As someone who has evaluated over 3,500 digital products, I know a quality user experience when I see one. After extensive first-hand research shopping Draper James‘ stores and website, I‘m breaking down everything you need to know about Reese Witherspoon‘s Southern-inspired lifestyle brand. Consider this your ultimate insider‘s guide.
Overview: Diving Into Draper James‘ Backstory
Before weighing the highlights and downsides, let‘s recap some background. Draper James launched in May of 2015 as Founder and CEO Reese Witherspoon sought to honor her grandparents Dorothea Draper and William James Witherspoon. The land, the flowers, the white Cadillacs – Reese‘s memories of growing up in Nashville informed the brand‘s timeless yet fresh aesthetic.
"I‘ve been very inspired by my grandparents because they taught me everything that I know about gracious living," Witherspoon told Domino Magazine. "[Draper James] is completely inspired by them and sort of the idea of really doing things properly, like bringing people into your home and making them feel comfortable."
From just two brick-and-mortar stores in Nashville and Lexington, KY initially, Draper James has now expanded across the South with locations in Atlanta, Birmingham, Beaufort, Dallas and New Orleans. 2022 sales are projected to surpass $50 million.
So what exactly does this darling lifestyle brand offer? Let‘s find out…
10 Reasons I‘m Obsessed with Draper James
As someone who loves boutique finds and supporting women-owned business, discovering Draper James felt like coming home. Here‘s what keeps me coming back again and again.
1. Timeless Summer Silhouettes
Draper James manages to feel fresh rather than costume-y with their vintage-inspired styles. Think shoulder bows, puff sleeves, smocked details paired with breezy cottons and linens. These are statement dresses I‘ll wear year after year.
2. True Southern Hospitality
The store associates always make me feel welcome – greeting me by name, sending handwritten notes and even mailing leftover fabric swatches so I can match accessory colors. Southern charm at its finest!
3. Invested Founder Still Steers the Ship
Reese remains fully involved according to Store Manager Katie, weighing in on everything from product design to store layouts. "She tries things on all the time and tells us honestly what works and what doesn‘t," Katie said. "That attention shows."
4. Size Inclusive Dressing Rooms
As a size 18 myself, I LOVE that Draper James‘ dressing spaces are comfortable for all women. There‘s no "too big" or "too small" here, only beauty. Even Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth took notice, instagramming her stellar experience.
5. Conscious Partnerships
A portion of proceeds from the soft Chosen Family tees supports Young Survival Coalition assisting young women diagnosed with breast cancer. This kind of purposeful outreach makes me proud to buy their wares.
6. Must-Have Dress Selection
From smocked peasant midi‘s to vibrant graphic prints, Draper James offers flirty, feminine frocks other womenswear brands just don‘t carry. Their ribbon flower knit dress sells out every fall without fail. Spoiler: I own two.
7. Surprisingly Affordable Special Occasion Finds
While some basics like tees ring up higher than expected given materials, you can snag superb quality cocktail and bridesmaids options here for under $150. Especially once those seasonal sales hit!
8. True Southern Belle Inspo
I just feel pretty wearing Draper James. Twirling in those tiered maxi dresses with fresh flowers in my hair, I channel Reese dancing barefoot across the lawn. Pure romance.
9. Dreamy Details
From embroidered peach motifs and hand-tied waist bows to tiny seed buttons marching down a bodice, everything feels special and collected here. Draper James does sweet nostalgic touches oh so well.
10. Consistently Cheery Customer Service
I‘ve visited five store locations from Nashville to Atlanta and always found attentive associates who know their stuff. "Making friends" seems central to the Draper James ethos and it shows.
Now that you know what I adore, let‘s get into the areas I found lacking…
Where Draper James Could Improve
After countless shopping excursions both online and in real life spanning size selections, pricing and more, some constructive criticism emerged. No brand is perfect so I want to share honestly here.
Across 15 different styles I tried over three years, I needed sizes ranging from XL to 3XL. Some shirts and knits definitely run smaller than the charts indicate while most bottoms are forgiving. Steer clear if strict sizes matter, otherwise embrace variance!
Lower Plus-Size Offerings
Only select dresses and a few basics go up to size 3XL. I‘d love to see extended sizing more consistently across the entire range. Especially on bestsellers like the flagship Sweetheart Wrap or Drew Denim Jacket. More women deserve these sensational staples!
Steep Pricing on Simple Pieces
While I‘ll happily pay $150 for an ornate special occasion stunner, basic tees and tanks here often cost double other retailers. $68 for a plain nautical stripe sweatshirt gave me pause. Hold out for those 40% off sales before buying wardrobe basics!
Limited International Shipping
With fans worldwide enamored of both Reese and the feminine frocks bearing her grandmother’s namesake, I was shocked to find shipping currently confined within the US. Expand the Southern charm, Draper James!
That said…are the glowing elements enough to counter the negatives and make buying here worthwhile? For me, the answer is yes – WITH caveats.
When Is Draper James Worth It?
Splurging on Statement Pieces
If you adore dressing up and accessorizing for everything from garden parties to date nights, Draper James offers utterly unique stunners delivering equal parts quality and charm. Think darling dots, blooming florals and cameo portraits.
I say invest where it counts then offset with budget basics bought elsewhere.
Catching Site-Wide Sales
Sign up for emails and keep an eagle eye out for those beloved 40% off everything promotions. These make elevating everyday essentials affordable even given the premium price points.
Seeking Out Dressmaking Magic
When it comes to feminine frocks enhancing curves in all the right places, the Draper James design team simply has a knack other womenswear brands don‘t. Find nowhere else sundresses, gown galore and second-skin sweater dresses.
If your closet craves a bit of Southern sweetness, I confidently recommend Draper James. Just be strategic with your spend, size accordingly and expect superb service.
Now let‘s get even more specific…
Reviews of 15 Must-Have Draper James Favorites
Beyond generalized feedback, I want to showcase stellar standouts worth your investment along with budget-saving dupes. Consider these need-to-know style shortcuts!
Ribbon Flower Knit Dress – $98
Flattering tweed fabric combines with a retro ribbon flower print on this darling dress merging vintage and modern aesthetics. The cozy long sleeves make it a year-round showstopper. Mod-shot this with knee high cognac boots!
Kelsea Awning Stripe Sweatshirt – $74
Cozy cotton gets a preppy dose of primary color stripes on this relaxed Draper James pullover. Size up for a slouchy boyfriend fit or consider the matching french terry joggers for the perfect lounge set.
Similar: Stars Above Mariner Striped Crewneck Sweatshirt, Target ($25)
Blackwatch Tartan Scarf – $48
This timeless black and green plaid brings heritage Harpers Bazaar vibes layered atop peacoats and sweater sets all season long. Rendered in durable acrylic, it makes a marvelous monochromatic statement.
Similar: State Cashmere Check Wool Scarf, Nordstrom ($29.90)
A key styling secret for avoiding blouse bunching and gapping? Swap in smoothing bodysuits instead! This ribbed turtleneck version wears beautifully beneath wide leg trousers, tweed midi skirts even faux leather. Snap closure makes bathroom breaks breezy.
Similar: SKIMS Cotton Rib Long Sleeve Bodysuit, Nordstrom ($62)
Puff Sleeve Sweater in Ivory – $128
Few wardrobe essentials rival a pristine winter white sweater when it comes to versatility. This cozy yak and wool knit gets sweet dimensionality from of-the-moment puffed sleeves. Looks darling over lace slips a la cottagecore. Runs small so size up!
Similar: Free People Stella Puff Sleeve Sweater, Nordstrom ($108)
The Happy Sandal – $115
Equal parts playful and polished, these vibrant orange leather slides encase feet in wide supportive bands dotted with petite cutouts. Non-slip rubber soles offer ample traction while the poppy hue pairs perfectly with flowing floral frocks all spring and summer long.
Similar: Dolce Vita Hazle Slide Sandal, Nordstrom ($100)
Circle Straw Bag – $128
Woven from textural seagrass in a circular silhouette, this natural bag nods to eras past while still feeling current. Carry daily to tote beachy essentials in style or make a statement slung over the shoulder of casual linen shift dresses.
Similar: Soludos Original Braided Straw Bag, Anthropologie ($48)
Cut to flatter curves and mimic well-loved thrift store finds thanks to meticulous vintage-inspired fading and fraying, Draper James denim stands head and shoulders above competitors. This classic high rise skinny bears the brand‘s signature light wash. Stretch-infused 360° fabric lifts rears and refuses to bag out. Divine!
Similar: Wit & Wisdom Ab-solution High Waist Skinny Jeans, Nordstrom ($88)
Micro Dot Wrap Top – $115
Rendered in fluid fuchsia-patterned crepe for sultry billowing shape, this flirty wrap blouse ties at a slimming empire waistline with optional elastic cinching. Ideal for tropical getaways and summer soirées alike!
Similar: Topshop Spot Shirred Wrap Top ($46)
The Jackie Mule – $158
Channel Jackie O trotting the White House halls in these timeless black leather mules adorned with a signature gold plaque. Low sculpted heels strike an ideal balance of height and walkability while the slip-on silhouette ensures airport security stays stress-free. Dress up denim or polish professional attire equally.
Similar: Sam Edelman Lynn Mule, Nordstrom ($140)
Few garments feel as lovely against skin as lightweight cotton lisle gets a breathable twist in this knit sweater dress rendering it ideal for in-between spring and summer weather. Strappy open back design shows just enough while still covering what matters through the midi-length skirt.
Similar: BP Ribbed Tank Dress, Nordstrom ($45)
Paneled Midi Skirt – $115
Flared panels in this stunning pink and red kaleidoscope plaid midi swish playfully as you walk. An elastic waistband ensures supreme comfort while still smoothly shaping your midsection. Elevate the whole look by pairing with a slim black turtleneck bodysuit and matching headscarf tied in front.
Similar: Topshop Western Checked Midi Slip Skirt ($68)
Marguerite Floral Maxi Dress – $175
Few prints feel as flawlessly feminine and polished as painterly pink roses. This sweeping floral maxi guarantees compliments with its smocked bodice, shoulder ties and romantic ruffled hem. Slip into strappy metallic sandals to truly gleam.
Similar: Free People Meadow Of Roses Maxi Dress ($128)
Here‘s hope these highlights help you curate your own signature Draper James look aligned with style and budget! I‘ll be continuing to share reviews as new collections debut so subscribe if you‘d like to stay looped in.