Pinnies & Pearls: The Preppiest Schools

Where Lilly Pulitzer is always in and Sperrys are the norm, these preppy schools take their style seriously. With mottos like “guys in ties, girls in pearls” and nicknames like “J.Crew U,” you know you’ll find grade A prepsters at these 10 schools, probably Longchamp or Vineyard Vines bag in hand.

10. GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY (Washington, D.C.)


When a Georgetown alumna dedicates an entire blog to preppy style, you know this ranking is well-deserved. If you visit The Tombs, a popular hangout for students, you’ll see guys rocking Sperrys and salmon shorts and girls carrying their designer bags. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since the university is known for attracting “aspiring Senators, presidents and D.C. socialites.”

It was also rated the #1 preppiest college by Huffington Post in 2012, probably because the majority of Hoyas love to shop on M Street at places like Barbour, J.Crew and Kate Spade. Whether Georgetown students are socializing at a tailgate or heading to class, you know they’re dressed to impress.

9. MIAMI UNIVERSITY OF OHIO (Oxford, Ohio)


Nicknamed “J.Crew U” and “the mother of fraternities,” Miami University of Ohio gets an A+ for its preppy style. It’s a place where North Face jackets and UGG boots are a must in the winter, and boat shoes and sundresses are staples for the summer. It’s not uncommon to see guys in khakis and button downs on a normal day either. Oh, and 85 percent of the student body receives emails from J.Crew.

Preppiness is usually associated with Ivy League schools, but Miami of Ohio fits the stereotype because it was officially named a “Public Ivy by Richard Moll in his 1985 book The Public Ivys: A Guide to America’s Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities. Plus, the students like to consider their school the Harvard of the Midwest. Can’t get much preppier than that.

8. TRINITY COLLEGE (Hartford, CT)


With Chatham, Harwich Port, Montauk and Nantucket close by, it’s easy for Trinity students to get their preppy style fix. J. McLaughlin, Tory Burch and Sail to Sable (which was started by a Trinity grad!) are all popular stores for students to get their prep on.

Trinity was also named the preppiest school in New England in True Prep by Lisa Birnbach, aka the bible of all things preppy. “I have to stand by my decision,” Birnbach told the Trinity Tripod in 2011.  “I’m willing to say that Trinity is the preppiest school in New England.”

Even one of Trinity’s HC writers, Molly Schineller, wrote an entire article on how her college made her preppy. Take it from Molly; sometimes you just have to embrace the Sperrys.

7. ELON UNIVERSITY (Elon, NC)


Known for its strong Greek life and good-looking student population, Elon University was an easy pick for this year’s preppy list.

When you're exploring Elon's manicured campus, chances are you'll run into collegiettes wearing Lilly Pulitzer dresses and guys sporting Vineyard Vines and Sperry's. The vibe you get when walking around campus is that the majority of the student body is preppy and put together. 

Where it’s a sin to wear pajamas to class, and there’s an unspoken rule to rock a sundress to a tailgate, Elon is the perfect school for northern and southern prepsters alike.

6. FURMAN UNIVERSITY (Greenville, SC)


Located in Greenville, S.C., Furman University is a small southern school with a big preppy punch. It’s also known as the “Country Club of the South,” where terms like “sororadorable” and “frat-tastic” are common amongst students.

According to College Prowler Off The Record, “Furman has an unusually attractive student body. People work out all the time and generally dress rather well for classes. It’s a preppy school, so if you like the country club, Lily Pulitzer, Ralph Lauren look then” Furman is the place for you.

Girls, if you’re looking for the perfect outfit for a tailgate or formal, you can stop by Pink Bee, a popular store in Greenville that sells Lilly Pulitzer, Vineyard Vines and Barbour. Guys, just stick to bowties and you’ll fit right in.

5. PRINCETON UNIVERSITY (Princeton, NJ)


This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one Ivy League school. One of the preppiest and most popular events during the year is “Spring Lawnparties,” which are basically an excuse for girls to break out their sundresses and guys, their bow ties. If you check out Ajibike Lapite’s fashion article on Princeton’s Her Campus chapter page, you’ll find countless photos of Princeton students rocking pastels, cardigans and button downs.

Good thing for these Ivy League students, preppy fashion is never hard to find considering the proximity of J.Crew and Ralph Lauren stores, as well as some Princeton exclusive boutiques like Nick Hilton. According to the Princeton Found blog, “preppy is a lifestyle,” proving that it’s possible to have style and smarts.

4. UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA (Charlottesville, VA)


If there were one way to describe UVA, it would be “Guys in Ties, Girls in Pearls.” Not only does the phrase have its own Facebook page, but it’s also the unofficial dress code for the school’s tailgates and campus-wide events.

“There really isn’t a better way to describe [UVA’s] student section during football games,” says Carolyn, a current junior at UVA. “Students fill the hill in Scott Stadium to cheer on their ‘hoos, and girls can be seen rocking orange and navy dresses with pearl necklaces, accompanied by boys in button up shirts, bow ties and croakies.” Carolyn also says that the student section is on a steep incline, but that doesn’t stop the girls from wearing their cutest shoes.

In the springtime, UVA’s preppy style kicks into high gear, especially during the Foxfield Races, or simply “Foxfield” to students. “Foxfield is a beloved event in Charlottesville,” Carolyn explains. “Although it’s rare to actually see a horse, one is sure to witness a sea of Lilly Pulitzer dresses and boys in turquoise and pastel button up shirts with bow ties.” It’s also likely you’ll spot Vineyard Vines whale hats or huge monogrammed floppy sunhats.

3. VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY (Nashville, TN)


As a true southern school, Vanderbilt never has a shortage of guys in seersucker or girls in pearls. “Vanderbilt is clearly one of the preppiest colleges in the country,” says Christina, a sophomore at the school. “Our location in Nashville and prestigious national ranking [attract] Southern belles and New England prepsters.”

Named a top contender for “Preppy Tailgate Central” by Southern Living, Vandy students take their looks seriously, no matter if they’re cheering on their football team or going to class. “I thought when I went to college, I would start wearing sweatpants all the time,” Christina says. “Not true. I started dressing nicer at Vandy than I did at home. Now I wear dresses or skirts at least twice a week and dress up all the time.”

2. SEWANEE: THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH (Sewanee, TN)


Believe or not, Sewanee actually has a school-wide dress code policy named the “Dress Tradition” which states: “Class Dress varies with the seasons but typically men can be seen wearing khakis, a collared shirt or coat and tie; female students typically wear slacks or a skirt and a nice top or a dress.” Talk about taking preppy seriously.

“Sewanee is the University of the South for a reason—we have southern prep down to a T,” says Kate, a current sophomore at Sewanee. “Our tradition of class dress means sharply dressed men and women heading to class in a rainbow of pastels, and nothing looks better walking around a ten thousand acre campus than the pairs of Jack Rogers and Sperrys that students are always sporting.” As the #2 preppiest school ranked by the Huffington Post in 2011, Sewanee’s preppy style is more than just fashion; it’s part of the school’s tradition.

1. COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (Charleston, SC)


This preppy southern school was named in The Official Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach and certainly deserves the recognition. With King’s Street nearby, students have easy access to stores like J. McLaughlin, Brooks Brothers and Palm Avenue.

It also made Huffington Post’s preppiest list a few years ago, particularly due to the school’s tradition of all women wearing white dresses and men sporting white dinner jackets during graduation.