A new generation of women who are redefining the Southern Belle
>Click to see photos of all the women
Anyone who has purchased a pencil skirt in the last four years has felt the influence of Janie Bryant’s glamorous mid-century costume designs for the hit AMC series Mad Men. From Joan’s curve-hugging sheaths to Betty’s pearls and aprons (some of which belonged to Bryant’s grandmother), Bryant’s ensembles do as much as the writing to play up the show’s story line and reinforce a character’s personality. Says Bryant, who grew up in Cleveland, Tennessee: “My grandmother was an amazing seamstress and decorator, and she had such a great design sensibility. She dressed, I mean dressed, for every occasion, and I learned a lot from watching her attention to detail.” The 2011 New York Women in Film & Television award winner is also launching a new website, janiebryant.com, where she’ll muse on all things sartorial.
Charlotte, North Carolina, interior designer Barrie Benson loves architecture from the fifties. And the sixties. And the seventies. “Every era has value,” she says, “and too many buildings are lost before we realize they need to be saved.” Benson is a tireless advocate for preserving Southern architecture, a cause she took up after investing in her own 1956 ranch-style home. A modern-meets-traditional approach runs throughout her work, from interiors she creates for clients to commercial projects like the newly refurbished Reid’s Fine Foods, a Charlotte institution she helped reinvent as a hyperlocal Southern food emporium. “Eighty years of pictures and memories drove the vintage look,” Benson explains, “while stores like Eataly and City Bakery in Manhattan inspired the design. At the original Reid’s, regulars had tabs. Everything is so global now, people are looking for that sense of community and history.”
Lindsey Coral Harper
Interior Designer, Furniture Designer
Sure, New York–based designer Lindsey Coral Harper creates chic rooms, but they have to pass the livability test, too, a lesson learned in her native Cartersville, Georgia. “Southerners live and entertain in their homes,” Harper says. “In my apartment, I use real silver. I use china. But everything is comfortable.” After eight years working with legendary decorator Richard Keith Langham, she struck out on her own in 2007. Since then, she’s designed interiors from Vermont to London and launched a classic-with-a-twist collection of furniture and home accessories called Lamshop alongside business partner Maggie Currey. Though the Big Apple is home base, two of Harper’s next big projects are in North Carolina. “I am thrilled to be working down South again,” she says. “People are so accommodating, and when you are under the gun to get things done, the right attitude can make all the difference in the world.”