Southern Fashion & Derby Styles


Southern Style History 101

So we all have those images in our heads: the well-to-do ladies of the antebellum South in their voluminous dresses, swanning about town with petticoats and hoop skirts making walking within close proximity a joke, so much real estate do these garments take. It’s Gone with the Wind and The Blue and the Gray, an outward representation of social status whose day-to-night styles were just that—like day and night. By day, these Southern women wore high-necked dresses with long sleeves and long hems that swished through the dust at their feet while they walked, carrying parasols to keep their skin as milky white as the times called for.

By night, however, the bosoms were fair play, as the necklines plunged much lower, the sleeves dropped below the shoulders, and the fabrics were more sumptuous. It’s an interesting thing to consider, the way these women literally wore their social status on their sleeves, though it was not at all uncommon. As women of means, they had influence from and access to European countries and drew on the styles of the day, bringing them back to the States and literally setting the trends for the newly formed American South. And since then, they’ve become iconic representations of Southern women with all their “fiddle dee-dee’s” and seemingly frail femininity. But under all those petticoats and hoop skirts, there was an undeniable grittiness, strength, and determination that have carried over into the way we, as Southern women, not only dress, but also carry ourselves today.

How the Modern Southern Belle Does Spring

Modern Southern women have a style all their own. Venture above the Mason Dixon line, and it’s pretty clear the way things fly down South that would get you a sideways look if you went North. The dividing line still exists, ladies, but who says that’s a bad thing? It just means we have a distinctiveness, a style that sets us apart and makes us stand out…And as Southern women, we must naturally assume that our way is the BEST way.

So just what makes a modern Southern woman? First rule: It’s never the wrong time to wear a dress. To get groceries, to get an oil change, heck, to go to the mailbox, a dress is always a DO. After all, it’s HOT in the South, so the more airflow we get, the better. Just remember to think lightweight, airy, and cheery. Prints are a great way to keep dresses daytime appropriate for any occasion, so be bold with patterns like fresh florals, paisleys, gingham, and polka dots.

We also LOVE a monogram. Declare yourself, honey, and be proud of your name! Have it embroidered on anything from purses and boots to jackets, sweaters, and plain old-polos. It makes it YOURS and it makes the piece unique, so take ownership and wear it like the self-assured woman you are.

In the South, boots are a major do, regardless of social status. Hello, have you checked the price on some of the better boots on the market? Some of them would easily give Jimmy Choos a run for their money, and frankly, they could even kick them in the…well, you know. After all, a great pair of boots is versatile and can be worn with anything from jeans and shorts to dresses and skirts, so they’re pretty much rule breakers. They’re also extremely long lasting, if you invest in a good pair. The longer you wear them, in fact, the better they feel, which makes the ROI—or return on investment—a major win.

Accessories are also a huge focal point. Here in the South, we have a respect for heirlooms—and things that LOOK like heirlooms. We wear our pearls with pride whether they came from the store yesterday or were once worn by our grannies. A good pearl anything is never out of style, just remember to mix it up and keep it fresh by not being all match-matchy and wearing the full set.

Hats are also fair play. The sun is brutal y’all, and we need to stay dewy fresh and young looking. The modern lady doesn’t need to carry a parasol, though, so the hat makes a nice style statement at the same time as keeping you shaded from all those harsh rays.

Taking the Win with Derby Fashion

Hats, in fact, are an extremely pivotal point of fashion for Derby season. The bigger, the better, so just get ready to go all mad-hatter and explore your wild side. At no other time during the year are we given such a free pass to be outrageous with headwear, and it’s practically a race in itself to wear the best hat and put all the other ladies around you to shame.

With that major hat comes great responsibility a great dress, as well, and florals are really the way to go. Sure, you could wear a solid, but now’s not the time to be a shrinking violet! Think big and bold to catch everyone’s attention while you’re out there being “out there.”

Pair up the dress with a great pair of open-toed sandals, but remember that they shouldn’t steal the scene from your hat. Go with neutrals and colors that really compliment your attire without having too much presence, as this is definitely one occasion when shoes should play a very small supporting role.

Same rule applies with jewelry. Think dainty and understated so that less focus is on your earrings or any other pieces you’re wearing and can stay where it belongs: THE HAT.

Next, you need a mini clutch that’s fun and colorful, so again, you can be bold here. Bedazzled isn’t a bad thing when the purse is itty bitty, and it’s a great way to express your style.

Don’t forget the sunglasses! You may have the shade of your hat to help you out, but your pretty peepers still need protection from the glare of the sun. It’s harsh out there, y’all! It’s key that you don’t drag down your overall look with a blah pair of shades, though, so keep to the idea of being bright and bold with whatever sunglasses you choose.

Spring Style for Southern Men

Any good Southern woman will tell you that a handsome Southern man is the ULTIMATE accessory (ha ha!), and there’s a distinct look that goes along with it. Guys here proudly wear pastels, whether that’s on a polo, a nice button-down, or even their pants and shorts. They’re secure enough to explore the more feminine hues, and with good reason. The lighter, the better, since darker colors are not only more somber, but also major heat-keepers. And in the South, we like to stay cool.

Take a peek in their closets, and you’ll likely also find a few bow ties. Bow ties are a great sign of style, and with so many colors and patterns, they’re an extremely fun way to mix up your wardrobe and keep things interesting.

Footwear is also important to Southern style. Guys here love a good deck shoe worn with anything from jeans and shorts to chinos, and they come in a wide range of colors and materials that make them both functional and versatile.