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Lilly Pulitzer Dress

The 5 rules of the Southern dress code

It’s no secret that the South is very different from the North — and different than the rest of the country, in fact. From what we eat and drink to how we party, we Southerners have a distinctly specific way of doing everything.

We set the table a certain way, throw most events outdoors (because we can!) and we absolutely adhere to an unspoken Southern dress code. If you drop a Southerner in any city outside the South and their accent doesn’t give them away, their Jack Rogers and croakies will. How we dress is part of our culture; we are colorful, nice, classy and we honor tradition while embracing modern trends.

Click the arrows above to see the 5 classic rules of the Southern dress code.

Photo credit: Draper James Facebook

Red jacket over a white top and black pants

1. Embrace color

While you may find folks donned in black from head to toe in cities like New York or Paris, color is king in the Southern cities. Of course, black is classic, but here it will often act as an accent to a brighter hue in an ensemble. Think black pants, black shoes or a black cardigan over brightly colored staples. You’ll often find Southerners avoiding monochromatic schemes and opting instead for multiple coordinated colors and matching accessories.

Photo credit: Pink Coconut Boutique Facebook

Lilly Pulitzer Dress

2. Go full plaid — or any pattern, really

In the same way Southerners embrace color, we also don’t shy away from patterns. Seersucker, gingham, plaid and anything Lilly Pulitzer releases are all mainstays in a Southern wardrobe, and they often come in bold and bright colors. While a full seersucker suit is not as common as Northerners might like to think, seersucker shorts, bow ties and jackets are always welcome accents to a spring or summer outfit. And it’s actually not uncommon to see seersucker suits for groomsmen or dresses for bridesmaids at Southern weddings, both in traditional blue as well as other pastel hues.

Photo credit: Lilly Pulitzer Facebook


Jack Rogers

3. Sandals are dressy — even when they're flat

No, I’m not talking about flimsy flip flops; I’m talking about brands like Jack Rogers and Southern Tide. Because of the South’s warmer climate, sandals are often worn from March through November, so stocking up on a variety of sandals is important for every well-dressed Southerner. Sandals aren’t just for the beach or pool, either. It’s not uncommon to see flat sandals at more formal events like weddings, church or even work. 

Photo Credit: Jack Rogers Facebook

college football game day outfits

4. Game day attire is a real thing

It’s a really important thing, actually. We love college football in the South, and every football fan knows that dressing up for games is an essential part of the game day experience. Polos, sundresses, button downs, embroidered shorts or pants, and bow ties can all be found on a college campus on any given Saturday. True fans have a specific game day wardrobe, and they are always ready to cheer on their team during a black out, white out, red out, or whatever “out” your stadium is calling for that day. If you’re not attending a game, fans still represent their team with logoed polos, hats, cardigans and more casual — but always classy — attire.

Mint green bow tie

5. Bow ties and pearls are not worn ironically

These items are classic and often handed down from family members or gifted for special occasions like college acceptance, birthdays or graduation. We wear them proudly and they will always have a place in a Southerner’s wardrobe.

Honorable mention: Koozies. If you don’t have one in your purse or back pocket at all times, what are you even doing?

Photo credit: Inna Lesyk / Unsplash

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Ashley Twist Cole is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also an on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. Ashley rarely makes the same recipe twice and loves to experiment in the kitchen. After graduating from UGA, she spent several years working in digital strategy for brands including Chick-fil-A, Nike and Coca-Cola. Prior to joining Southern Kitchen, she was the manager of AccessAtlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s things to do and entertainment brand, where she fell in love with Atlanta’s dining scene. Ashley will travel almost anywhere for a good meal and great cocktail, but her favorite place to be is in her own kitchen with her husband Josh and son Whit, trying new recipes and mixing up cocktails.