Southern preppy style is more than just another fashion trend — it’s a lifestyle. From formal events to the beach to college tailgate parties, you can always spot a southern belle by her polished appearance, warm smile, and affinity for pearl earrings, sweet tea, and anything monogrammed.
Below, we dive into what sets southern preppy style apart from similar styles (like northern collegiate prep), as well as our best tips for incorporating this timeless, flattering style into your wardrobe.
What Is Southern Preppy Style?
Preppy fashion has been around for a long time, which is why it is considered one of the most classic and timeless styles. The look originated in New England during the 1910s at Ivy League colleges and prep schools, with staples like white button-down shirts, blue blazers, penny loafers, sweater vests, and sophisticated prints like tartan and argyle.
Ivy League fashion gained popularity during the 1950s and 1960s as designers began picking up the trend. Soon, preppy style was no longer contained to the Ivy League schools of the northeast — and southerners were quick to put their own local spin on preppy style.
One of the most iconic names in preppy southern fashion, Lilly Pulitzer, began making her bright, colorful printed dresses while operating a fruit juice stand in Palm Beach, Florida. After Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was photographed in one of Lilly’s famous shift dresses, many more southern ladies were eager to show off their own preppy, pastel-hued dresses.
Today, southern preppy fashion remains more colorful and relaxed than the original preppy style that started in New England. When comparing northern preppy vs southern preppy style, there is a definite difference in colors, cuts, patterns, layers, and accessories.
Southern preppy clothes tend to be beachy and resort-inspired; think vibrant prints in a range of pastel colors like teal, soft pink, yellow, and mint green. Seersucker is a highly popular material in the south, where summers are long and hot. Heels and flats are staples for any preppy lady, but southern belles are also known to have at least one pair of preppy sandals (hello, Jack Rogers) in their closet.
By comparison, northern preppy style tends to skew more collegiate and even equestrian (also known as country club prep); for instance, a sweater layered over a crisp button-down, more structured fits, and darker, muted tones like navy, maroon, and charcoal gray. Plaid and stripes have crossed the Mason-Dixon line, but still skew more northern prep compared to the beachy prints of the southeast.
How to Dress Southern Preppy
- Have a shift dress for every occasion. Thanks in large part to Lilly Pulitzer, the shift dress has become a timeless staple in every southern belle’s wardrobe. These southern preppy dresses are perfect for every occasion: birthday parties, graduation ceremonies, Sunday brunch, and so much more.
- Always include a pop of color. Pastel colors are quintessentially southern preppy, but if you want to tone down your look a bit, you can layer a cardigan or fitted jacket over your colorful blouse or dress so just a pop of the bright color peeks through. A splash of color in the form of a purse or lightweight scarf is always a smart choice as well.
- Pearls go with everything. Need we say more? Classic pearl earrings can be paired with anything from a formal gown and heels to an oversized t-shirt and leggings. And of course, we wouldn’t wear anything else on gameday.
- Keep it breezy. The South is hot, y’all — and comfort comes first. Lightweight, breathable fabrics and relaxed fits are key to staying cool and comfortable even on the warmest of days. There’s a reason tunic tops and kimonos are so popular among southern women!
- No print is too bold. Southern preppy brands love their bright, colorful patterns — and so do we! Florals, tie-dye and leopard prints are a must-have for staying in a vacation state of mind year-round. Looking for more fun prints to work into your wardrobe? The Simply Southern preppy collection has you covered.
- Everything can be monogrammed. From jewelry and floppy beach hats to tote bags and scarves, southern preppy ladies love showing off their monogrammed accessories. Yes, even home decor can be monogrammed!
- Comfortable can (and should) be cute. Southern women aren’t afraid to dress casually, but you can be certain they’re always going to keep it cute and polished. Pearl earrings, a baseball cap, and a southern preppy tee with a fun saying or quote is the perfect relaxed look.
- Gameday is a reason to dress up. No tailgate party would be complete without a cute outfit in your team’s colors. A sundress, flats or wedges, a tailgate clear tote, and a pair of oversized sunglasses is the ultimate southern preppy tailgating outfit.
Clearly, we can’t get enough of southern preppy women’s fashion — and fortunately, this look isn’t going out of style anytime soon. We hope these southern preppy style tips have given you a few ideas for your own wardrobe!