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Ah, when men were men and men wore seersucker.

Before the ironic t-shirt and the Old Navy button-down, men wore suits. Yes, even in summer, even in the deep south. Men had their tricks, though, and one of them was seersucker.

Seersucker – or “shir o shekar,” Persian for “milk and honey” – came to America with the British, who first acquired the fabric from Muslim traders. The crinkly, light weight texture of all-cotton seersucker creates small cooling pockets between the fabric and the body of the wearer, making it a perfect choice for anyone doing business in the balmy Old South. Seersucker gets extra gentleman bonus points for not needing to be ironed – EVER! – and standing up well to frequent washings. Though it is traditionally done in stripes, you can also find seersucker in solids and sometimes even retro floral prints if you’re lucky.

For many people, seersucker conjures up images of the refined southern gentleman but, historically speaking, seersucker has always been a lady thing, too. Those adorable WWII nurse and navy uniforms for the gals? All of them were made out of delightful wash-and-wear seersucker. I recently thrifted a really fluttery, bias-cut, 1950’s handmade (!) summer party dress all cut from light blue seersucker. Gorgeous!

So, what happened to seersucker? Well, two things. For one, the fickle GQ set became concerned that seersucker was too much Colonel Sanders and not enough Rhett Butler. On the business side of things, seersucker is, unfortunately, a low-profit, high-cost fabric to produce. Seems that seersucker’s old-school, intricate weave makes for slow going, even on today’s uber-efficient looms.

My bottom line? GQ and profits be darned, I’ll keep sewing, wearing and loving seersucker! The carefree durability of this fabric combined with its featherweight hand makes seersucker a lifetime friend of anyone who sweats and washes their clothes because of it.

15 Comments

  • Mzl_ljixuoxi_320x480-75_large

    Dec 29, 2010, 02.32 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    I love seersucker..and it’s definitely in my fabric iPhone app..but as you say, you don’t see it nearly enough..yet it’s ideal for hot weather! Global warming be darn!

  • Missing

    Dec 18, 2010, 04.15 AMby jmhair

    I’ve always loved seersucker, but I can NEVER find it ANYWHERE!

    1 Reply
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    Nov 24, 2010, 10.46 PMby corinneski

    I once met a man wearing a blue stripe seersucker suit – wow! Just gorgeous, if you can call a man gorgeous. Big sigh here.

    1 Reply
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      Nov 27, 2010, 05.03 PMby eringilday

      It’s a rare day that I’m completely blown away by menswear but it sounds like this was one of those special occasions! Glad you liked the post, Corinneski!

  • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

    Nov 9, 2010, 07.55 PMby eringilday

    Oooo green seersucker sounds divine, Srkshannon! I would love to see that dress.

  • N70200127_31190275_9094_large

    Nov 4, 2010, 10.33 PMby srkshannon

    I made a dress out of seersucker and I love it. I had found green seersucker in a fabric store that was all men’s suit material. Seersucker reminds me of summer vacation.

  • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

    Nov 2, 2010, 03.01 PMby eringilday

    Hi ReneeBeth! Your blue/black seersucker sounds gorgeous! I wouldn’t completely write off the salmon one either, but that’s just me. They definitely do still make seersucker – I found a nice red and white striped version at Joann’s Fabrics in Oregon City (outside Portland, OR in the USA) just a few weeks ago. I would say that the low efficiency/high cost thing hasn’t completely turned people off, but that it has slowed the use of seersucker in ready-to-wear for sure. I can’t wait to see what you do with your mom’s seersucker! Blue black has been one of my favorite color combinations this fall…

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    Nov 2, 2010, 04.23 AMby reneebeth

    It’s so cool to know where the word “seersucker” comes from, I’d always wondered about it. And I always get excited when the persian language is mentioned :) I’ve got some beautiful seersucker fabric from my mom, who’s had it for a long time. One is navy blue/black striped, and the other is completely salmon-pink. Not sure what to make with that one, and I’ve been saving the blue/black one for years because it’s so beautiful that I can’t decide what to make with it yet. Since it’s a low efficiency/high cost fabric, are they not making it anymore? I haven’t been to a fabric store lately…

  • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

    Oct 29, 2010, 09.28 PMby eringilday

    Revivalfabrics, I also find that the pastel/sherbert seersucker call to me less than the vintage floral ones. Those scream out loud to me. LOVE those. Ichigogirl, glad you liked the post! I, too, am always surprised by how much I learn about other topics – history, politics, language – in the process of learning more about fabric and sewing. And now, Persian. Awesome!

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    Oct 29, 2010, 02.21 PMby ichigogirl

    Aaah, men in suits! And another aaah: Gregory Peck! Seersucker; I think I’ll have to give it a go. Interesting post, thanks for the lessons in History and Persian!

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    Oct 29, 2010, 01.34 AMby revivalfabrics

    I also adore seersucker, especially vintage seersucker! I’m not such a fan of the sherbert color seersuckers, but the vintage floral seersucker fabrics of the 1940s and 1950s make me gaga. Seersucker’s cousin plisse has a lovely allover puckered appearance as compared to the stripy look of seersucker and is another must have for me. Great article!

  • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

    Oct 28, 2010, 04.04 PMby eringilday

    Oh no, I’m racking my brain trying to remember Michael’s seersucker creation now… Wzrdreams, I love the long-term planning! What a great way to celebrate the arrival of spring/summer – I, for one, certainly need something to look forward to now that we are settling into the rainy season here in Oregon. A girl can only sew so many wool suits and chunky knit sweaters.

  • 6e3656aa7036783b3e4bbc29f34d1029385afafe_large

    Oct 27, 2010, 09.13 PMby wzrdreams

    I ADORE seersucker. Every time I go into Beckensteins on 39th street I make a beeline for the seersucker and ponder the color choices and stripe widths. I’ve made it my goal to make a seersucker garment for next spring/summer.

  • 9ea300614a3421df473f4ee5d290dd398b9d967a_large

    Oct 27, 2010, 06.38 PMby bodicegoddess589

    It’s an absolutely LOVELY fabric. It’s one of the best things about the “National Treasure” movies – the savvy costume designer put Nicholas Cage in a seersucker suit and it looks amazing.

    My other favorite seersucker memory? Michael Knight, Project Runway, season 3 – the jetsetter challenge. Looked so amazing it still sticks out in my mind to this day. And it was a prudent fabric choice because the stuff is naturally wrinkled – it travels well.

    www.bymaggie.com

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