In news that could not have been more perfectly timed for Columbus Day, today, Blake Lively's heritage-y lifestyle site, Preserve, published a fashion editorial styled by the actress, and inspired by the pre-Civil War South. Titled "Allure of Antebellum," the article hails the "innate sense of social poise" and "unparalleled warmth and authenticity" of the era's Southern women.
The unnamed author (who we assume is not Lively) specifically mentions “Southern Belles,” "Georgia peaches," and "debutantes," which is how we learn that we're not talking about all pre-war Southern women here: just the white, monied, slave-owning class. The authors use the word antebellum in a misty-eyed, nostalgia-tinged way that completely ignores the brutality endured by Southern women not lucky enough to be born into privilege.
The fact that the piece spends most of its time praising the "coy...belles of the ball" is especially insulting given that antebellum white women derived much of their social status from their reputation as "delicate flowers," whose sexuality was considered distinctive from and more refined than that of Black women's. And, of course, Black women did not enjoy the same protections, lives of "beauty and grace," or leisure time.
Even with that aside, this shoot makes no sense from a fashion standpoint, since we're pretty sure hippie hats and leopard miniskirts were no Southern woman's idea of debutante-ball attire. While attempting to translate the 1800s styles to today, Preserve tells us: "Hoop skirts are replaced by flared and pleated A-lines; oversized straw toppers are transformed into wide-brimmed floppy hats and wool fedoras."
So, basically, you replaced all the historical clothes with completely different, modern clothes? If that's how historical fashion works, I hope you're loving my Elizabethan costume today! I just replaced the brocade gown with Gap jeans and the ruff with a T-shirt.
Today in "What Not to Do:" Do not hook your fashion editorial to an odious time in our nation's history and spin a narrative that implies all Southern women were allowed to be "Belles." The antebellum period's "allure still rings true today," apparently. We're guessing not for everyone.