Style & Shopping

How to Get the “Gen Z-Preppy” Look in Your Dorm Room for Under $200

published Nov 2, 2023
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Credit: target and tatua

All over TikTok, I’ve seen innovative Gen Zers take longstanding aesthetics and give them a modern spin to feel fresh and current in 2023. Take the “preppy” style, for example: Traditionally, it’s characterized by vintage furniture, classic patterns like plaid and gingham, and all monogrammed everything. But by incorporating updates like bright colors, Y2K elements, and coastal details, the conventional “preppy” transforms into its trendier descendent, “Gen Z-preppy.”

Gen Z’s take on the preppy aesthetic maintains the clean lines and East Coast vibes of the old-school prep look, but it feels less “country club exclusive,” and more playful and approachable. Rather than saving up for Ralph Lauren throw pillows or scouring antique shops for the perfect mahogany desk, you can easily find budget-friendly Gen Z-preppy pieces from Target, Five Below, and similar shops.

You’ve definitely seen the Gen Z-preppy aesthetic on social media in recent years — #RushTok is full of colorful, playful, and oh-so-preppy room tours. But of course, the look isn’t exclusive to sorority girls. 

In fact, with the below items, you can transform your dorm room into a Gen Z-preppy paradise for less than $200.

1 / 8

Despite being aggressively early 2000s, Mean Girls remains a preppy staple to this day. (Because remember: Y2K is a staple of Gen Z-preppy.) You can hang this sign above your desk-turned-vanity for a daily boost of confidence. And bonus: The glow from this sign gives you a reason to avoid the dreaded “big light.

2 / 8

These books add clean lines and pops of color to any space. Stack them to add some height variation on your desk, or lay them out on your nightstand. Because they’re faux books, you can’t actually read them, but because they’re hollow inside, you can use them to store items you don’t have desk space for.

3 / 8

Clean white bedding is a hallmark of the old-school preppy style, but you can spice it up with a pop of color and playful design in the form of a cheeky throw pillow. If the “chill pill” reference doesn’t resonate with you, there’s also this adorable pink “hug me” option that has similar vibes.

4 / 8

This collage kit is the epitome of Gen Z-preppy, mixing traditional prep elements (like pastels and coastal motifs) with more eclectic word art and early 2000s imagery. This pack comes with 70 mini posters and 50 stickers, giving you plenty of options for creating big gallery walls or switching out your decor every few weeks.

5 / 8
was $25.16

Plaid and preppy go together like Sunday brunches and LoveShackFancy dresses. This throw blanket gives the old-school print a Barbiecore update with warm pastel pinks and oranges.

6 / 8
Five Below

Remind yourself of how much you love your preppy space with this trinket dish, where you can store your cute little odds and ends. Bonus: Pink and orange is a classically preppy color combo.

7 / 8

Add a touch of elegance to your space with this minimal table lamp. The clear and white color combo will help your more colorful decor pop, and the crisp, clean lines scream “prep.”

8 / 8
was $118.00

This rug mixes the traditional with the new, blending vibrant pink with simple ivory in a subtle pattern. It gets extra credit for being stain-resistant, so if you spill your Starbucks, no worries.

Maegan Bellassai

Musical Theater

Maegan Bellassai is a Musical Theatre major at Ithaca College in upstate New York. She has a passion for singing, dancing, acting, and creating content. She has walked as a model in New York Fashion Week, performed off-Broadway at the prestigious 54 Below, and is an avid Disney-lover.

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SchoolIthaca College '25
MajorMusical Theater
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