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Where To Get “Classic” Clothes Down Under

I was recently asked, “Where can I find clothes like J. Crew, but in New Zealand?”

Despite my convoluted relationship with preppy, I feel your pain – classic style isn’t really a thing Down Under.

I asked my querent for more details. She specifically misses the dresses of J. Crew, and outfits based around classic pants/jeans. Also, she’s based in Auckland – which pinpoints a lot of her classics-bereftness right there.

I hereby declare that, in 2013, there has never been more of a gap between “North American classic” and Antipodean style. And Auckland style is, more than ever, hand-in-hand with Australia, all about starting the future. On my recent Auckland jaunt, I saw someone in the crystalline Sass & Bide boutique hilariously baffled as they held this garment- a rhinestone bandolier – up on its hanger, examining it from all sides, trying to visualize how someone, anyone, would wear it.

Preppy itself isn’t what it used to be. There’s a new design fascination with preppy’s original style manifestations, congealed in books like A Privilieged Life , Ivy Style, and the reprint of the 1950s photo book Take Ivy. In the U.S., these old-school design classics are being refreshed and quirked up by everyone from L.L. Bean to Tory Burch. I, myself, left the house twice last week looking like I’d mugged Kate Spade. For a stellar avatar of the new preppy, check out the blog Amid Privilege – great style and wonderful writing on family history and class.

  • Max -This NZ midrange clothing purveyor updated their design team about 8 months ago. The result is very wearable dresses and separates – check out their merino dresses for the best of both worlds, NZ yet classic. Also, their winter intarsia sweaters (ducks! deer! MOOSE!) have preppy quirk in an NZ-friendly neutral palette. Seriously, that moose shirt is genius.
  • Workshop Denim – Jeans for forever, and I’m impressed with their well-cut winter dresses. And those prices will remind you of J. Crew.
  • Duncan – Japanese denim jeans made right here in Wellington.
  • Trenery – I know, we were just there in an earlier post. Well worth having a look.
  • R.M. Williams – Australian preppy clothing, country classics that wear like iron. Very simple cuts – the kind you can wear forever.
  • Sportscraft – More Australian clothing on the classic continuum. I was very sad when they closed their NZ branches, because their stuff is beautifully made.
  • When you’re thrifting or on TradeMe, look for the brand Line 7.  This was well-made clothing produced by a company that got started in yachting wear. Their non-yachting clothing line came to an end in about 2010, but the clothes will still please a sartorial classicist.

One of the main differences between the preppy revival in the US and the classics available down under is the use of color. US women’s clothing and accessories right now is in a candy-colored frenzy, even for winter. Most antipodean clothes still cleave to a cool neutral palette – black, greys from palest to storm-dark, subdued blues, cool sandy beiges, some olive-on-the-edge-of-khaki, more black. If you are acquiring clothes overseas and want to feel “at home” when you return to New Zealand, either go for  neutrals or grab brights that play well with neutrals. And to stand out and make a statement, go for the preppy vivids.

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