Tag Archives: fashion

131. Big Ass Bows, Not the Hunting Kind

19 Nov

A few of the eight million and twelve bows at the Canton Flea Market

A few of the eight million and twelve bows at the Canton Flea Market

It might surprise y’all to learn that folks here in Seattle do not know the first thing about hair bows. Or maybe they just stay hidden underneath the hoodies. I might have caught a glimpse of one once or twice on a little girl in a fancy dress. But that may have been a dream, seeing as you hardly ever spot Seattleites of any age decked out in a festive manner.

I honestly haven’t thought much about hair bows over the last couple of decades, but a trip to the Canton Flea Market brought the memories flooding back. Turns out, Southerners are still wearing them. I sort of thought they were an 80’s thing that went the way of banana clips.

me and bowI guess I should have known better, seeing as my relationship with hair bows began farther back than I can remember. Fortunately, there is photographic evidence.

For Southern girls, hair bows are perfect for any occasion, from beauty pageants to basketball games–and not just for the cheerleaders, players too! (I just Googled “basketball hair bows” to see if I was just talking out of my ass in that last sentence. Lo and behold, there are actually basketball-themed hair bows. Who knew?)

colorful hair bowHair bows come in all colors of the rainbow, as well as many that don’t actually exist in nature. You’ll find solid colors, stripes, polka dots, plaids, floral prints and countless combinations thereof. Pick up any ribbon off the shelf at Michael’s, and I’d be willing to bet somebody’s made a hair bow with it. (Note: I’m not wagering actual money.)

As I’ve mentioned before, Southerners just love slapping their initials on anything even remotely decorative, so there’s an endless variety of monogrammed hair bows. From a single initial on up to all three. Plain or cursive, embroidered or painted, whatever you like. Heck, you can even put your whole name on there if your parents were considerate enough to give you one that would fit.

monogram bowOne day, some Southern mom decided that a plain old hair bow just didn’t express the essence of Billie Sue. And so, voila! Themes! From Hello Kitty to Minnie Mouse, ponies to puppies, whatever you’re into (within reason), there’s a bow for you. Bubble gum! Lady bugs! Cupcakes! John Deere Tractors! Even skull and crossbones for the goth kids! Need I mention there’s a hair bow for every holiday candy manufacturers celebrate?

Of course, there’s always somebody who takes a good thing too far. And then the million followers who come along for the ride. So now we have a whole crop of affiliation hair bows. Sororities! Alma Maters! SEC teams! TV shows! I haven’t run across a “First Baptist Church” hair bow, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist.

ms state bowHow does one wear a hair bow? As far as I can tell, anything goes. My mom was always partial to the top of my head, but plenty of folks wear them on the side or the back. With ponytail or without. Straight hair, naturally curly, or permed. You’ll even find bows attached to headbands for hair-challenged kids. Braids? Ringlets? Sure, why not? Some might suggest they ought not be worn with dreadlocks, but that’s likely a moot point.

john deere bowA dyed-in-the-wool bowhead might persist in embellishing her hairdo with ribbons up until such time as she eats her last chicken salad sandwich. I believe most folks retire the hair bows early in their 20s. Perhaps it’s a rite of passage when one finishes college, gets married, has a kid or all of the above. There’s no law in place, but I’d suggest that hair bows be confiscated from anyone with gray hair or grandkids, whichever comes first. Call me ageist if you like, but I, myself, fit into one of those categories.

I’m not suggesting that we Southern women of a certain age be deprived of decorating our heads altogether. The horror! Ladies, we have something far better than hair bows: Hats! (Stay tuned for an upcoming post on God’s gift for bad hair days.)

Have you ever worn hair bows? If and when did you stop? Extra credit bonus question: Why?

Photo credits: Canton Flea Market bows and Portrait of a Young Bowhead from Holloway Family Archives. All other bows available at ETSY–Colorful Bow by NothingLikeBOWS, Monogram Bow by Prettyloulou, MS State Bow by BiancasBoutiqueBows, and John Deere Bow by PolkaDotzBowtique.

123. Making Things Personal in a Decorative Fashion

28 Feb

k pillowIn the South, if you leave a tote bag, towel, or drinking glass unattended for too long, someone’s liable to come along and embellish it with initials. (The Pacific Northwest equivalent is to “put a bird on it.”)

If there’s anything Southerners like better than the sound of our own voices, it’s the sight of our own initials. How else do you explain the obsessive compulsion to monogram everything from pillow cases to table cloths, not to mention all the jewelry and clothing in between. If anyone can figure out a convenient way to etch initials into casserole dishes, I will buy plenty of shares when your company goes public.

In an effort to provide y’all a little background on the tradition, I took a quick stroll around the Internet and got so overwhelmed I had to sit down and rest a spell. Monogramming is a topic far too broad to tackle in a single blog post, so I’ll just tell y’all what I know about it and encourage you to explore the subject on your own. Google will direct you where to go.

il_570xN.418700762_10crFrom as far back as anyone alive can remember, Southerners have embellished household treasures like silverware, linens, and crystal with the family’s initials. Using a single initial to represent one’s surname would be easiest, but then there wouldn’t be much to argue about. Consequently, most monograms expand to include three initials. The question becomes: “whose?”

Frankly my dears, I haven’t a clue. So many variations exist, it makes one long for the days when swooning was fashionable. Often, monograms consist of two smaller initials flanking the left and right side of a larger letter. For single folks, the formula is pretty simple: small letter on left represents an individual’s first name, large letter in center represents the surname, and small letter on right represents the middle name. (Now that I think of it, you hardly ever see “Jr.” as part of a monogram, so I don’t know how men from consecutive generations know whose personalized camo hat is whose.)

Get your own beer, Bubba!

Get your own beer, Bubba!

Marriage complicates things, including monograms. Folks start asking, “Is what’s mine A. Mine, B. Yours, or C. Ours?” When it comes to whose initials go on what and in which order, opinions vary. Shocker, I know…

These days when Southern brides register for linens, cutlery, and the like, they often opt for a joint monogram featuring the couple’s soon-to-be surname in the center, flanked by his and her first initials. Some say the husband’s initial gets top billing; others say that honor goes to the wife. I imagine at least a handful of engagements flame out before the registry is finalized. In the interest of fairness, I recommend tossing a coin or playing “rock, paper, scissors.” Or why not mix it up–he gets towels, she gets pillowcases.

I don't just make this stuff up...

I don’t just make this stuff up…

For personal items like hair bows (seriously, y’all) or golf club covers, stick with individual monograms. Like peeing standing up, selecting a monogram is much easier for a man, seeing as his initials rarely change. For married women, the question becomes: should the initial right of center represent one’s maiden name or middle name? Decisions, decisions.

You may be wondering: “What about folks with hyphenated surnames?” Well, y’all, correct me if I’m wrong, but I imagine folks who hyphenate surnames aren’t exactly the monogramming type.

At the risk of losing some of my Southern cred, I must admit that I, myself, have never developed a taste for monogramming. I did once buy a purse with a “K” on it, but that’s about it. I’m far more inclined toward objects featuring words, such as a vase that says “bloom” or a pet bowl that says “drink.” And, yes, I realize that flowers and cats aren’t exactly known for their reading comprehension skills…

Apart from the occasional piece of jewelry, my mom wasn’t much of a monogrammer either, with one notable exception: sunglasses. Ever since I can remember (and probably before), my mom liked her sunglasses large and monogrammed. While she liked to be stylish as the next person (or more, if we’re being honest), she never could bear to compromise when smaller frames became de rigueur. She had me always on the lookout for generously sized lenses suitable for the task at hand. For a while this search was about as fruitless as my current quest to purchase jeans of any type other than “skinny.” (Attention merchants: Not all of us are!)

Rockin' Mom's sunglasses

Rockin’ Mom’s sunglasses

Of course, the summer after she died, every store on the planet stocked ginormous sunglasses, each pair larger than the next. Thanks, fashion industry, for that extra dash of salt.

My dad, ever on the hunt for a bargain, once happened across an incredible deal on a wool sweater from a fancy menswear store. Sure, it had someone else’s monogram on it, but my dad is nothing if not resourceful. This was back in the 80’s when Izod was all the rage, so he simply repurposed a lizard from a pair of socks and stitched it over the erroneous initials. Problem solved.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen monogrammed? Do you like adding your initials to stuff? If so, what?

Photo Credits: K pillow available at the HAWthorne Etsy shop; vintage-inspired napkins available at the KristinesEmbroidery Etsy shop; monogram hair bow available at the LittleGoodieTutus Etsy shop; me in sunglasses courtesy of Holloway family archives.

117. Matching (AKA Not Looking Tacky)

9 Jan

matchy-matchyPicture this: I’m about to walk out the door wearing turquoise mary janes, denim capris, white cotton blouse topped with turquoise and light purple striped sweater and turquoise-accented eyeglasses. I’m carrying a glittery turquoise handbag featuring purple flowers. Oh, and a purple water bottle.

Before I leave, I turn to Geoff and say, “I’m worried that I don’t quite match enough…” This renders him temporarily speechless till I add, “I’m kidding!”

Yes, I can go a little overboard with the matching (full disclosure: I was also wearing lavender eye shadow with glittery turquoise eyeliner), but I’m Southern and it’s just part of my DNA.

Don't be like this, y'all...

Don’t be like this, y’all…

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve had a deep and abiding fear of looking tacky. Occasionally, I’ll challenge myself by pairing a paisley shirt with an argyle sweater, but it makes my pulse race. And that’s with coordinating colors like burgundy and brown. Were I to wear the clashing patterns in, say, green and orange, I would most likely faint in the manner of a tent revival attendee.

As y’all might imagine, folks in Seattle don’t put a whole lot of effort into matching. It is, after all, the city that brought you grunge. Seattleites match neither the elements of an outfit with each other nor the entire ensemble to the occasion. Some don’t even bother to dress for the weather more than 1/2 way. How else do you explain all the guys running around wearing shorts and Birkenstocks with parkas or the girls sporting tank tops and miniskirts with Ugg boots?

lunch bagEarly this year, I went out on a limb and bought an insulated lunch bag that not only doesn’t match my water bottle, but also doesn’t match 9/10ths of the clothes I own. I think it’s adorable, but have never once carried it to my onsite gig without feeling uncomfortable, if not vaguely nauseated. (Pardon me while I go off topic, but I wanted to mention that these bags are great at keeping hot things hot, but it turns out you need some sort of cold pack to keep cold things cold. Besides which, there was never any room for it in the office refrigerator. Not my most practical purchase, but certainly not my least. That honor may go to the Cutest Shoes Ever, which featured ankle straps and 4” stiletto heels. My mom always called such footwear “sitting shoes.”)

Speaking of my mom, I should say that my propensity for matching comes from her side of the family. Which y’all would know if you’ve ever had the opportunity to see my dad sporting his patchwork Christmas Pants (though he occasionally breaks them out as early as Thanksgiving). The patches feature every conceivable design all stitched up together in no discernible pattern in the manner of a calico cat. Except that the patches are made of wool, corduroy and such, not fur. To be fair, I’ll note that all the patches feature coordinating shades of brown, which is more than I can say for the madras patchwork sport coat that Land’s End originally sold for $250 but has now marked down to $159.99.

My sister with Mom at her 50th anniversary dinner.         Not pictured: Matching nail polish.

My sister with Mom at her 50th anniversary dinner. Not pictured: Matching nail polish.

Anyhoo, my mom was a world-championship matcher. She even won a ribbon once at the state fair. Ok, I just made that up, but were prizes awarded in such categories, she would’ve easily outmatched any so-called competition. I’m not saying that some of her outfits weren’t questionable, but even so, they always matched.

Do you like to get all matchy-matchy? What’s your favorite outfit?

Photo credits: “Matchy Matchy” illustration by Natalie Dee, all other photos from Holloway family archives.

102. Flip Flops–The Depth of Fashion

30 Mar

Here in Seattle, the weather is about as fickle as Mary on Downton Abbey. Will it rain? Or snow? Or be overcast? Or sunny? Or marry Matthew? Yes! Sometimes all in one day. That’s one of the first things they teach you at Pacific Northwest Orientation: Layers.

Even so, with a glance out the window, I’ll see some folks in parkas, some in sandals and shorts, and some–inexplicably–wearing all of the above. What I rarely see is people wearing flip flops. Birkenstocks? Yes. Tevas? Boy howdy! But flip flops? Not so much.

I’ve been aware of the Southern predilection for wearing those foot-slapping sandals for quite a few years now. One time my sister tried to convince me that they were the height of fashion. But I’ve seen nary a flip flop shod model making his/her noisy strut down any runway anywhere. And if one ever did, I feel sure they’d be wearing the “shoes” ironically. To be fair, I’ve never seen models in Berkies either, nor do I expect to.

What I hadn’t realized until I was home this past Christmas is that flip flops are considered all-weather footwear. At least by more than one member of my family (and y’all know who you are), seeing as they were wearing them in what I’d definitely describe as “sweater weather.”

I might’ve asked why, but I’m psychic enough to predict the answer: “They’re comfortable.” To which I would telepathically respond, “In winter?” Surely frostbitten toes can’t feel all that great (if indeed they feel at all). At least with Birkenstocks, one has the option of wearing socks. Not that I’d advise this or actually do it myself (full disclosure: I have). But at least you can protect toes from the elements and/or conceal one’s winter pedicure hiatus.

Perhaps sensing a lack in the marketplace, some industrious soul came up with a flip flop sock. Which is great if you want your feet to resemble some sort of tree-dwelling creature or perhaps a reject muppet.

To be fair, I should mention that Southerners deck themselves in all manner of fancy flip flops. These are not your typical shower shoes. You’ll find them in a rainbow of colors (alas, the ones with the faux rainbow stacked heel seem to have gone the way of pet rocks). They’re embellished with rhinestones, flowers, “pearls”, you name it. Still, y’all, they’re flip flops. Lipstick, meet pig.

Perhaps I’m not giving flip flops a fair shake due to a childhood trauma. When I was 10 or 12 years old (or possibly 11), a girl named Natalia came to live with us for the summer, for reasons that are still unbeknownst to me. Natalia loved two things: her flip flops and Phil Collins’ cover of the Supremes’ classic “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

My sister and I were not overly fond of Natalia. I can’t remember exactly why, if the two aforementioned character traits aren’t reason enough. Also, she was a tattle-tale. Anyhow, I’ve come to associate that relentless “flap, flap, flap, flap” noise as the sound of Natalia (read “doom”) approaching. And I feel the urge to dash away quickly lest I be further aurally assaulted by that dreadful song, which is, of course, now playing in an endless loop in my mind.

Sorry, y'all, I don't.

Do you wear flip flops? If so, why?

Images from Etsy: Flip flop sign by Expressions of Kim (another Kim, not me), Flower flip flop by Petal ‘n Pearl Boutique, Crystal flip flop by All Things Glamorous, “I Do” flip flops by Bridal Flip Flops.

92. Wearing Curlers in Public

1 Apr

I can count on less than one finger the number of folks I’ve seen sporting curlers between here and Los Angeles. I’m not sure if they even sell curlers here, though you could surely find some on Amazon. Is there anything they WON’T sell?

In the South, you’re likely to encounter ladyfolks wearing curlers in the grocery store, Walmart, the dentist’s office, or most commonly, the mall. Whenever I encounter a be-curlered person, I wonder: “Where are you going later that’s SO FANCY? And why wasn’t I invited?”

Surely curlers aren’t some kind of ironic fashion statement. Yet. In fact, many ladies attempt to cover them with a jaunty scarf. Not that they’re fooling anyone. Nobody’s head is shaped like that. I hope.

The best I can figure, wearing curlers in public is all about multi-tasking. How else can you shop for kitty litter and get your hair done at the same time?

I’m probably not qualified to comment on curlers, seeing as I’ve never used them myself. But since when has that ever stopped me?

As far as I know, there are two types of curlers – hot rollers and, um, room temperature ones? I believe that hot rollers work faster, so the kind you see in public are the latter variety.

Yes! They sell these on Amazon!

You’ll find quite a few styles of room temperature rollers. I’m most familiar with the spongy pink foam ones with a plastic snap contraption that holds them in place. All of the other varieties require bobby pins or clips of some sort. Actually, I think there are some rollers that claim to stay in place all by themselves, but those are probably marketed by the same folks who tried to sell us the specialty tape that would magically hold one’s boobs up. (Don’t waste your money.)

I don’t know how long one must wear rollers to achieve the desired amount of curl. How do you know when you’re done? Are there directions on the curler packages?

You’d think that the roller thing would have phased out back in the 80’s, once The Perm Generation started up. But perhaps they’re making a comeback. Hey, if parachute pants can do it, anything can!


While many folks use curlers to preempt bad hair days, this technique has been known to backfire. Back in high school, my mayonnaise-hating friend Sandy decided to optimize the curling power of the pink foam rollers by sleeping in them. She might’ve even started off with wet hair. She showed up at school the next day with WAY more curls than she’d wanted/aimed for/thought possible. The look was reminiscent of a certain Saturday Night Live character so naturally, she earned the nickname “Rosanne RosannaSandy.”

Do you now or have you ever used curlers? If so, have you ever worn them in public? If so, why??

Photo credits – Flickr Creative Commons: Blythe doll in green curlers by Squirrel Junkie, Red-headed Blythe by Aimee Ray

81. Pantyhose (Preferably without Runs)

27 Feb

You don’t see a lot of folks wearing pantyhose in the Pacific Northwest. Here, there are two choices: tights or bare legs (or the ill-advised, unfortunately named “jeggings”). It’s not that they don’t sell them at Nordstrom and such places; they do. I’m just not sure WHY, seeing as I can’t name a single person I’ve ever seen wearing them. But perhaps I’m not going to the right places, such as office conference rooms or fund-raising events on the Eastside.

I, myself, have quite the collection of tights. Some of which have never been worn due to: A. not matching anything I own and B. my innate inability to brazenly wear clashing patterns and/or colors. I’m still too much of a Southerner to disobey the 12th Commandment: “Thou shalt not go out in public looking tacky.” Before y’all start reminding me of all the freakishly unattractive ensembles the People of Walmart wear, I will say that those people are heathens.

While pantyhose come in all the colors of crayon box (the 64 pack, not the giant economy-sized one), Southerners tend to stick with the basics: nude or black, almost always opting for the “control top” variety. I’m not sure how those became so popular, seeing as what most Southerners (myself included) need is a “control muffin top.” Of course, with a little ingenuity, this problem is easily solved: buy pantyhose a size “taller” and pull them up to right under the boobs. The ladies in my family were wearing Spanx before their “founder” Sara Blakely was even born. We just didn’t bother to make millions selling them. Didn’t folks already KNOW how to do that?

One day, my sister, Jenna, was in a store checking out the Spanx display, wondering if it was time for an upgrade. Next thing she knew, her homemade Spanx and her elastic waist pants had something like a reverse magnet effect and her pants ended up around her ankles. She immediately: A. looked around her to see if anyone had noticed and B. pulled her pants back up. Probably in that order. Then she went right back to perusing the Spanx as if nothing had happened – just one of the eight million and twelve reasons why I love my sister…

Abstract art?

I’ve always been curious about the “panty” function of the hose. You know, that teeny patch of cotton in crotch. Is that really supposed to be sufficient?

In the Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love, Jill Conner Brown tells about a time when she was too pregnant for panties and getting dressed for a party. Her husband walked in and…

Jill writes: “(He) was surprised that I wasn’t wearing anything under my tights: ‘You’re not wearing any panties?’ I just said, real offhand, ‘Oh, you never wear panties to a party,’ and kept on doing whatever. He just stood there, slack-jawed, for a full thirty seconds, considering the implications, I suppose. I had moved on, forgotten about it, and he was still standing there, gaping. ‘You don’t? Nobody does?’ ‘Nobody does what?’ I asked him. ‘Panties to a party – doesn’t anybody wear ‘em?’ He was looking sort of dreamy and clearly thought he was being let in on some big secret of all womankind: that every party he’d ever been to or would ever go to – there wasn’t a pair of panties in the room – and he was the only guy who knew.”

I beg to differ.

There are still some workplaces where women are required to wear pantyhose, which I consider a cruel and unusual punishment, especially in the summertime. I would get worked up into a rant here about how unfair this is to women, but when you see a car salesman on the lot at noon on an August day clad in a suit coat AND tie, you’ll see that everybody’s equally miserable.

I’d love to hear what y’all think about pantyhose.

Also, could someone please explain why there’s such a thing as “sandal-toe” pantyhose? Like people can’t see the seam? And what exactly are “support” hose supposed to support?

Photo credits: “I know I’m a Queen” T-shirt design available at Scribblin’ Sisters.

“Abstract art?” I saw this lovely display in the restroom of a department store in Mississippi. I was happy that I had a camera phone, but sad that the photo quality was, well, not exactly “quality.”

36. Wrangler Jeans: Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Wear Levi’s

7 May

Why do Southern people love Wrangler jeans? No, I’m asking you: why? Ok, I’ll admit to admiring the way they hug the backsides of bull riders. But, honestly, I think any jeans would do. Even Walmart brand, if there is such a thing.

Wranglers are supposed to be tough, the Clint Eastwood of jeans. So maybe folks feel more macho with that lasso-esque label on their butt. Still, this doesn’t explain why women wear them. Then again, maybe it does.

I can’t recall whether or not I’ve ever actually owned a pair of Wranglers. I’m sure my sister would remember. She has an uncanny talent for recalling anything you’d rather forget. I do distinctly remember trying on a pair once. This was at Mildred’s, a sad little clothing outpost not far from where I grew up. I can’t remember anything they sold apart from the aforementioned Wranglers. Underwear? Neckties? Ball gowns? Help me out, Richland people…

I never considered myself the Wrangler type. I mean, I’ve yet to attempt roping a steer. Heck, I haven’t even chased after a greased pig. I think you kind of have to earn Wranglers, in the manner of a Boy/Girl Scout merit badge.

When I was growing up, getting caught in Wranglers knocked you at least two rungs down the social ladder. In my mind, anyway. I didn’t even want folks knowing I occasionally wore Lee’s. (eek! now you do!)

I was all about Chic jeans (pronounced like “small yellow bird,” not “oil baron.”). And Jordache (with requisite comb in the back pocket). And my personal favorite, Gloria Vanderbilts (although my dad claimed he couldn’t afford those fancy Gloria “D.” Vanderbilts. Perhaps because he wasn’t John D. Rockefeller?)

Now that I’ve been an ex-pat Southerner all these years, I kind of think I ought to get myself a pair of Wranglers. Embrace my heritage, you know? But where would I even find a pair? I’m guessing Nordstrom doesn’t carry them.

Do you wear Wranglers? What do you like about them?

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