The modern Southern belle: a quick guide


Ada Thomas, Contributing Writer


While the big ole ball gown may have gone out of fashion in the South decades ago, Southern belles are unlikely to away. –Photo courtesy of
While the big ole ball gown may have gone out of fashion in the South decades ago, Southern belles are unlikely to away.
–Photo courtesy of

I had my first encounter with Southern belles right after my freshman year. I was raised in the South, so you’d think I’d have encountered them sooner, but I guess that’s what homeschooling does to you. I was working at an all-girls camp, but the only previous experience I had had with summer camps was family-day visits to Boy Scout camp, so I was somewhat underprepared. The very first question I was asked by one of the other counselors was, “So you went Greek, right?” To which I, the poor naïve University of Dallas student, answered, “I took it first semester, but I didn’t like it as much as Latin.” This, apparently, was not quite the answer she wanted.

I was somewhat surprised to find this particular facet of southern culture alive and well so long after the days of Scarlett O’Hara, and I quickly learned what it is that makes a modern Southern belle. First, forget the ball gowns. Southern belles have an inexplicable ability to look put-together in anything — and I mean anything, even camo and oversized sorority T-shirts. They wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without absolutely flawless hair and makeup, even if that “house” were a cabin in the woods.

Then there’s football. The Southern belle has an undying allegiance to her team: If you are an Ole Miss girl, you are an Ole Miss girl for life. Tailgating is a very serious business, in which the Southern belle gets to spend quality time with her sorority sisters: her “bigs” and “littles” (and probably “mediums,” too). They all turn up in droves, like flawless, team-spirited birds, accompanied by large groups of snappily dressed gentlemen, who likely belong to the neighboring fraternity. This ritual is as important as the game itself, and God forbid you should arrive in anything less than your most stylish garments — with extra points given to those who incorporate the most monograms into their outfits.

A Southern belle knows no strangers. Wherever she is, she will, without fail, manage to find at least one other “Zeta Eta Theta” sister, and they will always have at least six million mutual friends because that’s just how things work in the South: Her mom and my mom are in Junior League together; her aunt’s cousin’s sister’s mother was my grandma’s sister’s nephew’s cousin’s friend from high school; it goes on and on and on. And even if you are not one of these chosen sisters, you can always be a “hon.” “Hon” is a generic term of affection, because — let’s be honest — no one can keep track of all of those double names.

All in all, Southern belles are a vital part of Southern culture. Without them, football would cease to be the eighth sacrament, the Greek alphabet would be underused and monograms would be a thing of the past. These ladies will be gracing front porches and consuming ungodly amounts of sweet tea until the end of time, or at least until the North decides to invade again.


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