“Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through the links below.”
When I talk to Avery Trufelman, the podcaster behind “American Ivy,” I want to ask her about preppiness, but she asks me first: “What do you think the situation is right now?”
Trufelman is used to asking the questions, especially in preparation, the subject of the latest iteration of his fashion-oriented show, AArticles of Interest. At first, she thought she would only do one episode, 20 minutes in the preppy style. But when she began to explore the history of the aesthetic, from its rise in the Ivy League to its influence in Japan to its regular emergence in modernism, she realized that there was more time she needed – 270 minutes, to be exact. In fact, when we speak, she’s still producing this season, trying to decide exactly how to distill all of her ideas into a cohesive, bow-wrapped conclusion for the final episode.
The trouble is that preppy is no longer just preppy. Preppiness is everywhere right now; it goes by different names. You can see it in different trends made up micro TikTok like coastal grandma or tenniscore. There’s also the bespoke aesthetic of Aime Leon Doré and Bode, both brands that make pieces reminiscent of heirlooms dug up at a New England thrift store. And, of course, Miu Miu and Thom Browne have more subversive preparations on the runway, challenging the strict dress codes that have shaped the style. At Miu Miu, skirts can be tiny; at Browne, men wear them.
The fact that each of these trends can be nested under the larger prepping umbrella, Trufelman says, has to do with preppiness being the foundation of how Americans dress. Go back to any American trend (or even brand) to its roots, and you will find preppiness. “We’re the naturally talented athletes who think they don’t need to train. American style is just something we’ve always had,” she says.
“American Ivy” begins with a look at prep style on the Princeton campus, as documented by a popular 1965 Japanese photo book. Take Ivy. Fashion has always been associated with elitism, but Trufelman sees its modern iteration as much more democratic. “You see so many people wearing Polo Ralph Lauren. It’s so popular, it’s so accessible. This is a true demonstration of the way capitalism and democracy are intertwined. We are all a free society; [we wear] whatever we want.”
Trufelman is quick to point out that for many years only a few people had access to these looks: “The way the boys were on the pages of Take Ivy they were dressed … they could dress like that, because they knew all the rules,” she says. “They were literally given their grandfather’s clothes. They felt so confident, and they looked so good. And so, I think that’s what we’re going back to now.” What she means is that people are more interested in personal style now than in years past. “We are so unique in being unique and expressing ourselves in all these little ways,” she says. Finally there is a desire not only for aesthetics, but for knowledge of the what, how and why of that aesthetic.
With the rise of TikTok and Instagram, the tips of the preppy world have never been more accessible to learn, but things like tenniscore or grandma coast can feel more like cosplay than a personal aesthetic. They are hyper-specific focuses that enhance one aspect of preppiness, but not the underlying ease of the idea anymore. That’s why “American Ivy” feels so appropriate right now.
Even in the midst of ongoing trends, Trufelman thinks Ivy’s modern style will always be successful, because it’s so fun to subvert and personalize. “American fashion is making a comeback, and we want to feel like we can play around in the canon a little more,” she says. “That’s why you can wear Bode pants while writing over them. We’re going back to that high level of self-styling. We want it to be tiny.”
Maybe it’s better to include America’s state of preparation if Trufelman asks me about it. There are no right answers; it’s an open discussion, and people seem interested in learning more. And that’s where “American Ivy” comes in. As Trufelman tells me at the end of our conversation, “It’s the great American style, and everyone is diving in right now and figuring out which parts they like.”
Listen to all seven episodes Articles of Interest: “American Ivy” on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
You might like too