Tag Archives: Smathers & Branson

A Conversation With Lisa Birnbach

Hello-Hello, welcome to a Wednursday (Wednesday + Thursday) post, we are so swamped this shall have to count for two days.

Today we share our interview with the woman we call the Grand Pooh-bah of Prep, Lisa Birnbach, the author of True Prep.  Yesterday was the book’s official release date, and we still cannot believe she found time for an interview; some readers may recall Ms. Birnbach’s day started with an appearance on the Today show, and it only grew busier after that.

NBC Universal

To say we were flattered to even be on the interview list, let alone on the book’s first day, would transcend understatement. (We will share a little secret: at the last moment throwing on a strand of pearls seemed prudent, because after all, she *would* be able to tell through the telephone what we were wearing here at the Prepatorium, right down to the accessories.  Somehow. she. would. know.)

Ummm, not exactly. From the outset Ms. Birnbach was warm and witty, if anyone was wooden and stiff… well, yes. It was I. Me. Us. (Whomever, honestly Princess, get a grip!)

Sadly, our first question was truly tasteless, we asked the obvious, what (who) were you wearing on the Today show?  It turns out the ensemble was a combination of new and old, both the skirt and the blouse were Brooks Brothers (although we have to apologize for being a witless wonder right off the bat, one was Black Fleece and the other regular Brooks, but it appears we were quite incapable of properly noting which was which), and the shoes were older Manolos. (Because they are still perfectly good shoes.)

NBC Universal

Almost all of the jewelry was on loan from Verdura, including the Beehive Pendant Watch, not unlike the one shown below in a 2007 Christie’s catalog.

Via Christie's

Verdura is covered in Chapter 4, “I Just Found it in My Closet,” sure to be a favorite for most fans, as it covers the contemporary sartorial choices one confronts in clothing and accessories.  Ms. Birnbach explained a bit of the process for borrowing the jewelry, it is not something undertaken lightly.  As mentioned, not everything was on loan, the pinky ring worn by Ms. Birnbach was her own, marking the occasion of her son’s birth.

We only had one other matter to handle before getting into the meat of the interview, a minor issue we felt compelled to discuss before we could comfortably move into more intense conversation.

TP: “There is just one little thing I need to bring up before we move on, um…well….uh, it’s….ah, it’s just something that is very troubling, actually, it’s fairly traumatic, I think some people might classify it as bordering on tragic. I’m worried it might derail our whole conversation, but have to bring it up anway.”

LB: “Oh, really? What is it??”

TP: “The Top-Siders featured on the Today show this morning.”

LB: “The Top-Siders are tragic? How are the Top-Siders tragic?”

TP: “They’re metallic.”

(As a brief refresher, below we share a snippet from our post on the topic earlier this year:

“The women’s Original 2-Eye metallic boat shoe seen below is at Crew, offered in platinum.

J. Crew/Sperry Top-Sider

(TP has stepped away for the moment, she is struggling with the word ‘metallic’ adjacent to the words ‘boat shoe’.)”

There, enough of that tedious blather the background, now back to yesterday’s conversation.

Ms. Birnbach was gracious in responding to our angst about the shoes.

LB: “Susan, let’s talk about this, allright? I know what you’re saying, I really do. But the metallic Top-Siders are sort of like the bad boy in school. You remember? You knew he was not the guy for you, you absolutely knew he was not the guy, and you may even have been repelled by him, but at the same time, there was this attraction, something drawing you toward him. I think the Top-Siders are kind of like the bad boy.  I’m not saying you should get them. I’m just saying I’m open to new ideas.”

TP: “Oh. Okay.” (Heh, heh, heh.)

Of course that exchange was understood by both parties as being in jest. Fun. Funny. Entirely couched in humor, intended to be taken as such, and returned in the same vein.

And Ms. Birnbach is *very* funny, immediately grasping the enormity of a “Princess tragedies” on the level of a metallic Top-Sider. This was helpful, allowing us to feel safe bringing up the next crisis.

TP: Since we’ve dealt with the shoe, can we talk about the skull? Did you see the CBS Early Show Monday morning, that segment on hypothetical Preppy Fashion? They said ‘The new preppy icon is the skull.” What is up with that?!” (Insert a full blast of righteous indignation to achieve the proper sense of total outrage.)

LB: “The skull? No, no, no.  Just no.  The skull of course, is rugby.  And rugby and preps do go back. It’s the Jolly Roger pirate, it’s everywhere, Smathers and Branson have the pirate, all sorts of things have the pirate, the Jolly Roger is everywhere. But it isn’t the new preppy icon.”

Phew. Another close one.

For a sense of that CBS story, here is one line:

“After lying low in the nineties, preppy has once again reinvented itself, this time led by pop stars and gossip girls.”

Indeed.

During the interview we had a splendid talk about the breadth of choices available these days when looking at clothing and accessories, from relative newcomers like Smathers and Branson or Tucker Blair for needlepoint goodies, or Vineyard Vines, to old standbys like Brooks Brothers and Lilly Pulitzer.  The number of bright, gifted entrepreneurs now making things appealing to preps of all ages continues to grow.

The writer shared a story about her own preppy look from years ago when she had one of her very first jobs in the business, this one at the oh-so-liberal (the horror) Village Voice newspaper.  As might be expected, the style was très casual, everyone dressed down. Way, way down. What was a prep to do? Ms. Birnbach went wild, and purchased a Lacoste polo shirt. In black.

No one will be surprised to learn we had fun talking about the Anti-Prep Wall of Shame, we sensed unspoken approval of our existing members. For the uninitiated, this select group includes both humans (think Paris Hilton), as well as other entities (Abercrombie & Fitch) displaying gross negligence to standards of good taste, good manners, or basic decency .  The conversation moved on to the sorry state of what passes for “celebrity” these days.

“Doesn’t anybody miss the day when you actually had to accomplish something to be a celebrity? What is it that says being on a reality tv show makes someone a celebrity or authority on life?”

Amen.

We talked about the challenge of writing True Prep. It was not easy, the enormity of following an iconic book like The Original Preppy Handbook was more than daunting.

“It is scary to come out with this book, it really is.  The writing part itself, the sitting down and typing the words actually wasn’t the difficult part… it was the going through the day, trying to look at every single thing that could have changed in the last thirty years…that part was hard. I hope people have fun with it, I hope they enjoy it, I always worry.

We also chatted about what I perceive as the challenge of the upcoming book tour and other public appearances, almost everyone approaching with a “Why didn’t you include _____________________ in the chapter on preppy colleges?” Or, “I cannot believe you think that _______________ is preppy.”  Miss Birnbach explained that she is not saying absolutely, unequivocally, that a certain school, or community, or club, or sport, or item of clothing, or anything else is the “one and only.” Nor that it should be. And she also said she learns an awful lot when from questions and comments, she very much sees the process as a learning experience.

Again, we stress the fun factor, using the following as a brief example of the writing style:

On thrift:
Do keep repairing old appliances to try to extend their lives. Don’t store them on your front porch or driveway.”

It is very much like the witty irreverence found in TOPH back in 1980.

As far as we’re concerned herein lies the crux of the interview, as well as the new book, the old book, and the entire topic: this is not meant to be taken seriously now, nor was it ever intended to be.  A simple look at the book’s classification makes things clear.

humor, n.

  1. The quality that makes something laughable or amusing; funniness: could not see the humor of the situation.
  2. That which is intended to induce laughter or amusement: a writer skilled at crafting humor.

Both True Prep and its predecessor, TOPH (The Original Preppy Handbook) are meant to be humorous, one need look no further than the chapter and section titles: “Rehab: The New Boarding School,” “What Happened to Mummy’s Face?” and “Truly, Madly, Deeply Preppy: The Second Wedding.”

We didn’t have enough time to cover a few of our most whined-about issues favorite topics, like the documented increase in diagnosed cases of Logophobia, or the deplorable loss of civility accompanying all this new technology (need we even say the c— p—- words), nor were we able to get a verdict on things like Spanx, or an even bigger issue: the Snuggie. (What do you think of one for… oh, let’s say Groton, or perhaps Spence?)

In wrapping up the conversation Ms. Birnbach mentioned the possibility of another gabfest at some point in the future, something we would enjoy enormously. She is much more than fun, and bright, and sophisticated, she is simply a delight to spend time with.

Perhaps the best way to understand Ms. Birnbach is through her simple post last night on the True Prep Facebook page, an example of very few words saying quite a bit.

“I hope all of you enjoy the book. I’m under a lot of pressure to make you happy. I’m a giver, but I’m only one slightly used preppy woman. Hoping you all have a great DAY ONE. xLisa

One quick note before leaving, if there are questions you might have for Lisa, do leave them in a comment; we’ll gather them up in a bit and put them aside for a future (cross your fingers) conversation with Ms. Birnbach in the next few months.  Again, our thanks to Lisa Birnbach, and also to Sara at Random House, they made things fun.

Until next time, g’bye!

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Filed under Lilly Pulitzer Paper & Gifts, Logos, preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, The AntiPrep, True Prep & TOPH

The Princess Has a New Hero

Hello-Hello and happy Thursday!

Things here in the Corner Condo are crazy-busy, so our post is once again more fluff than stuff (translation: more photos than prose).

We start with a look at today’s story in the Times about a classic prep item, the needlepoint belt. “Belts That Spare Muffy the Heartbreak” is a delightful read; it begins with a bit of background on the phenomenon for those not as familiar with the topic.

“THEY used to call it the breakup belt. Women (and it has always been women) of a certain sort and class historically committed themselves to memorializing the bonds of a relationship by stitching a needlepoint belt for the Loved One.”

The focus of the story is Smathers & Branson, below we show a sampling of belts from the firm.

We simply adore the treatment Guy Trebay gives the topic, especially this sentence: 

“…despite the sartorial horrors visited on us lately under the guise of a preppy revival,

Thank you, thank you, thank you Mr. Trebay, you are definitely our new hero at the Prepatorium.  Frequent readers know of the incessant whining and caterwauling occasional concerns shared in this space about the merchandise passing for prep these days, and “sartorial horrors” is a perfect description.  Back to your story:

“… needlepoint belts are jaunty and casual but also so clearly handmade that they achieve an offhand formality equally suitable for wear with shorts or a summer suit. Anyway, the best ones do.”

We are fond of almost every style, but especially like the Islander, the Dark ‘n Stormy, as well as the Elephants with Martinis.

The company also offers a collegiate series.

Back to Mr. Trebay’s story, and his explanation for focusing on Smathers & Branson.

“Other labels were there already: J. McLaughlin, Vineyard Vines and the neo-preppy Tucker Blair all offer their own ranges of hand-stitched needlepoint products. But unlike the competition, Smathers & Branson both indulges the preppy clichés (burgees and Labrador retrievers) and takes a sly wink at them.”

The cummerbund, ample evidence of that wink.

We recommend reading the story in full, our synopsis really can’t do it justice.

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A story in today’s Post provides a clue on today’s other topic of note: “Why We Love Don Draper“. SPOILER ALERT: Do NOT click on the link if you don’t want to know about Sunday’s episode!

Below we see Don actor Jon Hamm at Tuesday night’s premiere of Mad Men Season 4 in Los Angeles.

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Although the new season doesn’t debut to the public until Sunday night, a select few were on hand for Tuesday’s event, including Mr. Hamm’s costars Elizabeth Moss (L) and Christina Hendricks.

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

We aren’t going to mention any names, but some friends are even counting down until the show is on the air.

Courtesy of the Divine Miss ATS&P

Perhaps the most catching image is that of little Sally Draper at Tuesday’s sneak peek.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

Actress Kiernan Shipka looks so different from last season!

Back to that story in the Post:

“So, what’s his appeal? Simple. Don Draper represents, in his repressed way, everything we’re either not supposed to do or are even allowed to do anymore.

He smokes fantastic amounts at work, in restaurants, at home and in the car with his kids.

He drinks at lunch, at work, at home and before getting into his car. He’d rather have sex than babysit.

His favorite food group is steer.”

Hmmm, it probably is a sensible theory. We aren’t exactly into all the analysis about why we watch, we just watch, proof positive that behind the moat and drawbridge, we’re just a couple of simpletons lolling about the Palace! (Heh, heh, heh.)

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We leave you with a Sales & Savings opportunity.

Courtesy Target

Le Boutique Targét is playing upon the Black Friday insanity, and doing an online only promotion, Back in Black Friday tomorrow.

Until next time, g’bye!

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Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, Sales & Savings

Brooks Brothers + Mad Men = Limited Edition Suit

Hello-Hello and happy Thursday!

We are attempting to get things back to normal here at Princess InterGalactic HQ following yesterday’s little hiccup. That incident is going to require more time and attention (there are many items no longer as frozen as they once were), thus we shall be brief today.

How are we all feeling about a Don Draperish suit for the man of the house? It seems there will soon be an opportunity to acquire one: Brooks Brothers and Mad Men costume director Janie Bryant have collaborated on a men’s suit.  WWD describes the look as “…inspired by Draper and the other well-dressed cads at fictional ad firm Sterling Cooper”.  We don’t know about you, but ‘cad’ is one of our alltime favorite words.

The limited edition suit will be available online and at 10 Brooks Brothers stores beginning October 19 through the show’s final episode November 8, but one can’t speculate how long the inventory will last, as only 250 of the Brooks suits have been made. Fans may recall that Ms. Bryant is an Emmy winner for her direction of the show’s costumes, we really are quite intrigued, and eager to see this creation.

As we’re talking about the Drapers, how did everyone like Betty’s updo for her romantic dinner with Don during their “Roman Holiday”?

Carin Baer/AMC-TV

Carin Baer/AMC-TV

We also liked the earrings Betty wore, oh-so-60s!

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Our next tidbit is also related to a television show, but in this case the focus is on an actress from the show, Kelly Rutherford of Gossip Girl. Monday’s Droolicious post is titled “Kelly Rutherford and Hermes Go Preppy“:

91005P2_RUTHERFORD_B-GR_02_1

Droolicious

From the story:

“Well aren’t they a preppy site? Gossip Girl mom Kelly Rutherford was spotted in Manhattan strolling with her almost three year old son Hermes. With her tan Hermes handbag (the other Hermes), tweed coat and LL Bean boat bag, Kelly totally goes for that collegiate look. And for son Hermes? He pulls his own preppiness and rides in a plaid detailed Maclaren stroller.”

‘Pulls his own preppiness’ is a phrase we’ve not heard previously.

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It’s time for a big thumbs-up to the young men at the helm of Smathers and Branson, Peter Smathers Carter and Austin Branson. The two made Inc. magazine’s “30 Under 30” list of young entrepreneurs.

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

It is likely their products are more recognizeable than their faces, with gems like the Pink & White Houndstooth Coin Purse, today’s Pretty in Pink.

Of course that is but one example of their fabulous needlepoint merchandise, many might find their traditional needlepoint belts to be more familiar.

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We do adore their products.

With that we say g’bye until next time, may your afternoon and evening be calm and soothing.

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Filed under Gossip Girl, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, Pretty in Pink

The ‘Preppy Look is Back’. Again.

Happy New Week everyone, did you enjoy your Saturday and Sunday? We hope so, even as we start our Monday here at the Prepatorium with snow swirling outside, and more on the way.  Ickums as we are wont to say, major ickums.

We had to smile this weekend at seeing more headlines proclaiming “The preppy look is back this spring,” according to the Buffalo News.

“Preppy plaids, stripes, polka dots, vibrant colors and, yes, even those motif belts (whales, anyone?) are comfortably at home among the boho chic and other popular looks of the season.”

“Preppy is back. You can bet your Bermudas on it.”

To be fair, Susan Martin, the story’s writer, qualifies the declaration made in the headline:

“Not that those popular preppy staples ever went out of style.”

Perzactly.

One of the stores mentioned in the story is O’Connell’s Clothing, a Buffalo institution. (TP believes anything older than she is now qualifies as an institution.) O’Connell’s carries one of our favorite lines, the fine needlepoint pieces from Smathers & Branson.

Smathers & Branson at O'Connell's
Smathers & Branson at O’Connell’s

The article includes needlepoint belts and madras ties on its list of fashionable items this season. We are also taken with the Blue Madras tie at O’Connell’s.

O’Connell’s

The story cites television’s Mad Men and Gossip Girl shows as contributors to the style’s growing popularity.  We would suggest that the bright colors and fun nature of ‘prep style’ add to its positive perception, particularly at a time when much of the day’s news deals with realities both dreary and difficult for many.

Lilly Pulitzer at Zappos.com
Lilly Pulitzer at Zappos.com

After all, if what we wear can’t contribute to enjoying a brighter day, why bother putting it on? Above, the Lilly Pulitzer Girls’ Cherry Taffeta Dress at Zappos. Below, the Nancy Argyle Sweater at Lilly Pulitzer in both pink and true navy.

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TP also believes the tailored lines and classic looks that define the style enhance its favorable perception among fashion mavens and adherents. And we would point out that not everything is as garishly technicolor as described in some quarters.

"Cutie from Bermud-y"2015

Above left is Lilly Pulitzer’s “Cutie from Bermud-y” look, center is “Prep it Up” and right is “Short and Sweet.” All pieces from these looks are available at LillyPulitzer.com.

Not to belabor issues surrounding the economy’s impact on what are generally considered discretionary purchases, but many a prep has long appreciated the durability and high quality delivered by most ‘preppy retailers’ to be a significant factor in their favor.  (Below left, the J. Press Cotton Chambray Sport Coat TP’s father wore forever, and on the right, the Cotton Madras Sport Coat, also from J. Press.)

red-sport-coat-001webonly09001-1

Of course, we haven’t even mentioned the positive consequence resulting from the superb customer service practiced at most retailers in this category.  As most of our cherished readers are aware, this high level of service only makes us more loyal to such emporiums.  We *do* adore many national and regional retailers, but the independent clothiers whose establishments we have been fortunate enough to frequent over the years have been outstanding.  Many are struggling as this is written; far too many have already disappeared.  We have a fervent hope they survive, and then thrive once again.

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For today’s Pretty in Pink we have a couple of treasures, starting with the Kameryn Pink Brogue at Topshop.

Kameryn Brogue at Topshop
Kameryn Brogue at Topshop

Now there we share some serious pink! We must tell you however, we deserve no credit whatsoever for discovering these.  That goes to the delightful Kate Loss in her blog post “Wanting What You Can’t Have,” an excellent read!

Our other item is really a ‘Pretty in Pink and Green,” featuring our very own Silly Tilly in her stylish new harness.

Silly Tilly
Silly Tilly

Among Tilly’s many ailments is a collapsed trachea, so a harness is ever-so-much-better for her than a standard collar.  This is one from our new line of ‘Design Your Own Collars, Harnesses, & Leashes‘ at the store.

Design Your Own! at Preppy Princess
Design Your Own! at Preppy Princess

Tilly was adamant about having the ribbon with the little paw prints, and in this specific color combination. Who are we to deny her? (Heh-heh-heh.)

On this perky note we’ll say G’bye until next time!

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Filed under Argyle, Gossip Girl, nautical, preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, Pretty in Pink