Arts & Culture

The Secret to the Perfect Southern Dress

Why a design by New Orleans’ Sue Sartor encapsulates what those in the South should look for in a dress

Photo: Courtesy of Sue Sartor

I will not shame anyone for donning athleisure or even pajamas during this bizarre time (whatever gets you through the day!), but I would like to suggest a ridiculously comfortable and beautiful alternative: the Paloma dress by the New Orleans designer Sue Sartor.

It’s no big secret that dresses, though they appear polished and put-together, are actually practical workhorses, especially when made of fabrics that are light and breathable like cotton. And that’s exactly why I fell for the details of this particular design by Sartor, who began her sartorial career at Calvin Klein in the nineties.

Sue Sartor.

“I had a dream to start my own line of kaftans and tunics,” Sartor says. “But it was all about timing. It wasn’t until my late forties that I knew it was game on and I just couldn’t wait another minute.” 

The Paloma dress came a few years after her initial launch of kaftans with friend Anu Lal, who introduced her to the world of textiles in Delhi and Jaipur. “The Paloma was a concept I had for a bit of a hybrid between a kaftan and a dress,” she remembers. “I sketched it with as much hand-piping as possible, along with segments pieced together from floral block prints. I also knew I wanted balloon sleeves for breathability and at least one tier to modernize the silhouette.” Each frock is hand sewn and finished in Jaipur at a workshop that champions sustainable dyes and organic cottons.

The Paloma is what I like to call a “four season dress,” too, because it’s available in an ever-evolving kaleidoscope of colors and patterns, and works just as well in sweltering heat as it does bundled with a beautiful coat during our mild Southern winters.

Sartor agrees. “You can wear it over your swimsuit as a cover-up in summer, with sandals in spring, or pair with boots in fall and winter. In the South we need comfortable clothes that transition.”