Southern Belle Traditions ~ 19th century Ballgowns

Godey’s Lady’s Book ~ February 1860

Rules of the Southern Belle

  • Never wear white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day except is if it is a bride.
  • Thank you notes are a necessary component of being gracious and appreciative.
  • Ladies do not chew gum in public or smoke on the street.
  • Pull over for a Funeral Procession out of respect and it may be law.
  • Always smile and act like a lady. Act helpless and confused when it’s to your advantage; never let them know how clever and capable you really are…
  • Always have the attributes of charm, grace, elegance.
  • Saying “Yes ma’am” and “Yes sir” to your parents, grandparents, and elders; (i.e. anyone else significantly older than you are.)
  • Be punctual, but never early.
  • Be hospitable.
  • Showing cleavage is reserved for evenings.
  • Dinner table conversation should be inclusive, light, and friendly.
  • Know how to change the subject tactfully.
  • Always RSVP after receiving an invitation.
  • Never embarrass your hostess.
  • Use proper cell phone etiquette.
  • Wait until everyone is served before digging into your food.
  • Remember the rule: Manners trump etiquette.
  • Always show proper manners and etiquette

Southern Belle Traditions ~ Longwood Plantation
"Remember to be very careful of who you talk about around here. Everybody in the South is kin to each other. No matter who you bring up, you're bound to be insulting somebody's aunt, uncle, or third cousin twice removed." - Advice from a Georgia Southern Belle to a Friend Visiting From the North [1]

“Tacky” – a common word used most often by Southern women describing someone’s behavior or appearance.

“Look at those tacky clothes she wore to the funeral.” “It’s just too tacky to talk about.”

"What is considered trash or quality in the South has nothing to with money.  Some of the best families around here haven't had money for generations.  The emphasis is breeding and manners.  No amount of money can make you quality if you don't act like quality.  For instance, good Southern belles don't place much importance on paying $400 to buy a pocketbook that's got some Italian designer's initials all over it.  In the South, grandmother's monogrammed napkin rings are much more important than Gucci's monogrammed luggage.  To think otherwise is just considered tacky.  And around here, nothing is tacky than being tacky." - Alabama Belle Discussing the Intricacies of Being Southern [2]
Southern Belle Traditions ~ Madewood Plantation

Southerners who have ” gone back on your raisin’ ” (i.e.- denied their heritage)

Actor George Hamilton was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He’s now considered a traitor in Natchez, Mississippi. He owned two historical plantations in Natchez and then moved. He sold both plantations, including the historic Gloucester Plantation, to a group of Hare Krishnas. It’s now being described as a home where the Old South meet the ancient east. But, some Natchez residents “just know it will come back to us.” [3]

Southern Belle Traditions ~ Dunleith Plantation

Names with a Southern History

MARTHA — Direct descendants of Thomas Jefferson always name their first daughter Martha. One generation may be Martha Jane, and the next be Martha Ann to avoid confusion.
FANCY and TANCY — Fancy is a name going back before the civil war. Tancy came along when twins were born in one generation and Tancy rhymes with Fancy.
LADY — Belles are over the South are names Lady. In the 1800s, a South Carolina belle named her daughter after a named character Lady Jane in a British novel. In the coming generations, there have been Lady Janes, Lady Anns, and Lady Carolines.
ROSE ANN, VIOLET ANN, IRIS ANN — Southern fathers think of their daughters as flowers of the South, so they often give them floral names.
SISTER — All over the Alabama and Mississippi you will find girls called sister. This isn’t their given name, but they are called this from birth throughout their life. Some Southern gentlemen are called Brother. [4]


[1] Schwartz, Maryln. 1991 A Southern Belle Primer, or, Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be A Kappa Kappa Gamma. New York: Doubleday Books.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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