As evidence of my love of Charlotte York and J.Crew, I have a serious preppy side. And there's almost nothing preppier for summer than madras (well, maybe a white seersucker suit). But madras doesn't have to be limited to the country club or golf course; feel free to wear madras even if you don't have a trust fund. In fact, I think madras is best worn with a sense of humor, or, even better, a sense of irony. Wearing madras with your faux-vintage hipster tee or super tough leather jacket? I'm into it.
Madras is great in all shapes and styles, but the place to start is always dresses. From Victoria Secret, this corset dress, $43.99, is maybe more plaid than madras. But it lacks plaid's grunge and lumberjack associations; it's way more Park Avenue. I love the pockets and sash, and I'm guessing from the name that there's some shaping in the seams that'll help the top stay up. Bonus!
J.Crew has a dress that's definitely madras proper, but for some reason I find it a bit... not cute. The patchwork madras Mia dress, $150, has two problems: the color and the shape. I think the shift is too solid-- all that unbroken madras is overwhelming. And the color is a little dull, a little muted-- if you're doing madras, do it bright.
See, this is better! The Playa Patchwork Madras Miniskirt, $68, perfectly walks the line between bright and washed-out. I'm not sure about the shape, since it looks very hip-unfriendly. I love it with the button-down, though, the perfect combination of beach and office.
This American Eagle Patchwork Pleated Skirt, $19.99, is a great casual alternative. The darker shades in the madras make it a bit less festive; maybe more "lunch with your friends" than "day at the beach."
This is another piece that's more plaid than madras, but whatever, it's cute. Also from American Eagle, the Plaid Utility Short, $34.95, is a great pink/light brown color and has all sorts of fun pockets and buttons.
These shoes are sold out at J.Crew, but still: don't you want to go sailing with a boy wearing madras sneakers? No? Just me then?
So I hope I've proven that madras is great in various shapes and forms, but now I want to make my case that madras is at its very best in a bikini. Maybe this is part of my preppy/sailing obsession, but I think madras swimsuits are such an original, fun idea.
From J.Crew, the Patchwork Madras Padded wide-band string-tie top, $46 is ideally paired with a cream cashmere cardigan at a twilight crab dinner on Cape Cod. Then, over some soft-shell, that John F. Kennedy Jr. look-a-like will look over and think, "What a classy woman, who will turn into a style icon through marrying me and then letting me cheat on her."
This AE madras halter bikini, $19.95, is a little less aspirational. This is more for beach volleyball games on Coronado Island, when that Benjamin McKenzie look-a-like will offer to buy you a Sno Cone between sets.
This is probably my favorite Madras bikini, from Victoria's Secret. The madras balconet top, $19.99, and bottom, $11.99, are in such lovely shades of pink and yellow that it's like you're wearing a preppy, preppy sunset. I also think the matching cover-up, $16.99, could double as a super cute skirt. Oh, and bonus: the neck strap on the top is removable, so you can take it off to avoid bad tan lines then put it back on when you dive into the pool. I think this bathing suit is perfect for when you're eating cotton candy at Coney Island and that John Krasinski look-a-like asks if you want to ride the Cyclone with him.