The April 2017 issue of Town and Country’s theme was “In Defense of Good Taste” and was billed as the “Guide to Design and Decorum.” For those of you familiar with this publication, you can imagine the costs for the implementation of such good taste. However, magazines such as Town and Country perpetuate what we Southern women know to be important- the opposite of tacky- good taste.
My Southern mother taught me about good taste and I would suggest that good taste is place specific. Therefore, good taste in the South may vary from good taste in a Manhattan apartment. How do we define it? The only thing I can tell you is that I know it when I see it. Here are some Southern examples of good taste.
Jewelry: This can vary. Heirlooms, especially diamonds and pearls are always acceptable. A pair of diamond stud earrings can be worn with anything. Southern women have been known to wear their pearls with a pretty shirt and jeans. Costume jewelry is fine but must not be too gaudy and must be coordinated.
Dinnerware: I own three sets of fine china (one inherited) and will never be able to use it all though I try. Brides today are more practical but often choose a very neutral fine china. My collection of Towle Sterling flatware is a treasure but is often not a choice for today’s brides due to cost. The same is true for fine fragile crystal. Some women my age are finding that their Generation X or Millennial Southern children are often not interested.
Tableware: How many people today have special family dinners or guests and use fine linen? I often do and simply send it to the cleaners to be laundered. I own several of my mother’s fine tableware linens but never use them. They take up space in drawers. The alternative is place mats. Some hard place mats are lovely with elegant art. There are other nice linen place mats. Popular today also are French Jacquard tablecloths and place mats.
Perfume: Perfume is a very personal choice but I have truly learned that in most instances, the higher the price, the more beautiful and subtle the scent. And subtle is the key word. Women in the South beware the woman who enters a room and leaves a trail of scent behind her. The best effect is a slight whiff when one passes by. My favorites are Petite Cherie by Annick Goutal and Fragonard.
Decor: Southern women tend their nests with great care. They understand that when friends walk into their home, those friends notice every detail and see the decor as a reflection of the owner. First Daughter, an interior designer, knows me well and is responsible for most of the paint colors and fabric choices in my home. I favor Pine Cone Hill, Matouk, and Sierra for bed linens. Rugs are Oriental and there are many blue and white accents. Art tends to be purchases from countries visited with lots of family pictures to enjoy. My Favorite Yankee has his own office minimally decorated by me and mostly untouched otherwise.
Clothing: Since retiring, I have bought very little clothing. I simply don’t need much. For casual times, I favor leggings covered with long tops. For other occasions, I like Eileen Fisher attire and Lilly Pultizer ( a Southern staple). I have recently discovered through The New Yorker http://gudrunsjoden.com This is a great Swedish unique designer appropriate for my generation.
The reality is that good taste is intensely personal. We tend in the South to judge that taste but the world is changing. For the better.