• The Needlepoint Belt

    Style | Culture | Prep Essentials  

    According to the 80s-penned Official Preppy Handbook, the needlepoint belt is a “must accessory for the collegiate B.M.O.C. (big man on campus)" and typically a gift from women of a certain sort and class...women committed to memorializing young love by stitching a needlepoint belt for their beau. Ironically, it eventually garnered notoriety as the breakup belt. By the time the belt was finished, someone in the relationship had often decided to move on.

    While preppy fashion has gradually evolved over the last 30 years, the casual and jaunty nature of needlepoint belts has not. It's the preppy catholicon for holding up ill-fitting khakis, shorts, and summer suit trousers.

    Victoria Stulgis started needlepointing at age 12 when she and her mom wandered into the Nantucket clothing/needlepoint boutique, Erica Wilson. By 15, she became much more avid. After a day at the stables, she and her equestrian friends would slumber party at each other's homes and needlepoint in front of the TV. "It was rather unconventional, I think," Stulgis recalls.

    "I started working on [my boyfriend] Jack's belt when I was 17. Back then I was rather quick at needlepointing and it only took 3-6 months (I think there was a time when I was needlepointing during history class)."

    When she was finished with the crossed oars design in Georgetown colors (and still in the relationship) Stulgis sent the canvas to a leather shop just outside Lexington, KY, which she had stumbled across while competing at the US National Pony Finals in 2004. They do a top notch job with the stitching and use superior quality leather, as they cater to the equestrian set down in Kentucky. Good thing too, since her boyfriend Jack has been throwing it around his waist almost daily for the past six years.

    Can’t get your auntie, mum, or lovely lady to labor for months over this functional status statement? No worries. You can simply pick one up from Tucker Blair or Smathers & Branson; however, my favorite is one I came across from Rugby several years ago (beautiful repeating gold skull & bones on navy ground, wool thread, and better quality leather than the former). Most ring in under $200. Of course, the most valuable needlepoint belts are those made by moms or girlfriends like Stulgis.

    Sep 6, 2012 | Permalink (2) View/Leave Comments

    PSP left a comment on 1/30/2014 at 10:27 PM:

    My wife made a U Penn one that incorporated my initials as a Christmas gift.

    Rowboats left a comment on 10/30/2012 at 8:35 PM:

    M’s Canvashouse out of Lexington KY sells the best most extensive variety I have ever seen (and online!). You can also send it back to them to do leathering.  My boyfriend has multiple.


  • The Bear Inn


    It’s a crisp autumn evening and the last of the English sun dips behind the top of Oxford Town Hall. A couple of friends and I lock up our bikes at the end of a narrow alley and turn around to the oldest pub in Oxford, The Bear Inn—dating back to 1242. The Bear gives off a warm glow through the glass pane windows with vague silhouettes dancing back and forth. I take a pint of beer brewed just five miles down the road. It’s good...everything you’d expect from English pub culture.

    After you get your hands around a pint, the first thing you notice are the horde of club tie snippets hanging from the walls and ceilings. And it's not hundreds, it's thousands. Started in 1952 by the landlord, Alan Course, and given by patrons (some famous) in exchange for half a pint of beer, the collection numbers northwards of 4,500 ties...ties mostly signifing membership of clubs, sports teams, schools, and colleges. You have to see them up close in person to truly appreciate the scope of it. And if you do make it into The Bear, don’t forget your club tie.

    Aug 30, 2012 | Permalink (4) View/Leave Comments

    Drew Poling left a comment on 10/1/2012 at 9:28 PM:

    The Bear is a great spot.  I’ve left two tie ends there: one from my undergraduate a cappella group, the other from one of my city clubs.  Great memories.

    Isis left a comment on 9/27/2012 at 5:30 PM:

    Make sure you visit Vincent’s Club while in Oxford, also my old friend New College.

    The-Bigwig left a comment on 9/27/2012 at 1:33 PM:

    So…that’s a tie bar ;-) I would love to see some inside shots!


    Caron left a comment on 9/27/2012 at 8:11 AM:

    Have fun, Fred.  Don’t you just love it there?  Me, too!


  • Ali Wentworth’s New York Apartment


    by Moses Y. Bension

    Anyone who has turned on Good Morning America knows who George Stephanopoulos is. His wife, actress Ali Wentworth, reviews their transition from 200‐year‐old Washington, D.C. brick Colonial Revival to prewar Upper East Side three‐bedroom apartment in this month’s Architectural Digest (some fifty‐odd blocks uptown of Brooke Shields’ new townhouse in the same issue). Wentworth’s new home features the work of Michael Smith, a more traditionalist designer famous for recently redecorating the White House. Smith’s use of colonial greens and blues, shades of beige, and stained mahogany, while not as colorfully layered as Shields’ townhouse, is definitely more appropriate for the historical sanctity of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    In the opinion of a very reputable interior designer in the South End of Boston, however, Smith’s work is “dull, flat, insipid, tired, lackluster, mind numbing, and uninspiring.” The designer hadn’t seen pictures of their old place.

    When CBS appointed Wentworth as co‐anchor of its short‐lived talk show Living It Up! and Stephanopoulos was still hosting This Week on ABC, the couple initially invested in a two bedroom apartment in midtown Manhattan. New York designer John Barman fashioned them an open plan with chrome midcentury chairs, abstract paintings on a paneled wall painted orange, and more chairs upholstered in more orange (of the Hermés hue) all in a bold colorful series of rooms that would overwhelm most preps.

    The rooms (like the library overlooking Central Park) in Wentworth’s new home look more like those at the White House. Pieces like mahogany bookcases, a rust‐colored velvet covered sofa, antique Persian rug, and a Regency twin‐pedestal dining table with George III mahogany sideboard and chairs all contribute to a conservative look that, while more subdued, wouldn’t send your family’s equivalent of the Dowager Countess of Grantham running for cover. Smith’s incorporation of timelessness and tradition into his look has a certain comforting old prep appeal. After all, you wouldn’t upholster the chairs in the White House in Hermés orange.

    Mar 22, 2012 | Permalink (4) View/Leave Comments

    Jane Davis left a comment on 6/30/2012 at 4:00 PM:

    You should check out New Orleans designers Alix Rico,Gerri Bremmerman and Tara Shaw. Their individual styles are more flair full and less claustrophobic than these. Michael Carbine’s work is also worth checking out. The northeast needs a shot of southern perspective.

    Rico Boothman left a comment on 4/4/2012 at 9:40 PM:

    We all love the great “Smootchie” although her taste is open to question . . .

    Greg-S left a comment on 4/4/2012 at 8:14 AM:

    Generally, I like his work.

    Gary-A left a comment on 4/3/2012 at 10:57 AM:

    The South End of Boston IS a very gorgeous place, architecturally. Unfortunately, I don’t make the bank to be invited INSIDE any of these townhouses.


  • Estate of Grace

    Style | Culture  

    by Moses Y. Bension

    A few years ago, women on the streets of Manhattan were spotted wearing medallion-adorned ballet flats produced out of an Upper East Side apartment by Penn alumna and New York socialite Tory Burch. The “Reva” exploded and has since become a prep essential, proving we’re not a stuffy group incapable of welcoming newcomers into closets full of J. Press, L.L. Bean, and Lilly Pulitzer.

    Vogue’s new March issue takes a tour of Burch’s newly acquired twenty-five-room neo-Georgian Southampton estate, originally built in 1929 by Beaux-Arts firm Hiss & Weekes (responsible for oh so many residences in the Berkshires and Gold Coast). With the help of designers Daniel Romualdez and Penn classmate Eve Hood, Burch filled every square foot of intimidating formal space, including the ballroom, with pieces they found at estate sales and her already-existing collection of antique furniture. Without sacrificing the house’s original integrity, treasures like the Parisian wallpaper, old English furniture, and Indian cotton prints embrace each other, giving the house a warm cozy inviting feel. Outside, Burch had the pool pavilion and formal garden restored to its former glory with the pool house’s dining room set for lunch or afternoon tea. It doesn’t get much more prep than that.

    Be sure and check out the pictures of the ballroom in March Vogue’s full spread.

    Mar 8, 2012 | Permalink (12) View/Leave Comments

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 3/21/2012 at 5:40 PM:

    @Matthew—I’m just sharing the article.

    Matthew left a comment on 3/21/2012 at 5:23 PM:

    @FEC Sorry, I’m a little unclear- did you shoot this or just sharing the article?

    Chad left a comment on 3/13/2012 at 12:02 PM:

    I’ve always felt that someone should start a blog on “preppy” architecture and interior design. This only reaffirms my thoughts that it would make for great reading and beautiful visuals. Magnificent as always Castleberry and co.

    Vanessa @ Project Zen left a comment on 3/9/2012 at 8:44 PM:

    It looks SO picturesque.


    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 3/9/2012 at 7:18 PM:

    @AEV—Moses Bension is an Unabashedly Prep contributor.

    Tad Allagash left a comment on 3/8/2012 at 8:27 PM:

    Lovely house, it’s unique in that one doesn’t see a lot of red brick/Georgian style architecture in Southampton….more of a Locust Valley look.

    AEV left a comment on 3/8/2012 at 2:37 PM:

    Who is Moses Bension?

    Makaga left a comment on 3/8/2012 at 2:25 PM:

    Thanks for letting us know about this photospread; great images.

    james left a comment on 3/8/2012 at 10:56 AM:

    Nice post. I’m a huge Tory fan… her clothes are great too.

    DBCC left a comment on 3/8/2012 at 10:30 AM:

    Great work, Fred.  My wife’s a huge Tory Burch fan…just bought her a another pair for Christmas.  Again, great read.

    Desmond K left a comment on 3/8/2012 at 8:31 AM:

    That garden is incredible…

    Laguna Beach Fogey left a comment on 3/8/2012 at 8:14 AM:

    Surely this represents the American woman’s dream: beautiful house, exquisite interiors, formal garden, cute kids…and no man.


  • House of Shields

    Style | Culture  

    by Moses Y. Bension

    Architectural Digest’s new March issue takes an exclusive look inside Brooke Shields’ newly finished Greenwich Village townhouse designed by David Flint Wood. Wood borrowed elements from the very prep house he shares with model India Hicks in the Bahamas and from her father, the late great English designer David Hicks. The collection of portraits in the Shields family room (pretty prep), the four poster Anglo-Indian tester bed (classic prep), and the Shields’ Georgian-style kitchen chairs upholstered in Hermès orange leather (modern prep) are classic Hicks demonstrations of his elegant and polished style.

    It’s not all about Wood and Hicks though, and Shields incorporates a trove of remnants from the Upper East Side townhouse she shared with her mother as a child. Brooke’s words “richly textured” and “layered and resonant” don’t refer to the physical appearances so much as the experiences of her young daughters that imbue the house with a history truly making the place theirs. Shields reminisces about growing up “surrounded by clutter,” but she plans to raise her children in a home filled with a different sort of clutter: the sort made of memories.

    For a more detailed look at the jewel of modern prep that is the Shields’ townhouse, read more in March’s issue of Architectural Digest.

    Mar 2, 2012 | Permalink (8) View/Leave Comments

    Arnim left a comment on 3/4/2012 at 1:52 PM:

    I don’t know if I could live with so much grey, but it’s a beautiful home.  Thanks for posting this!

    Tito left a comment on 3/3/2012 at 7:42 AM:

    Wow I’ll die a happy men in a place like that!

    Kate left a comment on 3/2/2012 at 7:20 PM:

    Lovely decor.

    M Arthur left a comment on 3/2/2012 at 5:06 PM:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Brook on a JFK flight from LAX-JFK during her C Klein Jeans days.  She was a polite and approachable young lady.  Her continued success and good taste does not surprise me.  Bravo, good health to enjoy such a beautiful home Brook!

    Miss Margarita left a comment on 3/2/2012 at 2:53 PM:

    just perfect!

    Andy M. left a comment on 3/2/2012 at 12:42 PM:

    Perfect mix of modern and traditional.  I want to live here.

    Teddy left a comment on 3/2/2012 at 12:07 PM:

    We need more of this.

    Makaga left a comment on 3/2/2012 at 11:36 AM:

    Thanks for the headsup on this article.  Some great images and inspiration.


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