Thursday, March 11, 2010


There’s a difference in the South between Gussied Up and Hussied Up---the pronunciation, for one thing. Gussied is pronounced with the USSS as it’s spelled---a crisp ssss through the teeth, and most always meaning nice things. The declaration and question, "Why, you're sure gussied up today---where you goin'?" can almost always be taken only as a compliment on appearance and taste.
On the other hand, Hussied takes on a HUZZZZZ sound, with a little bit of disdain in the hum of the zzzzzz’s. As in “Why that ole HUZZZZY!!! Who does she think she IZZZZZ?”

The key is that you can Gussy up a house, a room, a dress, a tabletop, a package or a window treatment or a hat, but almost the only thing you can call “hussied up” is a person---female persons, at that.

Well, maybe that time Bugs Bunny wore the lipstick, but that’s not a good example, I guess.

Gussying is all in the outlook, I think---you add a little extra touch here, a coat of paint there, a new shade of nail polish or a different centerpiece, and there you have it---gussied. A lush blossom tucked behind an ear, purse-shoes-belt to match, a fresh white pique collar on a plain navy dress, the tilt of an absolutely useless wisp of whimsy passing for a cocktail hat---those fall into the gussy category.

As do lace on tiny socks above shiny black Mary Janes, ribbons on ponytails, white gloves in Summer, pearls with a sweater set, a flirty glimpse of red silk slip in the hem-slit of a demure dress, (which can all-too-easily fall into the Hussy category, depending on dress, slip, and degree of flash). There’s also the extra-fancy trimmings to a wardrobe---the colorful inserts on a pocket, a special set of buttons for placket and sleeves, an elaborate stitching technique which sets the garment apart, a special furl of ribbon or paper to make a gift almost too beautiful to unwrap.

Gussying in a room could include a punch of pillows, a paint color, a mural or bit of trompe l’oeil, some specially-draped and tasseled curtains, a little tableau atop a table, a mantel, a shelf. We all love a special touch, whether our own, in a magazine, in a house in which we feel the warmth of things well-loved.

But Hussied Up, now---that’s a different subject entirely, mostly calling for a state of BEING, for the carriage and attitude count for a great percentage of the aura. The extra touches are there, the attention to detail may be present, the care in preparation and presentation undeniable, but the effect is just TOO-TOO. Too-tight or too bright or too-too is just too much---they run over into “Did you SEE what she was wearing?” on past, “Too much sugar for a dime,” into “Ten pounds of sugar in a five-pound sack,” and the capstone: “Her Mama would just DIE!”

My girlfriends and I used to tease each other about being Hussied Up when we would go out together---a little extra care with the lipstick, an appointment for a hairdo that afternoon, an outfit just bought and pressed Just SO, but those were just nice ladies getting spruced up.

REAL Hussying is either a gift or a curse---a flair for a dramatic look, with a special style that gets you noticed AND talked about, but in an envious or admiring way, though your admirers may be as much detractors as any.

Or the curse of not having The Sense God Gave a Goose in the way you present your person---a painted-on outfit cut down TO THERE, with tottery heels, big hair and too much jewelry AND perfume just ain’t the way you want to go through life. It gets you noticed, all right, but it also gets you Looked At Funny and Laughed At, besides.

We had an Aunt who wore odd little outfits, with a bit too much powder and lipstick, and the Toujours Moi preceded her into the house. She wore TOO MUCH STUFF, too many GeeGaws, too much tarnished or plastic bits and pieces with gappy places where the crumbs of sparkly glass had fallen from the settings. She was like the society woman of whom it was rumored that she just stood in the middle of the room and her maid flung every knick-knack in her jewelry box at her. More was MORE.

On up into the Seventies, her stockings had seams, and there were always flocked butterflies or embroidered flowers scattered up her calves. In addition to all the above, her ensemble for my Grandpa's funeral included a large shoulder-strap purse, of a big ole Laura Ashley-type floral chintz if I remember right, and slapped on it midways like a Homecoming Corsage was the final touch: A huge red paper-satin bow, one of those sticky-back ones sold by the dozen at Fred's for Christmas packages.

But she was sweet and she was OURS; we tittered a bit in secret, but we would no more have hurt her feelings over her over-the-top effect than we’d fly. She was a nice lady, and no matter what she wore, the SELF of her could never have gone past extreme Gussied Up into Hussydom.
And therein lies the real difference.


Jeanne said...

Hello Rachel, I am back from my bloggy break and wanted to come over to see what I have missed. I do love your posts sooo much. You have a talent for writing that is wonderfully entertaining. I would love for you to expand your readers list. Next week I am going to feature your Blog. I will let you know which day.

I finally did see the button post and left a comment. In case you don't check back.

I will comment on your sister posts. I love them. My sisters and I would be enjoying each other in just the same way. It would just be in the plural!!! Sisters are the most wonderful gift when you love each other dearly.

Your wonderful Mexican meal sounded delicious. Since I am going on noon here, I am starving and Jonesing for some of those enchiladas. HA! I do love Mexican food. I know you enjoyed every minute of cooking that meal. The photos are yummy.

Have a wonderful day. It is good to be visiting again.
Hugs xoxo, Jeanne

Nail said...

Boy could I name names! Although, I might have slipped over into hussydom from time to time depending on the occasion. At times it's worth it, 'specially if you don't know anyone at the party! Everyone just needs to admit it, we've all done it right? Reminds me of an episode of "Reba" when she ask this lady..."Do you OWN a full length mirror?"

Southern Lady said...

I loved this post, Rachel.

I got "all gussied up" yesterday with a new hair style ... made me feel like a new person!

Funny how sometimes there's a fine line between "gussied" and "hussied," isn't there.

mustard seeds said...

Hi Rachel, yes, I wish you lived here too. I would use your help and borrow all those items. Thank you for such sweet comments.

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

Dear Rachel..s'cuse me..but I'm just picking myself up off the floor where I fell laughing so hard at this post! What a subject and so perfectly done. AND explained as to the difference in the two words. These may all be things I knew? But to have them so charmingly put down on paper just tickled me silly!

(I'm out here applauding and calliing "MORE! MORE!)
Hugs and love and a WELL DONE!

Anonymous said...

I don't usually comment, but I have to say: This is as Southern as they come. Absolutely right on, and I laughed out loud.