Excerpted from True Prep, by Lisa Birnbach with Chip Kidd, to be published this month by Knopf; © 2010 by Island of Mommy Inc. and Charles Kidd.
Wake up, Muffy, we're back.
O.K., now where were we?
Oh yes. It was 1980, and Ronald Reagan was heading to his improbable victory over Jimmy Carter. We wondered whether joining a club before your 30th birthday made you into a young fuddy-duddy, we considered the importance of owning a dress watch—one thing led to another, and before the year was over, our project became … The Official Preppy Handbook. Yes. That was us. We enjoyed every minute that we still remember, but we seemed to have misplaced a number of brain cells in the process.
Though we maintained that this world has changed little since 1635, when the Boston Latin School was founded, you knew we were exaggerating slightly. And as our world spins faster and faster and we use up more natural resources, and scientists keep finding more sugar substitutes, we have to think about how life in the 21st century affects our safe and lovely bubble.

And as we have gotten a bit older and a teensy bit wiser, the world has become much smaller. We are all interconnected, intermarried, inter-everything'd. The great-looking couple in the matching tweed blazers and wide-wale orange corduroy trousers are speaking … Italian. On Melrose Avenue! Whereas once upon a time it was unlikely Europeans would be attracted to our aesthetic, now they've adapted it and made it their own. (They're the women with no hips, in case you were wondering.)Muffy van Winkle, you've napped long enough. It's been 30 years! It doesn't seem possible, does it? Despite changes and crises, the maid quitting, running out of vodka, your NetJets account being yanked, and the Internet, it's still nice to be prep.
Let's begin at the beginning of the year. Here are our resolutions. You'll catch on.
No drinking at lunch.
Call Grandmother once a week.
Get Belgian shoes re-soled (thinnest Cat's Paw rubber).
Sign up for tennis team at the club.
Actually go to team practices.
Have gravy boat re-engraved.
Find Animal House and return to Netflix.
Send in donation for class gift this year.
And send in write-up for class notes.
Finally use Scully & Scully credit—maybe Pierpont's next wedding?
Drive mother to cemetery at least once this year.
Order new stationery before supply runs out. (Find die!)
Luggage tags!
Download phone numbers into the thingy.
New Facebook picture?
Work on goals.
Work on topspin.
Get Katharine to do community service somehow.
Clean gutters or get someone to do them.
Repair hinge on broken shutter. Or else!
Finally hire portrait artist for Whimsy. (She's 84 in dog years; not much time left.)

Who We Are Now

Formerly Wasp. Failing that, white and heterosexual. One day we became curious or bored and wanted to branch out, and before you knew it, we were all mixed up.
Well, that's the way we like it, even if Grandmother did disapprove and didn't go to the wedding ceremony. (Did she ever stop talking about the “barefoot and pregnant bride”? Ever?) And now one of our nieces, MacKenzie, is a researcher at the C.D.C. in Atlanta and is engaged to marry the loveliest man … Rajeem, a pediatrician who went to Duke. And Kelly is at Smith, and you know what that means. And our son Cal is married to Rachel, and her father the cantor married them in a lovely ceremony. Katie, our daughter, is a decorative artist living in Philadelphia with Otis, who is a professor of African-American studies at Swarthmore. And then there's Bailey, our handsome little nephew. Somehow, all he wants to do is ski, meet girls, and drink beer.
Well, there's one out of five.

Fashion Rules

We know that many of you understand the principles of preppy style. But just to be sure, let's review them again.
We wear sportswear. This makes it easier to go from sporting events to social events (not that there is much difference) without changing.
We generally underdress. We prefer it to overdressing.
Your underwear must not show. Wear a nude-colored strapless bra. Pull up your pants. Wear a belt. Do something. Use a tie!
We do not display our wit through T-shirt slogans.
Every single one of us—no matter the age or gender or sexual preference—owns a blue blazer.
We take care of our clothes, but we're not obsessive. A tiny hole in a sweater, a teensy stain on the knee of our trousers, doesn't throw us. (We are the people who brought you duct-taped Blucher moccasins.)
We do, however, wear a lot of white in the summer, and it must be spotless.
Don't knock seersucker till you've tried it. (Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, unless you live in Palm Beach or Southern California, or the southern Mediterranean, please.)
Bags and shoes need not match.
Jewelry should not match, though metals should.
On the other hand, your watch doesn't have to be the same metal as your jewelry.
And you can wear gold with a platinum wedding band and/or engagement ring.
Men's jewelry should be restricted to a handsome watch, a wedding band if he is American and married, and nothing else. If he has a family-crest ring, it may be worn as well. For black-tie, of course, shirt studs and matching cuff links are de rigueur.
Nose rings are never preppy.
Neither (shudder) are belly-button piercings.
Nor are (two shudders) tongue studs.
And that goes for ankle bracelets.
Tattoos: Men who have been in a war have them, and that's one thing. (Gang wars don't count.) Anyone else looks like she is trying hard to be cool. Since the body ages, if youmust tattoo, find a spot that won't stretch too much. One day you will want to wear a halter-necked backless gown. Will you want everyone at the party to know you once loved John Krasinski?
Sneakers (a.k.a. tennis shoes, running shoes, trainers) are not worn with skirts.
Men may wear sneakers with linen or cotton trousers to casual summer parties.
Women over the age of 15 may wear a simple black dress. Women over the age of 21 must have several in rotation.
High-heel rule: You must be able to run in them—on cobblestones, on a dock, in case of a spontaneous foot race.
Clothes can cost any amount, but they must fit. Many a preppy has an item from a vintage shop or a lost-and-found bin at the club that was tailored and looks incredibly chic.
Do not fret if cashmere is too pricey. Preppies love cotton and merino-wool sweaters.
We do not wear our cell phones or BlackBerrys suspended from our belts. (That includes you, President Obama.)
Real suspenders are attached with buttons. We do not wear the clip versions.
Learn how to tie your bow tie. Do not invest in clip-ons.
Preppies are considerate about dressing our age. It is for you, not for us.
Men, if you made the mistake of buying Tevas or leather sandals, please give them to Goodwill.
You may, however, wear flip-flops to the beach if your toes are presentable. Be vigilant!
Pareos (sarongs) are for the beach, not for the mall. (Even if it's near the beach.)
Riding boots may be worn by non-riders; cowboy boots may be worn by those who have never been on a horse. However, cowboy hats may not be worn by anyone who isn't technically a cowboy or a cowgirl.
You may wear a Harvard sweatshirt if: you attended Harvard, your spouse attended Harvard, or your children attend Harvard. Otherwise, you are inviting an uncomfortable question.
If your best friend is a designer (clothes, accessories, jewelry), you should wear a piece from his or her collection. If his or her taste and yours don't coincide, buy a piece or two to show your loyal support—but don't wear them.
Every preppy woman has a friend who is a jewelry designer.
No man bags.
Preppies don't perm their hair.
Preppy men do not believe that comb-overs disguise anything.
You can never go wrong with a trench coat.
Sweat suits are for sweating. You can try to get away with wearing sweats to carpool, to pick up the newspaper, or to drive to the dump, but last time you were at the dump, the drop-dead-attractive widower from Maple Lane was there, too.
And finally:
The best fashion statement is no fashion statement.


Sometime in the 1980s the cart began leading the horse. Don't look at us; preppies were certainly not to blame. Fashion followers mistakenly thought the logo was the point. (This is the place at which we would write “LOL,” except we loathe “LOL.”)
But wearing a logo-laden outfit or accessory points to the wearer's painful insecurity. If you think you are being ironic, think again.
Here's the rule of thumb: The first logo that preppies loved was the Lacoste crocodile. It belonged to the French tennis star René Lacoste, whose nickname was Le Crocodile. It was an authentic, since he himself wore la chemise in 1927, after having been the top tennis player in the world in 1926 and 1927. (He won seven grand-slam singles titles in France, Britain, and the U.S. In 1961 he also invented the first metal tennis racket, which was sold in this country as the Wilson T2000.)
The shirts, made by La Société Chemise Lacoste, became an international sensation in 1933. Initially they had long tails, crocodiles of 2.8 centimeters in width, and embroidered labels with the size in French: Patron, Grand Patron, etc. There was no need (not then nor now) to change the size of the beast.