What to Wear Where You Live: Fall in the South

Southern Style Is All About Classics and Layers

TV host Sam Phillips shows how layering is done classically, with a blazer, turtleneck and jeans.

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Fall -- it's the season for sweaters, a stylish scarf and maybe even a crackling log fire on those chillier evenings. As the leaves turn, Southern women ditch their flip-flops and espadrilles and pack away their light dresses and cutoff shorts in favor of cozier outfits. But in a warmer climate, like the South, heavy fall sweaters and wool coats could leave you feeling overheated. So how can Southern gals get that fall vibe going and still dress for the region's mild weather? It turns out classic tailoring and plenty of layering are key factors for dressing for a Southern fall.

In the South, in general, we really lean toward a classic look.

- Staci Higdon, owner of Sugaree's boutique, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Climate Impact

Ayoka Lucas, style editor of "Charleston" magazine in South Carolina, says the warmer climate definitely affects the population's sense of style, not just in the fall but throughout the year.

"I truly think it's a matter of climate, and that's the biggest factor," she said. "For example, they don't even sell the type of outerwear here that you can buy up North. There is never really a need for it. Where I live in Charleston, we are surrounded by water and beaches, and this definitely has an affect on wardrobe choices."

Lucas often finds the warmer temperatures result in some disappointingly relaxed outfits around town. "As much as I hate to admit it," she said, "I have seen on a number of occasions a girl in a chic frock worn with flip-flops even for a night on the town. As a style director, I have been trying to work out this problem for years. Nighttime shoes are a must in my book. Other than that, I think the South loves style and fashion just the same [as other regions]."

Classic Southern Style

Southern style is somewhat traditional, and this comes through in every season, says Staci Higdon, owner of Sugaree's boutique in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Higdon says this is most obvious in the fall, when tailored skirts, pants and jackets come back into play after the more relaxed summer months.

"In the South, in general, we really lean toward a classic look. We add a little flare to some very traditional pieces. We tend to go for classic shapes, like pencil skirts and capes. For example, lots of tailored jackets are coming in this fall."

Lucas agrees that the South is a little more traditional than the North.

"The South does embrace current trends," she said, "but perhaps styled with a little dose of Southern charm. You can really see the differences when comparing street style photos. The reality is that the North has always been more accepting of people expressing their individual style, whereas in the South, you may be considered [too] edgy or outside of the box."

So if you're considering dressing in a runway-inspired outfit, bear in mind that you may get a few puzzled glances around town.

Southern Strategy

What does a stylish Southern belle wear this fall if she wants to tackle the warmer climate yet fit in with the classic, traditional aesthetic of the region?

Lucas predicts a surge in the popularity of prints and patterns to brighten up autumn wardrobes. "I think we will see a lot more mixing of prints and an overall embracing of the myriad of print and patterns that will be available," she said. "I am already seeing the girls wearing tribal print wedges that have grown so popular in the spring/summer season. I predict this will continue for fall."

One trend that's popular in every fashionable city in the world this year is the midcalf skirt, and it's a look that fits perfectly into the South's more traditional styling and balmy weather.

"I expect to see the midcalf skirt as a poplar trend here in the South as well," Lucas said. It's a very suitable in-between length for fall Southern days and nights."

Higdon says she is an advocate of layering to successfully navigate fall in the South. "It can be warm during the day and then turn into a cooler night." she said, "so I like what I call dichotomy dressing, where you have a contrast. For example, you can wear a light, chiffon-y dress and add a cropped leather jacket for the evening."

Higdon also suggests adding interesting hosiery to your outfit for more layering. "We have some wonderful fun fall tights and socks -- the textures and fabrics are so luscious. I love adding those to an outfit -- it just really makes it work."

Finally, Lucas says the South is seeing a resurgence of one traditional item that is always fun to wear. "Like the runways and the royal wedding, " she said, "we will see the ladies sporting one of the hottest fall accessories -- the hat. A good hat has always been a favorite among the Southern belles."

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