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Reese Witherspoon on Southern Style and Her Draper James Collection

Reese Witherspoon has always struck us as the kind of woman who would give pretty solid advice. So when she tells us that one of the tote bags in her Draper James (new to Nordstrom!) summer collection has the question, “What Would Dolly Do?” on it, our impression of her feels accurate. After all, if our celebrity idol uses the choices of our country idol as her decision-making criteria, we’re in good company. And that’s another thing about Reese: with her cheerful confidence, well-earned success on and off the screen and group of good gal pals, she just seems like a pleasure to know.

Reese Witherspoon, Draper James

We became better acquainted with the actress and fashion entrepreneur during our conversation about Southern influences, her adorable Draper James collection and her admirable career goals. And it was a pleasure, indeed!

What are the essentials of “Southern style”? Is it about key items of clothing or is it more about how one wears them? Or both?

Southern style is about having confidence and about having fun. Southern women like to look pretty and put together, but we know how to take it down a notch. We’re as comfortable wearing a lacy, feminine dress with strappy sandals as we are with cowboy boots.

How did your Southern heritage influence this collection?

I founded Draper James to honor my Southern heritage and my grandparents. They taught me everything I know about gracious Southern living. From them I learned to dress and act like a lady, to take pride in my home, to reach out to help a neighbor and to always invite everyone in for a visit. I think our collection reflects these values.

What is the best piece of fashion advice you ever received? 

Best fashion advice I ever got was from my grandmother: more is more.

 

Reese Witherspoon, Draper James

What was the inspiration behind the summer collection?

We’re always thinking about what women really want to wear. During the summer, most of us go to picnics, barbecues, pool parties and weekend getaways with friends, so we created clothing for those occasions—think easy-to-slip-on dresses, versatile shorts (you can dress them up and down!) and cute tops that double as cover-ups.

What do you love about this season’s styles?

Classic fabrics like seersucker and gingham are the stars of the collection—to me those fabrics are what summer is all about! You will also see a lot of lace details, which I love because it’s so feminine, but we use it in unexpected ways so it’s never too precious.

We also have lots of items with Southern sayings—they’ve become synonymous with the brand. We launched with our now-iconic “Totes Y’all” tote, and to this day it remains a bestseller. We’ve added other totes to the collection, as well as T-shirts and sweatshirts with sayings like “Keep It Pretty Please,” “Hello, Sugar” and my favorite, “What Would Dolly Do?” I love these pieces because they have a sense of humor and they clearly relate to the brand’s Southern roots.

If you had to pick a favorite piece, what would it be—and why?

I love the Umbrella Love Circle Dress from our summer collection for two reasons: first, the fit-and-flare silhouette is perfect—it’s easy to wear and flattering on everyone. Second, we’ve become known for our fun conversational prints—we have one every season, and this summer’s umbrella pattern is just about the most darlin’ ever!

Reese Witherspoon, Draper James

Do you have any styling tips for these pieces?

I want people to have fun with the clothes and accessories—not to take them too seriously. You should feel free to mix stripes with florals, gingham with lace—but if you prefer to be matchy-matchy, well that’s fine too. I just want women to feel comfortable and pretty.

What are your favorite cities in the South? Why?

Nashville is my hometown, so of course it will always be my favorite. My family still lives there, and it’s also where I decided to open the very first Draper James store. I also love New Orleans for the food, the music and of course the beautiful houses. There is nowhere like it in the world.

Tell us about your program with Girls Inc.

From the minute I decided to create Draper James, I knew I wanted there to be a charitable component—one that empowered women and girls. We’ve teamed up with Girls Inc. in Nashville to support the Economic Literacy program for middle and high school girls. It teaches girls the importance of saving, as well as how to manage and invest their money. We also offer a summer internship program at our Nashville store for girls involved in the program!

Professionally, is there a dream role or project that you’d like to pursue?

I’m fortunate to be able to create roles for myself through my production company, Hello Sunshine. It’s important how women are perceived in film and television, so I started a company that could develop a wide range of parts for women. My next role is playing an astronaut in a movie based on a true story. I look forward to that challenge.

Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Nicole Kidman

From Reese’s Instagram account, a photo teasing a second season of Big Little Lies with Laura Dern and Nicole Kidman. 

SHOP: Draper James

—Britt Burritt