Those were the days.... Yes, those were really the days for author Susanna Salk who with A Privileged Life extols the WASP style (sometimes called "preppy") Instead of celebrating it by focusing on wealth or position, Ms. Salk speaks of WASP style as not having anything to do with religion or money but rather as a time she remembers when there was something "profoundly comforting" in the "infinite consistency" of where she grew up. This constant was defined not only by the style of clothing worn but what was done and spoken, where they lived, how they played or entertained, and even what they ate.
Perhaps WASP style is most easily defined in the Foreword penned by Steven Stolman, a self described "nice Jewish boy from West Hartford, Connecticut." He describes it as a sensibility, a conservative ethic, "which was simply the way pretty much everyone dressed and conducted themselves in a traditional New England suburb." As well, I might add in many other suburbs including several in Michigan, Illinois, and other states.
Chapters are devoted to Wasp icons, lifestyle, Ivy League schools, fashion and homes. Each of the 150 beautiful photos (many full-page) is accompanied by a brief explanatory text. Some of these pictures feature Salk's family, others are film stills that exemplify the Wasp style, and many are of those we think of as personifying this style in their lives - Babe Paley, C. Z. Guest, John Cheever, Jackie Kennedy, and many more.
It goes without saying that WASP style has launched many of today's fashion trends (Ralph Lauren, J. Crew) and still bespeaks an elegant, casual way of dressing. More importantly, this affectionately rendered volume reminds us of a kinder, gentler way of life.
- Gail Cooke