Thursday, October 4, 2012


I'm determined to get some FALL into this house, folks. There's a surge of energy coming from that great burst of sunshine down the stairs, the air says AUTUMN, and if I don't get some wreaths on the doors and some pumpkins scattered around---well, I just don't know WHAT.


But first I have to dust all the ceilings and under the beds---it's the LAW. I'm wearing a big ole poufy bakery HAIRNET, People!


So, Whilst I huff and swiffer and vacuum in preparation to the REAL fun---I'm posting a re-run of my Southern take on decorating, with the often-asked Gussy vs. Hussy difference:


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.

Our Aunt Cady wore odd little outfits, with a bit too much powder and lipstick, and 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 shoulder-strap purse big as a saddlebag, in 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 difference.


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Rachel:
Thank you for the lesson on Gussying and Hussying since, when we come to visit you [!!!!] we want to be sure that we get it just right lest we should set the neighbours tongues wagging!!!

We are sure that your house will be delightfully gussied up once you have finished all the prinking and preening. If the wreath you show on the door is yours, we can see that everything is going to look wonderful.

However, just sometimes, it is quite exciting to go 'over the top' a little and enter into the Hussying arena. Perhaps in all your Autumn preparations you will be tempted to do this too? We can't wait to see the results!!!!

Patsy said...

Makes for a happy fall !

Southern Lady said...

I hope you had fun getting your house all "gussied up." I know it looks charming after you put your special touch on everything.

Loved this post ... and actually shook my head in awe of your amazing talent and beautiful way with words.

Beverly said...

Rachel, good Lord, girl. You made me "bout bust my gut laughin'.

I know your gussying will pretty up just fine - with your reputation well intact.

I've know a few Huzzy in my day, and they are always quite the topic of conversation.

I did a little gussying on my front porch (posted just this last Pink Saturday), and now I'm in to some indoor gussying. Stay tuned. And, I'll be back to see more of yours.

Jeanne, backyard neighbor said...

Hi Rachel, Your story makes me smile. We have joked in our family over these two terms for years. You have cleared up all questions over which is which. HA!

I know your home will be very festive when you get it all gussied up. Share some photos please. I finally did a bit and I love the festive Fall look on my mantel etc. I will share some pics for Pink Sat. this weekend.

We arrived home last night late from our weekend in Fl. We loved every minute of our time with loved ones. Our granddaughter's 18th birthday was a special time. And the Gators game was a win.

I have to say 'higher math' is another world to me. However, since my career was in banking, I know functional math just fine.

Wishing you happy Fall decorating.
Love, Jeanne

Justabeachkat said...

Great post sweet friend! Funny too.

I'm thinking about Fall, but it sure doesn't feel like Fall to me just yet. It still feels like summer to us and we're enjoying it.


Kim Shook said...

I could never have explained the difference between gussied up and hussied up so well. You even explained the 'zz' in properly pronounced 'hussied'! LT's Rachel: translator of the South!