Lexington Style

Image via Ralph Lauren.
Ralph Lauren famously once stated, "I could design my entire collection based solely on the style of three places: The Hamptons, Santa Fe and Lexington, Kentucky."  In 2006, Esquire Magazine named Kentucky the most stylish state in the Union.  And, legendary designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka's Central Kentucky horse farm is said to be as fabulous as their bridal designs. (Which, in a related note, why am I not BFF with Badgley Mischka? I think we've just set my goal for 2012, y'all.)

Image via Ralph Lauren
Lexington is far from a world fashion capital.  It'll never be confused with Milan, Paris, or New York.  But its style is undeniable.  It's still the kind of town where people dress up for a nice restaurant.  You don't see flip-flops or dressy shorts at cocktail parties, nor do "dressy jeans" constitute dinner attire.  It's the kind of place where a small-town haberdasher bases his collection directly on an suit designed for Edward VIII.

But, yet, Lexington seems neither as formal nor as over-the-top as these images suggest.  That Lexington style boasts a heavy equestrian influence is undeniable, but it's far less garish and in-your-face than Mr. Lauren would have you believe.  The town's truly horsey folk are often seen in faded, relaxed jeans and barn jackets, and their broken-in boots are constantly caked in mud.  And, Lexington never stops being an SEC college town.  When I think of Lexington's style, I immediately envision preppy frat boys in navy blazers and khakis tailgating at Keeneland with their sundress-clad girlfriends.  I picture the Junior League Horse Show, which boasts more per-capita Lilly Pulitzer dresses than the Breakers on Labor Day weekend.  I picture the ubiquitous needlepoint  and horse-harness belts.  And, then, I picture all the blue.

Kentucky Girl Dress via Red Dress Boutique
Wildcat Blue is everywhere in Lexington.  It isn't a gameday tradition; it's an everyday tradition.  You see it on license plates and serving plates.  You see it on casual wear and business wear.  You see it on well-heeled season ticket holders, who occupy the floor seats and the skyboxes.  You see it on the adorable little mamaws who've driven in from nearby counties to cheer on their team.   You see it on infants, for whom fandom is a birthright.  In so many ways, it's the color of Lexington itself.

My new besties, via Elle Decor
I think that Lexington's style is a great analogy for the town itself; there are some fancy aspirations, but it never forgets its small-town roots.  There are so many influences which combine for an elegant yet easy style.  It screams "authentic" rather than "couture."  It's way more than a brand name, a label, or a single "style."  It's a pretty, tasteful aesthetic as graceful as the Central Kentucky countryside.

But, of course, if Bagdley and Mischka ("Mark and James" to me, natch, since we're soon to be besties) want to meet me at Jonathan's for a cocktail soon, I'm all about the labels...