Sipping in Seersucker

For Dixie Travelers, Seersucker Springs Up for Summer

By Andrew Nelson

For Southerners of a certain class and composure, summer without sporting seersucker is like sipping gin without a tonic — as unthinkable as it would be unpalatable. In cities such as Palm Beach, Savannah and New Orleans, the trademark striped fabric appears as soon as the heat and humidity start to climb.

“If you’re traveling in the South now, you’ll spy seersucker everywhere from Charleston’s Battery to the French Quarter,” says Sue Strachan of New Orleans’ Ogden Museum of Southern Art, stylish in a white bodice and khaki seersucker skirt made by local designers Jolie and Elizabeth, whose store on St. Charles Avenue specialize in the fabric.  “Those stripes signal summer’s well and truly here.”

The lightweight, slightly puckered cotton cloth originated in India, and was considered working-class garb until Jazz Age college students embraced it as a form of reverse snobbery, according to the New York Times. Genteel Southerners were particularly drawn to it, though they wear it at their peril in other climes.

“The East Coast knows seersucker,” says New Orleans consultant Shannon Sumrall. “But wear it in Austin and the Texans think it’s a clown suit.”

The Ogden welcomed the new sartorial season last weekend with its annual Sippin’ in Seersucker party– the first of several early summer events in the Crescent City that include Wednesdays on the Square, an ongoing series of free pop concerts held in the city’s historic Lafayette Square every Wednesday until June 15, and Essence— a musical blowout held inside the air-conditioned SuperDome July 1-3. If you’re headed down to New Orleans in the next few weeks, don’t forget to change your stripes.