CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the summer heat, men put their wool suits aside to don a lighter fabric. A favorite is seersucker, a rumpled cotton fabric. The blue and white thin-stripe pattern is still the most common, but many other colors have become popular in recent years. In addition to being light and breathable, the fabric holds up to the frequent laundering that may be required during a humid summer.Seersucker has taken many turns in fashion: first as an inexpensive, functional fabric for the working class; and then as a fashion statement in a variety of places, geographically and socioeconomically.Seersucker has done what denim and other fabrics have done: crossed over from function to fashion and lived in both worlds simultaneously.Before air-conditioned interior spaces within the U.S. Capitol, senators from Southern states taught others in the Senate chamber the way of the seersucker.
In the late 1990s, the tradition of seersucker summers were revived with the institution of "Seersucker Thursday," the third Thursday in June each year.After stumbling upon a webpage about this tradition five years ago, Charleston retailer and tailor Anthony Paranzino decided to host Seersucker Thursday festivities at his store, Tony the Tailor, at 107 Hale St. (soon moving to 822 Virginia St. E.).On June 20, more than 50 people attended Paranzino's fifth Seersucker Thursday celebration to enjoy food and drinks and see Paranzino's fabrics and offerings. The celebration also was good for business."I sold 14 suits and 10 sport coats. Customers, especially the young professionals, enjoyed seeing my selection of High Cotton bow ties. I sold several of those too." Paranzino said. He is already planning his sixth annual event for June 19, 2014.Whatever your reason -- whether it's for function or fashion -- there are seersucker options for both genders and all ages. Men can get a custom-made suit from tailors like Paranzino or opt for an off-the-rack suit at a department store.Women can have a suit or outfit created for them just as men can, which might be a better way to go, rather than the very expensive yet beautiful off-the-rack seersucker collection by Theory. Other seersucker options for women include a blazer ($34.99) and pants ($27.99) from Target, or a pencil skirt ($110) from J. Crew. If you want to walk on the seersucker wild side, J. Crew also has a pair of fuchsia seersucker shorts for $44.99. Fashions for the entire family can be found at American Apparel, J. Crew, JCPenney and Amazon.Final thought: When you pull together your seersucker look, less is more. A suit (jacket and pants) is the traditional route, but more than two pieces of seersucker could be a "look overload." A more casual option would be pants or shorts paired with a shirt of a solid fabric.Ladies could opt for a seersucker sheath or sundress paired with a light cardigan to go from the daytime sun into the cooler evening. The key is to make it look simple. Seersucker shouldn't be overdone. It is a relaxed fabric and should maintain that feeling.With many weeks of heat and humidity ahead, there's still time to wear your seersucker suit or purchase one for your summer wardrobe.Jen Wood Cunningham is a nonprofit public relations professional and Charleston fashionista. Follow her tips and trends on Twitter at @WVstyleteam or search #WVstyleteam.