“The Origins of Preppy” Exhibit

Hello-Hello, welcome to a new week here at the Prepatorium.

We just share one topic today, a look at a new exhibit, “The Origins of Preppy: John Meyer of Norwich“.  Some readers will recall the brand, for those not quite as ancient seasoned (ahem) as your trusty scribe, John Meyer made the most fabulous clothing. Below, a print ad from the brand.

Elise Meyer Pinterest

Elise Meyer Pinterest

The exhibit is at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury (CT), more from the exhibit description:

The Preppy style was born on the campuses of America’s Ivy League colleges but it was manufactured using the resources of Eastern Connecticut. Origin of Preppy explores the style’s transformation from campus fad to innovative fashion by pioneering purveyor John Meyer of Norwich.

An installation from the show as well as the woman who created the grouping, Maddie Chapman.

Mattatuck Museum Facebook

Mattatuck Museum Facebook

I love both the John Meyer button and that tweedy blue and green fabric.

Elise Meyer Pinterest

Elise Meyer Pinterest

The exhibit has been put together by Elise Meyer, the founders’ daughter. More from the Norwich Bulletin:

The exhibit is more than just about the clothing trend that became the rage for the most fashionably dressed sporty women of America. For the Northeast and Norwich it was a demonstration of innovation , know-how and determination.

The Vintage Traveler blog shared some delightful John Meyer ads.

John Meyer via The Vintage Traveler

John Meyer via The Vintage Traveler

Is anyone else feeling a déjà vu vibe? The “I swear, I wore that!” reaction? In reality it is unlikely I wore any of the pieces shown here, they are from 1967 and 1968, a little mature for someone who was but a wee Princess at that time.

John Meyer Norwich via The Vintage Traveler

John Meyer Norwich via The Vintage Traveler

We return to the Museum’s description of the exhibit.

The John Meyer of Norwich label provided a certain status and confidence to stylish women from the 1950s through the 1970s. Meyer’s daughter, Elise, has compiled an archive of the groundbreaking businessman including photographs, stories and vintage clothing.

I enjoyed reading Elise Meyer’s blog post about what she learned in putting together the exhibit.
In the project I found profound lessons about hard work and inspiration, about strong communities, about decency and fairness, about American values, about American ingenuity, and most of all, American manufacturing.I learned the value of “good manners in behavior and in dress”, and how that makes everyone a bit more comfortable.
For some reason Ms. Meyer’s good manners reference resonated.
The Vintage Traveler’s perspective on the brand:
If you were around in the 1960s and early 70s, chances are you were in love with the clothes from John Meyer of Norwich.   In my little corner of the world, there were only two shops that carried John Meyer, and both of them were the best stores in town.  Not every girl was lucky enough to own clothes from John Meyer, but the influence of the brand was huge, and one could buy cheaper versions of their beautiful heathery tweeds at places like Sears.  As they say, imitation is the highest praise.
John Meyer Norwich via The Vintage Traveler

John Meyer Norwich via The Vintage Traveler

The Vintage’s Traveler shares a reaction to the exhibit as well.
…gives a good account of how many girls and young women were actually dressing in the period that is more associated with the mod look and then the hippie look.
Elise Meyer has a partial archive of John Meyer pieces on her Pinterest page, including this classic.
Emily Meyer Pinterest

Emily Meyer Pinterest

Remember the old style price tags?
Elise Meyer Pinterest

Elise Meyer Pinterest

I imagine a few of our pals in Virginia will also recognize the department store, Miller & Rhoads.  Below, three more styles, these date to 1966.
Elise Meyer Pinterest

Elise Meyer Pinterest

Bermuda bags.
Elise Meyer Pinterest

Elise Meyer Pinterest

There is even a Pin showing Barbie and Skipper in John Meyer of Norwich.
Elise Meyer Pinterest

Elise Meyer Pinterest

You my view Ms. Meyer’s Pinterest archive here. For anyone in the Waterbury vicinity this weekend, the Museum is hosting a party.
Mattatuck Museum Facebook

Mattatuck Museum Facebook

Don your Madras shorts and Lilly Pulitzer summer dresses and head down to the Museum, on the green in Waterbury for an evening of casual summer fun

Guests will have the opportunity to bid on fun summer experiences including creating your own ice cream flavor, being Museum Curator for a day, naming a martini at a local restaurant and much more.

It looks like a lot of fun. For more on the Fling, click here.

7 Comments

Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion

7 Responses to “The Origins of Preppy” Exhibit

  1. Thank you for such a glorious trip down memory lane! This era was a very simple time. I lived in central Connecticut during those years and quickly adopted this mode of practical dressing. It was comforting to grow up in an area where everyone had the same “uniform”. There were no status labels to set anyone apart. Your navy crew neck sweater might come from Sears or The Weathervane but they looked the same. One never felt out-of-style because one was dressed in a classic, traditional style. This early lesson has served me well my entire life. It’s a question of quality and not quantity. It’s not having to dump everything in your closet every 5 years because it’s “dated”. Unfortunately, the problem is when one gains weight. My husband had maintained his same waist size for the entire 30 years of our marriage. Every piece in his closet is classic. He rarely needs to purchase anything. It’s a very intelligent and disciplined way of dressing and living in moderation that allows him to do that and it certainly saves a lot of money. I think that is also the essence of this way of dressing. The other component is one rarely has to shop for any occasion because everything one could ever need is already there. This adds pleasure to one’s life by not having to be concerned about these aspects: one is free of the time spent trying to keep up with trends and fashion. I admire him for this. That’s also why it takes him 20 minutes to dress and not 1 hour like I have to; 40 minutes of which is spent pouring over my choices of 10 different styles of any color shoe or several different kinds of apparel. I think it may be time for me to simplify my life this summer and make do with less by sending a good portion of my wardrobe off to the consignment shop. Thank you for the opportunity to re-examine what the preppy life means and inspiring me to get back to basics so I have more time for others.

  2. Thank you for the trip down memory lane! I moved to central Connecticut in 1968 and became enamoured of this style of dress immediately. I loved the idea of the “uniform”. One could assemble the basic outfit necessary to fit in from almost any source; it didn’t matter. That made life so egalitarian compared to the logo-hungry generation a decade ago that still exists in some ZIP codes. Not only that, but building a wardrobe on those principles enables one not to have to think about clothes continuously because the correct ensemble is always in the closet. If one lives a life of moderation which is at the root of New England principles, one never changes one’s waist size. So the search for new clothing stops unless it wears out. However, because the emphasis is also on quality, durability and a lack of outlandishness (except of course in one’s choice of color combinations and patterns), this rarely happens so this philosophy is also economical which is another tenet of Basic New England living which is frugality. I think it makes a whole lot of common sense. I have endeavored to dress in a classic, preppy way though I no longer live in New England and am in my mid 50s. When I have gone outside these basic guidelines and bought trendy clothes, I have eventually regretted it. I find when I have too much of that sort if thing in the closet, it just takes too long to dress because there are too many choices. Thank you for the reminder of a basic way of living that is practical, saves time & money. I am going to spend some time this summer weeding out of my closet the trendy stuff and consigning it to get back to basics. I need to spend less time shopping, buying accessories and get back to basics by paring down my closet. Then I will be less self-absorbed by this constant need to acquire new things and have more time for others.

  3. Lisa

    Now that’s the real deal!

  4. I love the clothes here! I never got into the “preppy” look in high school, but as the person above me mentioned, it was more about “logo” than style at that time. I love the look of 50s-60s preppy, though, and a lot of my outfits for work now are in that style. I’d like to see stores offering more classic silhouettes and fabrics like you show us here!

  5. Julia

    I graduated from high school in 1967 and I was in love with John Meyer clothes…(and Villager, too.) I would babysit for fifty cents an hour and spend all of that money on a John Meyer or Villager outfit…skirts and sweaters were about fifteen dollars each, blouses were eight. I bought two or three outfits each year, and by the time i went to college, i had quite a nice wardrobe. I still wore those clothes when i entered the working world! I still have some of the sweaters.

  6. Candace

    Oh how I remember the John Meyer label! My Mother wore those dresses with matching pumps that had either bows or flowers on them….I wanted to grow up and look just like her! Thanks for the memories! :-)

  7. How fun to take a walk down memory lane…I knew I should have hung onto some of those relics of the past. I remember my Bermuda bags…still love them! What a fun exhibit. Have a fabulous weekend!

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