Readers – Do you know BiblioMOMia? She is a fabulously fashionable mom blogger (and academic) who always leaves honest and thoughtful comments for us at Ain't No Mom Jeans.
We love her. So when Amy took us to task last year for hating on Southern gal inspired critter flip-flops…we listened. And boy-oh-boy, are we glad we did. Keep reading for a Southern Mama's perspective on fashion. Love it. Thanks, Amy!!!!
Are you hot yet? Yeah, me too. I was raised in the cradle of the American South, which often felt more like an armpit by August. I now live in DC, and it’s absolutely disgusting by the end of the summer. Heat and humidity like you wouldn’t believe (like S is discovering over in Philly!). Time to put the hair up and the sunscreen on, here below the Mason-Dixon line.
There are lots of things about Southern Girl Style that are hard to understand: Ribbon belts and monograms. Vera Bradley. Pearls with polo shirts. Maybe one day I’ll try to explain some of those, too. But if there’s one thing that a southern gal knows how to do, it’s dress for the heat. In the South, women don’t sweat – we glisten. And my mama would be horrified if I “glistened” too much in public! But, she’s never walked a toddler to the Metro in the blazing sun, or walked all over the city pushing a stroller in this god-forsaken humidity. When the end of the summer rolls around, and you’ve sweat through everything else in your closet, I have a simple answer for you:
(A is wearing a vintage madras jacket, JCrew skirt, left of center tee, Nine West shoes, art fair necklace. The Pup is wearing shirt by hartstrings, shorts by hartstrings, shoes by lil raggia.)
You mean that stuff old men’s golf pants are made out of? You mean that crazy patchwork plaid stuff? Absolutely, mamas. Madras fabric was invented in India in the nineteenth century, then imported to England and the colonies. Especially in the American South, people fell in love with the lightweight cotton and vibrant plaid patterns, and it’s been a staple in our wardrobes ever since. The thin cotton keeps your skin cool, and the pattern hides any potential “glistening.” There’s nothing better for the dog days of summer, especially for moms.
So how do you wear madras without looking like, well, your mom? There’s so much more to this fabric than golf pants and sailing pullovers. Remember that madras can be either patchwork in style (lots of little squares of different plaids sewn together) or used on its own, but it’s almost always bright or pastel in color. The key to wearing it stylishly is to play up the preppy elements of the fabric while modernizing the silhouettes and accessories. Here are a few outfit ideas:
(Personally, I’m wearing a vintage madras jacket that I stole from my grandmother’s closet. You have to love southern grandmas!)
This version is both the easiest and the most Southern – bright pastel colors, Rainbow flip flops, and pearl studs. Everyone has those random tees from summer vacations (the one I used here is from the Salty Dog Café, a classic beachfront destination in Hilton Head, SC. But how do you wear them without looking boring or frumpy? Toss a bright madras button down over your tee (with the sleeves cuffed, of course), then add cut-off jeans or Bermuda shorts in a ridiculously bright color. With your Rainbows and pearls, you’ll fit right in at the Salty Dog.
Here, the vibe of the madras is a bit funkier and more relaxed. The muted peach tones in the madras blazer will match pretty much everything in your closet, but I love it most with earth tones – like these olive cropped pants and mushroom relaxed tee. The metallic boat shoes are the perfect dash of fun (although a pair of TOMS would work well here, too). With a straw fedora, you’re ready for errands on the island with baby in tow (or a night out for drinks at your favorite dive bar).
Madras isn’t just preppy anymore, though, as evidenced by this awesome flirty maxi dress. This thing would be SO COOL (literally, as in temperature) for a summer evening at the park. I’d add a crocheted cardi and some fun wedges or espadrilles, along with a big pile of ethnic and bohemian bracelets. With an embroidered tote bag that’s big enough for both a bottle of wine and a change of clothes for the kiddo, you’re ready for an outdoor movie.
If you’re worried about madras overload, think small – like a head scarf or belt for beginners. There are tons of gorgeous madras scarves out there, not to mention feminine madras blouses. And a simple madras dress works great as a beach cover-up. Any of these elements will add a little bit of spice – and a little bit of the South – to these horrible final days of summer heat.
So go find some madras. And I promise – you’ll glisten instead of sweat!
Contributing author Amy is working on two babies – her Ph.D. and her toddler. She divides her time between crawling through the stacks of the library and crawling on the floor with her baby boy. She still hasn’t figured out how to get dog hair out of cashmere, but she refuses to give up her heels (yet). You can check out her blog on motherhood and style in academia at BiblioMOMia.