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I Shopped Reese Witherspoon's New 'Southern' Store, Y'all

New, 6 comments
Draper James

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You can buy into all sorts of famous lifestyles these days, yet there's never really been a celebrity lifestyle brand for the Sweet Home Alabama sucker. Lauren Conrad comes close, but it's hard to truly overcome the fact that she's the human equivalent of a Pumpkin Spice Latte—stripped of regional identifiers, and produced for a mass audience.

Enter Reese Witherspoon's newly-launched e-commerce brand Draper James. Reese has positioned herself as the spirit animal of Southern girls everywhere; Hollywood offers few other attractive options. Despite Taylor Swift's crunchy curls and twangy country songs of years past, she's from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, a long way from Reese's hometown of New Orleans. Matthew McConaughey's Texas twang is authentic, but I can't see him selling monogrammed Mint Julep cups anytime soon.

As a former Southerner now navigating the treacherous and oftentimes freezing waters of New York City, I was eager for Draper James's arrival. New York had everything, it seemed, but an authentically Southern tchotchke store. Could Reese fill the void?

Draper James walks in the footsteps of many other spot-on Southern lifestyle brands. (Side note: Sometimes it seems like all you need to create your own "Southern Lifestyle" brand is pairing the word "South" with a Mad Libs collection of nouns like "bow tie," "boat," or "hunter.") There's Southern Proper for front pocket (frocket) shirts that you can wear with Nike shorts (norts); Jolie & Elizabeth for any and all seersucker needs; and Judith March, an Alabama-based brand that’s basically fast fashion for Southern girls. Florida’s Camilyn Beth also has your back. Literally, they will cover your back in bows. Draper James dresses are interchangeable with these brands, offering simple silhouettes in big, bright patterns.

The pricing is reminiscent of C.Wonder's, which makes sense because C.Wonder's former president is Draper James's CEO. Reese nabbed Andrea Hyde way back when C.Wonder was still a thing and Draper James was still an "unnamed lifestyle company." If Vineyard Vines can charge $100+ for teeny whales, why can’t Reese extort $85 from you for embroidered cocktail napkins? I would be pleased as punch to get them as a gift, but can't imagine dropping that many dollars on something used to wipe up deviled egg remains.

If you're worried about Reese living up to her favorite quote, "If it's not moving, monogram it," rest easy.

The site stocks all things "Southern" in one place. It's not just jewelry or dresses, it's the whole shebang—preppy simplicity with a Southern twist. If Tory Burch, J.Crew, Kate Spade, and Jolie and Elizabeth had a baby, this is what it would look like, a lot of eyelet and gingham, just perfect for your (v. fancy) summer barbecue.

If you're worried about Reese living up to her favorite quote, "If it's not moving, monogram it," rest easy. There's a "Monogram It" button for most products, so you won't have to take your purchases to your local monogram establishment (yes, those exist, and not just for baby showers).

After hours deliberating over the perfect Draper James products that wouldn't exceed my budget and wouldn't look completely out of place in New York, I decided on a fuchsia lipstick perfect for all the garden parties in my life (see also: none), the "Hush Y'all" phone case because sometimes I'm around children/on the subway, and a pair of magnolia earrings for a little bit of springtime year-round.

Photo: Draper James

The ordering process was extremely easy, and soon, my selections were at my door. The packaging is absolutely gorgeous and perfect if you’re in desperate need of a gift for a Junior Leaguer. Gifts come dressed in pale blue-and-white stripes and Draper James monogrammed tissue paper. If I were a lifestyle blogger (maybe in my next life) or even a professional vlogger and not just an amateur one, I would 'gram every single item, packaging included.

The magnolia-covered phone case is surprisingly sturdy. It could use a monogram, but I can always have my own people pop one on. It's obvious that Reese has dealt with both raising children and heavy drinking when you hold that phone case in your hand.

I was worried the earrings would be too similar to a pair I recently picked up at Catbird, but they're actually enormous magnolias. They look just the tiniest bit like clip-ons—kind of like earrings you would find searching in a thrift store or raiding your grandmother's jewelry case. They're the perfect touch of "grace and charm," which coincidentally is Draper James's tagline.

While I love Draper James, at the current price point I'm not sure it will survive. Like C.Wonder and Kate Spade Saturday before it, it's not an established name when it comes to preppy products, and the price point is much too high for some of the smaller tchotchkes (and that is the name for them, because they are fabulous party gifts but also borderline useless). Still, Reese and her executives have hit on something, even if it's just the popular understanding of what a Southerner is. Y'all buying?