15 Must-Have Items for a Preppy, Girly, and Sophisticated Wardrobe (Plus 45+ Outfit Ideas!)

Here are the 15 items every girl should have in her closet for a preppy, girly, polished wardrobe - as seen on Pinterest! Plus, 45+ outfit ideas.
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It all started with Blair Waldorf.

I remember gathering in my dorm freshman year of college with several girls in my hallway to watch this new TV show based on our favorite book series, Gossip Girl. Blair Waldorf, though very different than the Blair we grew to love throughout the novels, stole the show with her handsome boyfriends, perfect schemes, and her absolutely stunning wardrobe. Her opaque tights, girly blouses, A-line skirts, and signature headbands left an immediate and indelible mark on my fashion psyche.

Next, it was Emma Pillsbury from Glee who caught my eyeHer colorful cardigans, crisp button-downs, and pencil skirts looked stylish, preppy, and professional, yet totally sweet at the same time. She channels both '50s housewives and '60s mod styles, which I think is totally rad.

In the last couple years thanks to Pinterest, it seems like this sort of preppy style is more popular than ever. Almost every time I log in to Pinterest, I notice that one of my friends has pinned a very classy J.Crew-esque personal outfit photo, peppered with feminine jewelry and voluminous hair. This style is girly, but not overly frilly. Its building block pieces are easy to mix and match, but what makes this look distinctive is the attention to details. 

It looks very expensive and luxurious, but you don't have to drop a ton of cash to re-create the look. And I'm here to show you how!

Below, I've outlined the 15 must have-pieces for creating a girly sophisticated, and preppy wardrobe, along with a few styling tips after each of them to give you some outfit inspiration. As always, these lists are just starting points -- feel free to modify, and let us know any other pieces you would suggest by leaving a comment.

Let's jump right in to our preppy style guide!

(In case you missed them, check out essential list posts on a boho-chic wardrobe, an electro-urban wardrobe, a classic and timeless wardrobe, and a street-style inspired wardrobe.)

1. Girly Blouses

Long-sleeved tie-neck denim blouse in medium wash, dark green long-sleeved blouse with front ruffles and white polka-dots, black long-sleeved silk blouse with white piping and pocket, red long-sleeved chiffon blouse with scalloped collar

Products (from left): Banana Republic, H&M, Everlane, Modcloth

Look for feminine blouses that are roomy enough to not split apart at your chest, but not so loose that they're difficult to tuck into skirts and pants. Also, be sure to pay attention to how translucent your blouse is -- a sheer blouse is a great piece, but only when you've prepared with the right undergarments!

  • Tuck a girly blouse into a pencil skirt for a great outfit that can easily transition from day to night. Finish with a masculine watch and (#6) Mary Jane heels.
  • Feminine blouses -- even ruffled or pussy-bow variations -- look fantastic under (#3) blazers for a business casual sort of look. Accessorize with (#7) pearl earrings.
  • For the most versatility, look for shirts that align their buttons. That way, you can button up for professional occasions and unbutton for fun outings. Blouses from Express are known for cutting their shirts perfectly for this!

2. Opaque Tights

Black opaque control-top tights, charcoal gray heathered opaque tights, navy blue opaque tights, charcoal gray super-opaque control-top tights

Products (from left): Amazon, Gap, J.Crew, Amazon

Although it might be tempting to load up on inexpensive pairs, when it comes to opaque tights, I actually recommend a mid-priced name brand or department store pair. (I linked two pairs from Hue on Amazon above -- they make great tights.) Nothing cheapens the look of an outfit quite like a pair of snarled, pilled, or awkwardly see-through tights!

  • A quality pair of tights will give your legs and bum some excellent support, which comes in handy when paired with a lightweight dress.
  • Wear a colored pair of opaque tights with an A-line little black dress, layered over a button-up dress shirt. Finish with a pair of knee-high riding boots and a (#9) long statement necklace.
  • Don't be afraid to wear colored opaque tights with an equally colorful dress or skirt! It'll give you a girly yet mod look. Finish the outfit with a pair of boots or (#6) Mary Jane pumps.

3. Blazers

Dark gray single-breasted plaid blazer, black tie-sleeve open-front blazer, red flare-sleeve single-breasted blazer, black single-breasted oversized blazer

Products (from left): Abercrombie & Fitch, Nordstrom, Mango, Mango

Blair Waldorf managed to make her stuffy school uniform blazer look chic by pairing it with feminine extras, like scarves and her signature headbands. Start with a black, navy, or gray blazer, but branch out to other colors soon after!

  • Don't have the cash for a proper business suit, but have an important professional function coming up? Fake one with a black blazer and a pair of black pants or a black pencil skirt.
  • Blazers look fantastic over (#8) sheath dresses. Complete the look with a printed scarf, a watch, and (#7) pearl stud earrings.
  • For a fast and chic outfit formula, pair a chambray shirt with (#14) colored pants and add a blazer. Finish with knee-high boots, a (#9) long statement necklace and a (#5) headband.

4. Thin Sweaters

Navy blue crewneck sweater with multi-colored striped "LOVE" graphic, gray sweater, off-white heathered crewneck sweater with embroidered graphic featuring two polar bears hugging, pale pink crewneck sweater

Products (left to right): Gap, J.Crew, J.Crew Factory, Hollister Co.

Thin, crisp sweaters -- especially the kind with cute graphics you'd find at J.Crew -- are a great alternative to girly blouses during chilly fall and winter months. I prefer to hand wash and air dry mine to preserve their perfect shape and softness.

  • Lately, I've been really into sweaters with animal graphics on them. Pair one with (#14) colored skinny jeans, (#11) ballet flats, and a (#5) headband.
  • A thin, solid-colored sweater will look retro fab with a (#10) skirt of your choice. Finish the look with a (#9) statement necklace and heels.
  • Thin sweaters are perfect layering pieces. Layer a button-down white or chambray shirt with the collar and cuffs folded out over a sweater.

5. Girly Headbands

Black velvet hairband with large bow, pearl hairband, navy blue velvet hairband with flower appliqués, burgundy velvet headband with rhinestone-embellished square buckle

Products (from left): Nordstrom, Forever 21, Mango, Nordstrom

Nothing pulls an outfit together quite as quickly as a well-placed headband. The great news is that they're inexpensive and available everywhere, so you'll never run out of options.

  • Throw a headband on with a ponytail to mask greasy roots.
  • Bow headbands are bold, but look adorable when styled correctly. The key is to not pair them with too many other "cutesy" items. Also, include a few more androgynous pieces -- like a chunky watch or oxford shoes -- to help balance them out.
  • Poof the crown and back of your head and spritz with hairspray before putting on a headband for a really glamorous and luxe look.

6. Mary Jane Heels

Black suede block-heel Mary Jane pumps, light gray fabric Mary Jane pumps with silver buckle, leopard-print haircalf double-strap Mary Jane pumps with zip at back and gold hardware, black suede low-heel Mary Jane pumps with silver buckle

Products (from left): Macy's, Nordstrom Rack, Ann Taylor, Nordstrom Rack

Regular pumps are great, but Mary Jane heels will give you a preppy, girly vibe that's necessary when recreating this style aesthetic. As an added bonus, I find them to be much more comfortable than regular heels, since they fit around your ankle so well.

  • Love height but have tender feet? Go ahead and buy a wedge mary-jane -- it's better to be comfortable and do something unique than stick with a trend that makes your feet ache.
  • For a polished and sweet ensemble inspired by Emma Pillsbury, try a brightly colored (#8) sheath dress with a (#13) patterned cardigan. Finish with a matching pair of Mary Jane heels, a (#7) pearl necklace, and a structured purse.
  • Mary Jane heels will also look great with a pair of skinny jeans and a fun party top. Curl your hair with a large-barrel curling iron, and finish with shimmery make-up and a fancy (#5) headband.

7. Pearl Jewelry

Pearl stud earrings, triple-strand pearl necklace with black ribbon tie closure, gold twisted wrap ring with oval-shaped and round pearl, gold bracelet with five round pearls

Products (from left): J.Crew, Simons, Lord & Taylor, Majorca

An absolute staple of any preppy and sophisticated wardrobe is a classic set of pearl jewelry. Real pearls are expensive, but awesome lookalikes can be found almost everywhere. Look for pieces that have a substantial weight to them and aren't too iridescent in color.

  • Pearl stud earrings make any outfit -- even scrubby jeans and a t-shirt -- look polished and intentional.
  • A pearl brooch pinned to the lapel of a blazer or used to hold a scarf in place will look unexpected and -- dare I say -- editorial.
  • A long string of pearls around your neck will look fantastic with any LBD or sheath dress. Very Holly Golightly.

8. Sheath Dresses

Bright blue criss-cross draped sleeveless sheath dress, neon pink three-quarter-bell-sleeve sheath dress with black piping at neck, elbo, and waist; black short-sleeved sheath dress, red sleeveless drop-waist ruffle sheath dress

Products (from left): Brooks Brothers, Saks Off 5th, J.Crew, Nordstrom Rack

A perfect Jackie O-inspired sheath dress will carry your through interviews, nice lunches and dinners, business casual functions, hot dates, and so much more. The key to keeping this piece from looking boring or stuffy is to freshen it up with well-placed accessories.

  • Sheath dresses are ideal for formal occasions because they're thick and structured. Pair one with (#6) Mary Jane heels, a (#9) long necklace, and an easy updo for a great date night look.
  • Don't be afraid of patterned sheath dresses! You can always tone it down with a (#3) blazer or a solid-colored (#13) cardigan. They will also look mod and fabulous with (#2) opaque colored tights!
  • Look for styles that hit right at or slightly above your knees. They'll be conservative enough for proper functions, but short enough to play!

9. Statement Necklaces

Statement necklace with pale peachy-pink stones in various shapes, statement necklace with multi-colored stones and pearls in various shapes, statement necklace gold chain and circular "wreaths" in various shades of green, statement necklace with clear and iridescent pale pink stones in various shapes with velvet bow tie, statement necklace with multi-colored stones in various shapes

Products (from left): J.Crew Factory, Lord & Taylor, J.Crew Factory, Nordstrom, Loft

I'm always amazed at how much a little jewelry can do for an outfit. A statement necklace is one of my preppy fashion must-haves. It's perfect for breathing life and glamour into basic tops.

  • Those J.Crew-inspired bubble necklaces are hotter than ever, and with good reason! Wear one with a (#4) thin sweater, a chambray shirt, a (#8) sheath dress, an open (#3) blazer...the options are endless.
  • I've always loved the look of wearing a long necklace with an infinity scarf or a triangle-shaped patterned scarf. Make sure that they're two distinctive lengths so that you can see both the necklace and the scarf.
  • Nautical-inspired chain necklaces are perfectly preppy, and will look great with a (#3) blazer, a striped shirt, khaki chinos, and (#11) ballet flats.

10. Fantastic Skirts

Black elastic-waist lace skirt with lining, gray, white, and bright blue high-waisted mini skirt with pockets; fuchsia pencil skirt, black a-line skirt

Products (from left): J.Crew, Modcloth, J.Crew Factory, Modcloth

Whether you prefer A-line, skater, or pencil-style skirts, these babies are essential for crafting a sophisticated Blair Waldorf-inspired wardrobe. Get a mix of solid and patterned styles for maximum versatility.

  • Pair a skirt with a matching cami and (#13) cardigan combo and a pair of ballet flats for an outfit that's perfect for school.
  • Blair Waldorf rarely wore a skirt without a pair of (#2) opaque tights. To remix this look, wear with a pair of ankle boots and a military jacket.
  • Never underestimate the proper, feminine look of a (#1) girly button-down blouse tucked into a skirt. Finish with knee-high socks, a (#5) headband, and (#6) Mary Jane heels.

11. Ballet Flats

Black elasticized flats with gold metal Tory Burch logo at toe, gold glitter flats with skinny bow at toe, light blue velvet two-part flats with ankle tie and pointed toe, wine-colored flats with gold-stud-embellished bow at toe and small block heel

Products (from left): Bloomingdale's, Gap, Sole Society, Sole Society

Ballet flats are the building blocks of many outfits, but they're especially important for preppy and sophisticated wardrobes because of how feminine yet versatile they are.

  • I prefer inexpensive flats found at places like Target and Gap. Flats are thin-soled shoes, so they're going to wear out fast regardless of which brand you choose.
  • Speaking of which, Tory Burch flats are a forever favorite. I loved the first pair I owned -- they were black and quilted, and didn't have elastic at the heel. They were so comfortable, I wore them almost every day! Eight months later, though, they were literally disintegrating on my feet. I have a new pair of Tory Burch Revas now, but the elastic at the heel make them hard to wear for long periods of time. Be sure that you really want a pair before making this big of an investment!
  • It you lean more towards the preppy side and less towards girly, swap this piece out for penny loafers.

12. A Fabulous Coat

Camel-colored cape, dark olive green zip-up coat with pockets, sky blue coat with high neck and pockets, red pea coat

Products (from left): Zara, Nordstrom Rack, H&M, Target

One of Blair's signatures was her expensive-looking, glamorous coat collection. We might not all be able to afford dozens of coats from Barneys, but we can all at least have one special coat in our closet!

  • Cape-style coats are unique, luxurious, and definitely a conversation starter. Since the cut is bold enough on its own, look for solid-colored styles for the more versatility.
  • Pea coats in bold colors will go with dresses, skirts, pants, leggings, and more! I also love patterned pea coats, tweed versions, and faux fur trimmed styles.
  • A great winter coat is key to looking polished on frigid windy days. You could wear three grubby sweaters and elastic sweatpants, but a great coat and a pair of riding boots layered over them will instantly make you look chic.

13. Patterned Cardigans

Leopard-patterned crewneck cardigan, green, pale pink, and mustard-yellow striped off-white v-neck cardigan; light-gray-and-pale-pink argyle crewneck cardigan with silver sequin embellishments, burgundy floral-pattern crewneck cardigan

Products (from left): Nordstrom, Modcloth, Macy's, Nordstrom Rack

Cardigans -- especially the über soft variety -- feel luxurious, sophisticated, and oh-so prim. A patterned one will help you bring some girly and fun style into an otherwise dressy and proper wardrobe.

  • Sweater sets aren't just for snooty WASPs anymore. Wear a matching top and cardigan set with a (#10) skirt, (#11) ballet flats, and a (#9) statement necklace.
  • Cardigans look fantastic with (#1) girly ruffled blouses peaking through. Also, try one with a lace cami and a (#10) pencil skirt!
  • Forever 21 sometimes has thick cardigans with ribbon lining and jeweled buttons that look almost Chanel-like. If you come across one of these, pounce on it! You'll be happy you did.

14. Colored Pants

Red mid-rise ankle pants, fuchsia skinny jeans, magenta slim-fit pants with ruffle at waist, yellow cigarette suit pants

Products (from left): Old Navy, Mango, J.Crew, Topshop

From skinny jeans to chinos, colored pants are an essential key to mastering this sort of style. If you're more on the preppy side of the spectrum, go for more muted colors. J.Crew is fantastic for colored pants that look sophisticated, rather than urban or über-trendy.

  • Cuff your skinny pants like a pro! Fold the hem of your pants no thicker than an inch, and fold over again. The next (and last) fold, only roll the outer edge up, so the half on the inside of your leg is about an inch longer than the outside. This will elongate your legs, and make you look like you walked straight out of a photo shoot.
  • Velvet and corduroy slim-cut pants are a bit unexpected, but look fantastically polished with a (#1) girly blouse and a (#3) blazer. Cuff your pants, and finish with oxford shoes and a menswear timepiece.
  • For a fast and easy outfit, throw on a (#4) thin sweater with a scarf, a (#5) headband, and knee-high riding boots.

15. A Skinny Belt

(Clockwise from left) black skinny belt with silver buckle, leopard-patterned calf hair belt with gold hardware, cognac brown braided belt with gold buckle, mustard-yellow faux-suede belt with gold buckle and loop detail, black skinny belt with gold buckle

Products (clockwise from left): Uniqlo, J.Crew, Uniqlo, Forever 21, Macy's

More often than not, the difference between making an outfit go from "okay" to "wow" is by cinching the waist with a skinny belt. They're more subtle than thick belts, so they won't take away from the other elements of your ensemble. Plus, they'll give you shape and look totally flattering!

  • A (#8) sheath dress and (#13) cardigan combo will look polished and chic with a skinny belt around your waist.
  • For a cool look inspired by a J.Crew catalog, buy a belt a size too big and loop the tail around the band, so the tail is faced down in an artful knot.
  • Juxtapose wide-leg trouser chinos with a (#1) girly ruffled blouse, and pull it together with a skinny belt at your hips.

Even More Style Guides:

Preppy not your thing? Check out our other style guides to find the must-have pieces for YOUR aesthetic.

Thoughts?

Do you identify with this style? Have you noticed this kind of fashion on Pinterest as well? What do you think about the items on this list? What else would you add? What are some of your favorite ways to wear the pieces on this list? What other styles would you like to see us cover? Sound off by leaving us a comment!

Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2013; it was completely revamped in 2017 (by Lisa) with updated items and tips.

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