Erika Preval - Simply Put

Tag: The Southern Coterie

Show Your Stripes: Southern Seersucker

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We’d planned to call him Jack to avoid the confusion that would surely come were he called by his first name – that of my husband. I daydreamed of the seersucker jumpers he’d play in as a young boy: blue-gray and white, with shorts hitting just above the knee. White knee socks and a bow tie would be accessories to round out his suited look on Sundays. You can only imagine my surprise when our midwife exclaimed, “It’s a girl!” But I digress.

There are few things that signal the start of summer more than the appearance of seersucker. Suits made of this wrinkled, lightweight cotton fabric, hailing from India have made their way into the closets of men and women alike. In fact, the seersucker suit has even been celebrated annually in the US Senate on Seersucker Thursday, “to bring a little Southern Charm to the Capitol”. But what is the protocol for wearing a suit made from this beloved fabric? Here’s a brief overview:

A Tale of Two Seasons: Society tells us that seersucker and other warm-weather fabrics (and colors) are properly worn from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Below the Mason-Dixon the timeline is a bit different. Explained best by my friend K. Cooper Ray, designer of menswear line Social Primer, “Charleston men start the seersucker season on Easter Sunday. It doesn’t matter if it’s mid-March, cold and raining or late-April and sun blazing. Easter Sunday.” Easter is also when the wearing of white shoes is traditionally acceptable in the South.

Perfect Pairings: One of the most famous appearances of the seersucker suit was in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, as pictured above. You certainly aren’t required to wear a three-piece to pull this look off. Feel free to balance individual pieces with a solid shirt and tie – patterned, if you dare. Most gentlemen will wear a Panama hat, though I’ve seen many a dandy opting for a straw boater instead. Do take care in choosing your undergarments, as they may show through the thin fabric. The white buck is the typical shoe worn with the suit, though a more casual shoe can definitely be worn with seersucker – match the occasion and venue.

Tasteful Rainbow: Should this be your first purchase, stick with the traditional blue and white suit; it’s quite popular for modern looks, as well. If nostalgic, you’ll want to own a Haspel - the label of the New Orleans tailor that crafted the original seersucker suit and brand worn by all past Presidents since Coolidge. Although the fabric is inherently wrinkled in appearance, as with any suit it should be tailored for a proper fit to ensure you look great while staying cool in the heat and humidity of the Deep South.

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So, as the mother of two daughters, Jack has obviously chosen to remain a dream. Nevertheless, the girls have had seersucker hanging in their wardrobe since their days of wearing smocked dainties. In fact, my youngest will be wearing this charming jacket from Brooks Brothers in the coming weeks. I look forward to seeing your seersucker combinations, too, at The Southern C Summit next month in Charleston!

See you soon,

Erika

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons & Brooks Brothers

A Guide to Gracious Gratitude

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A desk perfect for penning thank you notes. [click]

One of the highlights of my childhood was sorting the mail. Not only did it give me first dibs on viewing the new covers of our monthly magazine subscriptions, it also enabled me to study the handwriting of family friends sending notes of thanks – sometimes adapting my penmanship to theirs. With the addition of electronic communication, I’ve noticed a lot of missteps when it comes to the proper response for the receipt of gifts, and the like. To be certain your method of thanks doesn’t elicit a Southern “bless their heart” do consider the following guide to gratitude:

Pen to Pad – This is a non-negotiable. When someone is thoughtful enough to present you with a gift, an old-fashioned handwritten thank you note is required. Not a text message. Never a social media shoutout. A stamped note via snail mail is still considered the most sincere form of gratitude. In the case of graduations, weddings and babies, stationery should always be on hand, so that you can quickly thank the giver.

Type Away – Though not as warm, an email expressing thanks is appropriate following an invitation using the same method. Evite, Paperless Post, and others have opened up the door to an inexpensive and casual way of spreading the word about upcoming events. If your dinner party invitation comes via email, and your relationship with the host is such, an emailed thank you may be appropriate.

Rule of Thumbs – On occasions such as being invited by a close friend to lunch, a quick text message of gratitude afterwards is sufficient. There’s a debate when it comes to dating, but my advice is that a quick thank you text, once you’re home, is appropriate here. Surely, you will have thanked them in person, but this gesture keeps the lines of communication open.

Please note: A late thank you is always better than none at all. Also, handwritten thank you notes through the post will always make the biggest impact on their recipient. The best way to ensure your note is sent promptly is to have all the tools needed (stationery, stamps, etc.) at the ready. In any case, it’s important to know your audience and cater to their expected level of gratitude. After all, the basic rule of etiquette is to make certain the other person feels comfortable!

This post is also featured at The Southern Coterie where I offer a monthly post on modern manners as a member of The C-Team.

Cheers,

Erika