News & Runway

Southern Style Wisdom: Closed Set with Julie Bensman

My brothers and I were born in Georgia and while the majority of our upbringing was spent in the Chicago suburbs, the South still had a way of infiltrating our lives – particularly through my mother’s classic sayings like, “Never show up with your arms a’swingin,’’ (translation: bring a hostess gift). Gems like this one joined strict enforcement of writing thank you letters and the ironclad rules of never swearing in the house, never slamming doors and NEVER talking back.

Here in New York, it’s always refreshing to meet a belle who introduces me to more Southern idioms. Last week, while at the swim launch party of her client, Zinke, my publicist friend, Allison, was getting excited about her birthday party that weekend. “Bring your hollow leg!” she exclaimed, and when my face registered I had NO clue what she was talking about, she followed up with a, “You know, like extra room to store the liquor you drink…”

Added to the list of proverbial boats I missed amid my early departure from Georgia, would be the innate sense of style my southern lady friends seem to exude: charming, polished, well-edited ensembles with just a touch of sweetness. Often, it’s not so much what they wear, but the way they wear it: a life-goes-on attitude — but why not make that life luxe?

With the hope that this je ne sais quoi rubs off just a bit, I’ve profiled four of my most chic Southern sisters to let me in on a few of their style secrets:

Allison Beale, Founder/Creator of George PR


North Carolinian who drinks her bourbon with water

1. Always, always wear mascara. My Grandma Beale, a true flower of the south, didn’t even check the mail without her mascara, or lipstick for that matter.

2. Smile before you speak; you can hear it in your voice.

3. Leave a little something to the imagination, and wear a slip!



Jennifer Powell, Social Media Coordinator for Kravet, Inc.

Hails from High Point, North Carolina

1. Know the rules, and always overdress. Southern women are chronically overdressed. A little piece of me dies inside every time I see someone wearing a hooded sweatshirt or Uggs when I’m attending a Broadway show or at church on Sunday morning. There are rules for what to wear and when, and it’s important to know what they are, even if you plan to bend them a little.

2. Don’t worry if you forget someone’s name. In the south, we all call each other “honey” or “sweetie” not because we’re nice, but because we all forgot each other’s names.

3. Always send an invitation. The printed card is currency in the south. The southern hostess always sends an invitation, no matter the occasion.


Neesa Peterson, Entrepreneur Extraordinaire/Part-Time Model Agent

Mobile, Alabama by way of New Orleans, LA

1. Be elegant, graceful, and comfortable in everything you wear.

2. Owning a cute fitted t-shirt of your favorite football team is a Southern must!

3. A Lily Pulitzer dress hanging in your closet should be worn when you need a pick-me-up.



Meghan Blalock, Research Editor at Gotham and Capitol File magazines, Freelance Writer, and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher

Birmingham, Alabama and University of Mississippi alumna

1. Dress how you want to dress, in the manner that most makes you happy. Dressing for others, or trying to emulate trends, is often the first step on the road to fashion disaster; it's fine to be trendy, but try to give it your own spin.

2. You can never own too much jewelry — but you can certainly wear too much.

3. Embrace comfort. It's never worth it to put yourself through hell just to look amazing; most of the time you'll end up wearing a grimace, which will instantly become your most noticed accessory. And it ain't a good look.