Monday, April 18, 2011

Cape Madras Patchwork Camp Shorts

The Camp Shorts have a 7" inseam
Madras is iconic for summer wear along the New England Coast, arguably even more than seersucker.   So, as the weather warmed up slightly, it was possible to break out the  Camp Shorts, kindly by Cape Madras.

The color is "Cannes"
Cape Madras, a Maine Coast vendor, makes the best madras shorts to be found.   The authentic madras, made in Cape Madras' factory in India, is rich in color, soft to the touch, and has a classic and comfortable cut.

These shorts look great new, and will get even better with age.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reader Question: What to Wear to Graduation Weekend? A Guest Response

Photograph taken by the author.

Hello Muffy, 

We live in Brazil and our oldest son is attending a school in Connecticut. He will be graduating in May. 

In connection with his graduation, my husband and I are traveling to the U.S. to participate of the formal dance / dinner on Saturday night, and the graduation ceremony on Sunday afternoon. Our son will hopefully be rowing at the New England Regatta on that same weekend. I wonder what would you advise us to wear for those events. 

We have been reading a lot but still some doubts remain. Should I wear a long dress on the Saturday night dinner? Should my husband wear a dark suit for the dinner, tuxedo or a jacket with slacks? How about on the boat race and on day of ceremony on Sunday? I would appreciate you help and if you need some more details just let me know. Best Regards.

I asked a friend to answer it for me, as she is the perfect person to do so:

Dear Reader,

Muffy has asked me to respond to your inquiry since we live in Litchfield County and have a son who is a recent graduate of a New England prep school and who now rows for an Ivy League University.

The weather in late May in this part of Connecticut tends to be hot and humid, but somewhat cooler in the evening. It is not unusual to have rain. You certainly will want to bring along a straw hat for the sun and heat of the day, an umbrella and a light outer layer of some sort for each outfit, such as a cardigan or pashmina. Worcester, Massachusetts, where the Easterns are held, has a climate identical to that of western Connecticut.

Check your invitation to the dinner dance. If formal wear is required, it will certainly say so, but I have never heard of a prep school imposing such rigid clothing codes on parents, students and faculty. More likely, it is cocktail party attire. The graduation will be held outside and perhaps under a tent, which means hats to protect you against the sun, reasonable shoes for the grass (i.e. less than 2” heels) and umbrellas in case of rain. Lake Quinsigamond, where the New England prep schools and universities meet for their annual spring regatta, is a less tony version of The Head of The Charles or Henley. It will be crowded but fun. Every school has a tent and picnic for athletes and families. You can anticipate the better dressed parents wearing smart country clothing but the ground underfoot will be uneven and wet, so wear comfortable but smart walking shoes. In fact, take your cues from the magazine, Country Life, and dress for the English countryside. New Englanders are all anglophiles and like to dress like English country ladies and gentlemen.

Your husband is safe all weekend in the typical New England men’s uniform of a classic Brooks Brother’s blue blazer, oxford broadcloth shirt, silk tie and tan or gray slacks. Men generally wear gray for more formal occasions, such as the dinner or graduation, and tan or khaki or more informal daytime use, such as the regatta. Please refer to the Brooks Brother’s website ( No suit is required at any time. English men’s shoes, particularly those made by the British cobbler, Peal’s (found at Brooks Brothers) are always tasteful and appropriate. He may want a comfortable pair of sneakers (trainers) or LL Bean’s boat shoes or moccasins ( for the regatta or walking around the campus. We love our penny loafers in New England and Bass Weejuns (oxblood being the preferred color) are tasteful and popular among the prep school set, both old and young.

Dressing appropriately as a woman in New England, unfortunately, is not as straightforward. We generally dress in very understated attire, wear minimal make-up (modestly colored lipstick and powder, perhaps adding a bit of mascara for the evening and short fingernails colored, if at all, in neutral pink or clear polish). Our jewelry also tends to be of a modest variety, such as pearl (a single or double strand for the neck is appropriate) or small diamond studs. Rings tend to be limited to engagement and wedding, with perhaps a family crest on the pinky of the opposite hand. A gold bangle or two and a gold charm bracelet or gold link bracelet is fine, but nothing more. As my grandmother used to say, “The only appropriate display of wealth is through charity.” Very high-heeled shoes are inappropriate in any of the settings you describe. You will want a nice pair of flats, some walking shoes, Wellingtons or boat shoes for the crew race (for Wellingtons, try Aigle or Hunter boots; for boat shoes try LL Bean and for flats you are safe with a typical ballerina style such as those made by Delman or French Sole). You will be comfortable in slacks or an A-line shirt with a cardigan and cotton blouse or T-shirt for the crew race and during the day. Stay away from any short and tight skirts or tops, particularly if they reveal your cleavage. Perfume should always “whisper rather than scream.” Prep school boys can be cruel to one another and a sexy mother will only draw inappropriate attention to herself and her son.

For examples of appropriate attire, try
 Our First Lady, Michele Obama, likes J. Crew and is always modestly and appropriately dressed. For my son’s graduation ceremony I wore a sleeveless A-line linen dress with coordinating cardigan and Ferragamo tan and black spectator shoes with a modest heel. For jewelry I wore a double strand of pearls, pearl studs and one gold bracelet. I was comfortable in conforming to the look of most of the mothers. The catalogues this spring have many excellent examples of this look, but one which comes to mind is the following sateen dress from the latest Pendleton Collection:

You can take more liberties with the dinner dance, but a formal dress would not be appropriate in my view. I would wear silk slacks, white or off-white, and a cheerful silk top. You can finish your look with a smart pair of flats or low heels and some fun jewelry. A recent addition to the category of fun jewelry is Meg Carter Designs (

We have a custom in the US that white (and summer clothing in general) is not worn before Memorial Weekend or after Labor Day Weekend. Since Memorial Day falls on the weekend of your son’s graduation, you can safely wear summer clothing all weekend long! You probably will also be treated to a traditional New England Memorial Day parade along the main street. Have fun, and remember it is always better to err on the side of anonymity.

Sincerely yours,
The Author, HHH