Making your mark

Before I met my wife, I don’t think I could spell “monogram.” Now, it is an oft-repeated word and an even more oft-repeated embellishment in my home.

Pillow cases, hand towels, diaper bags, back packs, purses, framed prints – you name it and most likely there are interlocking initials on it somewhere.

I may be “tardy to the monogramming party,” but this Southern trend seems to be reaching new heights. No longer reserved for wedding invitations and baby bibs, the monogram, and its close cousin the cypher, are everywhere.

Amy's Pilot
Amy's monogrammed Honda Pilot. Photo courtesy of Amy Penny.

After recently noticing my friend, Amy, had even adorned her Honda Pilot with a bright pink cypher, I had to ask the obvious question: Why? “For me, a monogram transforms anything that is ordinary into something special,” she said. “I like classic styles, so monogramming is a way to add uniqueness.”

The authority on this subject in my family is my sister-in-law, Karrie. She and my brother opened a monogramming and gift shop in Lake Wales, Fla., several years ago called Polka Dots & Co. (Check out the virtual tour.)

Karrie said adding an embroidered monogram gives otherwise traditional items extra flair.

“People have their monogram put on stuff because they like seeing their name,” Karrie said. “It’s personal, and it adds a personal touch to ‘their’ things. Plus, it makes everything prettier!”

Polka Dots & Co.
If you can wear it, Karrie can put a monogram on it at Polka Dots & Co.

Karrie attributes the trend at least in part to Pottery Barn. Their clean designs are perfect for monogramming, allowing their customers to customize their purchases. Karrie said she decided to open her business after her daughter, Kalee, was born.

My wife along with Karrie’s other Southern friends started giving her monogrammed items for Kalee. Then, on a trip back home to Dothan, Ala., Karrie and her mother discovered a boutique that she fell in love with. She was inspired to try something similar in Lake Wales. Now, she’s expanded her business to include Vera Bradley, Brighton and OkaB shoes.

Polka Dots & Co. has been so popular that she outgrew the original location and had to move to a new downtown location. She’s recently opened a coffee, sandwich and pottery shop next door called Beans & Brushes.  It’s run by my high-school friend, Krista, and
her husband, Keith.

Monograms are not new. They’ve been found as early as 350 BC, and like everything fancy and traditional, there are standards for their use. But the urge to imprint our belongings with our mark seems to be growing. I understand how a monogram can be visually appealing. I’m a word person, so fonts and lettering are artistic to me, but I sometimes struggle with the idea of tagging everything like a rancher’s cattle.

I will attest, though, that it does make things easier when picking up your child from preschool or the church nursery. Everything that goes with the child has his or her initials on it.

I embrace and highly endorse embroidered monograms on gifts. I believe they add meaning. As Amy said, “I love giving monogrammed gifts because it lets the recipient know that you took the extra time to purchase something that is specifically made for them.”

I’m learning to live with the ubiquitous “CWL” in our home, but if it shows up on my boxer shorts, I’m drawing the line.

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