, that were I you, I´d have it altered to perfect fit, and wear it as such, maybe only with a hint of top under.
    The jacket would have to be silk lined naturally.

  11. What a gorgeous swath of tweed! I like prep except when the accoutrements are the same as an 9 yr old girl would wear: velvet headbands, tiny babyteeth pearls, patent maryjanes, trousers embroidered with animals. Those clothes infantalize grown women.

    There is an asexual aspect to prep, but some women have such allure that they hint at depths below. I am not such a woman; If I get dressed and realize 85% of what I have on could also be worn by a boy at prep school, I change.

  12. I grew up in northeastern Wisconsin, not wealthy, and I’m somewhat afraid that my “heritage style” may be polyester doubleknit grandma pantsuits, or bedazzled Christmas sweatshirts. None of us was ever particularly stylish. I do embrace the rugged practicality and modesty of my homeland — flat shoes, longish skirts and dresses — and I still have a hard time not picking my clothes for imaginary Wisconsin winters.

  13. My heritage is accessories. My grandmother had a cadre of personal shoppers who knew her style and found her suits and dresses. She glamorized them with her own imprimatur: stunning pieces of jewelry, hats, handbags, shoes. As a child, I spent lots of time with her in the cavernous department stores of yore, soaking up the process by which she chose such accoutrements. Never leave the house today without a touch of something to complement whatever I am an clad in, be it gym shorts or a dress!

  14. Goldigger and I may have had the same grandmothers: housedresses on one side and polyester pants with bright colored tops on the other. My mother has a more refined and expensive style, but she goes for way more bright color, bling and jewelry than I feel comfortable with on myself. Maybe this is why I, in my fifties, haven’t quite figured out my own style.

  15. Well now, you know I am going to love this topic. The jacket is sublime, not only in how elegantly you wear it, but the history, the heritage of the piece. (Said as someone with some vintage Harris Tweed on hand, although most came via estate sales.)
    No one would be surprised to see that we have a plethora of pearl necklaces here at the Prepatorium, as well as twin sets, Topsiders, etc.
    I was fortunate in being able to do the slightly sophisticated black and pearls for years while doing the corporate career thing. Like Reggie, any effort now to veer away from the standard prep uniform would only be disastrous for me, it’s kind of like Popeye, “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.”
    Love how chic you look!

  16. Just bought my husband a Harris Tweed hat. No historical panache, but a nice hat just the same. TPP, I think we could swap closets and never notice. You, Lisa give a much edgier feel to the old school look. Go Lisa!

  17. Both of my grandmothers were considerably flashier than I ever will be, but every now and then I find myself inexplicably drawn to something I think one of them would choose. And of course this makes me smile, even if I don’t actually buy it.

  18. That was the best story ever about the grandma and the red lipstick. My family is from the midwest,(although I was raised as an eastern episcopalian wasp) where it is still a challenge to find a good green salad at funerals! A veritable sea of jello, strange miracle whip salads and polyester. Aaaargh! So glad I live in Northern Cal. One of the last hold outs of old hippies.

    You’ve proved Lisa, that you can never go wrong with tweed. Awesome jacket!!

  19. I am considering my heritage style. I had two beloved grandmothers, both of whom were huge influences in my life. Both were farm wives. I’ll comment on my paternal grandmother, born in the early 1880s. She was ahead of her time, being both green and minimalist. She had a small closet in her farmhouse. She NEVER owned more than seven dresses at any one time (and never wore trousers in her life). She made all her dresses from the same pattern–only the fabric changed–and, up until a certain time, flour sacks provided all the fabric. Her dresses were shirtwaist and simple. If she made a new one, an old one was donated. She did wear “ear screws” and brooches. Her hair was long and in a bun. Her shoes were black and laced. Recently, I did a double take looking at a photo I have of her. I calculated that she was about 60 in the photo. It was me! Of course she wore no makeup and dressed in a matronly manner and never worried about her weight. If I dressed like she did, I would be seen as some sort of Mennonite wannabe in Dallas, Texas.

    As much as I love my family, I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have come from more sophisticated stock–and what would it have been like to have had a grandmother who knew fashion, jewelry, and erudition. I have to be satisfied with homespun wisdom and great recipes for black bottom pie. Perhaps it is an even trade.

  20. My sartorial heritage is not quite so clear cut. My father maintained a kind of prep style that I suppose he picked up at Princeton (as did his brother) and which fit him perfectly, but as for female role models, i had polyester pant-suits and house dresses on one side and full-on Southern Grand Dame on the other. Mixed in with that is the West Texas western style I was surrounded by in my youth and the full-on preppy which was prevalent during my time at Vassar, but with which I never felt quite comfortable. No wonder I am confused.

    I love your outfit though. That is about as close to preppy as I personally would manage, and it a combination of pieces that I would actually wear, although I’d have to add a large dramatic necklace as a nod to my own sartorial roots and my paternal grandmother, from whom I inherited far more than my name.

  21. What a wonderful jacket, Lisa. I am still sad about the mysterious disappearance of my great-grandmother’s camel hair coat from my granny’s upstairs closet, in about 1980. Some losses are just raw forever.
    That camel hair coat (which I doubt she needed very often in upstate SC) was a visual reminder of my g-gran’s style. She was always “done”. I never saw her without her hair just so, in a dress, hose, and heels. Even on Saturday mornings.
    I have fallen a bit far from that particular sartorial tree. Hose, heels, and a dress on a Saturday before 5pm? Only for a funeral- for someone I *really* liked.

  22. @GoldDigger What a great story! @Susan Your grandmothers are similar to mine. Both came by boat from Italy. Both wore corsettes, floral cotton dresses with full aprons each day, cooking endlessly, or so it seemed. They cured their own olives, made apricot and peach jam from their trees, and Pizzelle cookies one at a time with an iron over the stove. Then there was the pastas and sauces.

    @Lisa Your grandmother knew how to select a tweed – the snippets of color allow it to go with anything, and you wear it so beautifully! You look sophisticated and comfortable. How lucky you are to have a grandmother with such wonderful taste!

  23. As I was perusing Patti’s Visible Mondays I stopped on yours because I saw you wearing “my uniform”. I guess I didn’t realize jeans, a blazer of whatever fabric & sweater was preppy. I always add a flower pin or an old brooch and a cool scarf and heels to mix it up. I love your blazer. I laughed at some of the responses on heritage style. All my clothes would be home sewn shirt waist dresses(gave that up long ago) and they would include gloves and a hat. My grandmother was a preacher that dressed as well as she could afford, she wore heels until she was in a wheel chair and hats until the 70s and I treasure the ones I inherited. A hat wearer I am not, but I shall be buried in a blazer, a scarf and a brooch. My mother in law who would not make it past the fashion police ALWAYS wore a brooch and I was quick to find a brooch to add to her outfit after she died. Thanks for a great post.

  24. That’s a great look. My mother woudn’t have called it preppy, she would have called it classic. Oh, except or the jeans.
    My heritage style looked like a parochial school uniform. However, I never went to parochial school.
    You ‘re lucky you can wear you forebears’ clothes. My grandmother was four inches shorter and my mother is about 40 pounds heavier than me. Oh well.

  25. Really like this look Lisa . I have some HTs too but would swap for yours , lovely colours – like a misty Scottish morning . Can’t understand someone saying it needed altering , they shouldn’t really be too neat in fit , I feel ,as they sort of replace a proper coat . They are warm enough & generally cope with wettish weather well – what they were made for , plus you do need room for a chunky wool jumper if really cold . I was told by an expert that they are better as they get older as they shape to your body after a little weathering .

  26. I’m not quite sure if I have a heritage style. My parents both dressed more to cover and disguise the size of their bodies than anything and I don’t really remember my grandmothers dressing much differently growing up.

    One thing stylewise I have taken from my mom is a love of statement pieces. She’s known for her offbeat jewellery (and sometimes tops, but rarely) and having a few pieces that stand out as being huge, unusual and extremely “her”. My statement clothes are much simpler and low key than my mom’s, but I do carefully collect a few pieces here and there that are completely unusual.

  27. Everyone! These are wonderful stories! Thank you SO MUCH for contributing. I’m going to take thoughts of your grandmothers me off to work now:).

  28. Hello Lisa! So glad I found you as a first time visitor. I’ll be back. We share an interest in the ideas around what we choose to wear, and I especially appreciate someone who can think and type with tongue so firmly lodged in cheek. Thanks for the very interesting and entertaining post. You look like you belong in your influences, and are looking patrician, just Prep enough to honor the inheritance and take on anything the day might bring. Anything from burying the cat to lunch with friends. Now that’s an ensemble.
    I wrote about my own inheritance-influences in a post last week … you might wish to see it (or not ! ) at

    I loved visiting.

  29. Yep, although I embrace prep as a genre, I equally embrace rock chick, bohemian, and grande dame on alternating days. The trick is balance. I like to assemble a look, then mess up its hair a bit….in the case of prep, I find that I like the clothes to fit better than traditional boxy preppy clothes do, add something edgy to make it more me, and not just a uniform that tells the world what tribe I belong to.

  30. Your smile in this post is lovely! I’m wondering if the photo was taken right before that exciting trip to the airport to fetch the East Coasters. Have a lovely Thanksgiving.

    1. And the impending trip caused the smile. (You can see I’m preoccupied with my own arriving family!)

  31. Your outfit makes me think of an October day in beautiful Donegal.
    I can almost smell the turf.
    Can’t think of anything less preppy but you look great

  32. I’m a huuuuge fan of the turtleneck, jeans and tweed jacket ( or blazer ) combo :)

    Perfect wear for ” Casual Friday ” and then out to dinner, drinks or a movie after.

Comments are closed.