It was unfortunate that my cousin Joyce wore black to a tea, bless her heart. The only explanation I have is that my cousin is from Baltimore and doesnít know any better. I know people from Baltimore are very nice, but theyíre just not southern, and that makes all the difference.
I wish she would have consulted me about her clothing choice first, but she didnít. In fact, she grabbed me as I came in the door and gushed, ďCassie, donít you just love my little black dress?Ē
The smile on my face was not genuine as I told the teeniest little white lie. I caught a glimpse of my best friend Lu Anne standing by the canapťs. The look on her face said, You poor baby. I feel your pain.
Actually, there wasnít anything wrong with Joyceís dress. It was just totally out of place for a tea.
Because I donít ever want to be embarrassed like that again, I have purchased a number of copies of The Southern Girlís Guide to Teas and Soirees. It is my goal to spread them as liberally as honey on warm biscuits. There wonít be a doctorís waiting room in the county that doesnít have one. In fact, Iím willing to do the right thing and share a few of the finer points with you now.
First of all, let me say there is a difference between a tea and a soiree. Big difference. Huge. From Fort Worth to Jacksonville, teas are held in the afternoon. No self-respecting southern girl would ever host a tea after 6:00 PM.
Proper attire for a tea is a nice little sheath in a pretty pastel or jewel tone color. Be careful with red. While itís not forbidden, red can get a southern gal in a world of trouble if her personality canít carry it off. The one rule that is carved in stone is to never, ever show any part of your bosom before dusk.
Gaudy jewelry has no place at a tea. Discreet little two or three carat stones are fine in a brooch or necklace. The exception to this is diamonds, of course. Any size diamond is acceptable, and even desirable, to wear. If a southern girl is over thirty, itís time to put away her sorority pin.
Shoes can be wedges or low-heeled pumps, but spike heels are completely out of place in the afternoon. We southerners believe there is a reason for the rule that states no white shoes should be worn after Labor Day. The reason has long been forgotten, but we stick to it anyway, because it is tradition, and that is what the south is all about. Brides, of course, are exempt from this rule. Open toes are fine, as long as your pedicure is fresh. There is nothing more disgusting than sipping tea next to someone whose toenail polish is chipped, unless it is seeing the Braves lose to the Mets.
By the way, the tea Iím referring to is iced tea; sugar-shocked, steeped in the sun, iced tea. Girls in the south donít care if hot tea is served at northern teas. Itís cold up there. Self-explanatory, donít you think?
Soirees differ from teas because they are evening, although perhaps early evening, affairs. They almost always have a purpose such as art exhibits, or greeting the governor. Donít let anyone convince you that soirees can be casual. Any good southern girl knows better. Wearing black to a soiree is fine and in some cases, expected.
A southern girl must exercise her creativity, though. She doesnít want to blend in with all the other little black dresses. She must stand out without crossing over into Tacky Territory. Although most southern girls have a tiara or two left over from a beauty pageant win, they shouldnít be tempted to wear them.
I believe Iíve made my case for my mortification when my cousin came to a tea dressed in black. Further elaboration is unnecessary.
In case you think this all sounds a bit snobby, let me remind you of one cardinal rule all southern girls live by: the difference between snobs and well-bred southern girls is the Mason Dixon line.
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