Investing in a stationery wardrobe can be a daunting task as there are so many variables to take into consideration. Do you prefer notecards, sheets, fold-overs? And what size? Should you engrave, letterpress, emboss, or print your name, monogram, or logo? What colors should you choose? And of course, there is budget to consider. The options are endless! Personalized stationery can be pricey, so you want to make decisions that will suit you for years to come.
Today is the third installment of our series on letter writing and stationery, and we have asked some of our favorite stationers to weigh in on this subject. Below are a few tips from the experts!
Take a cue from your closet
“When working on stationery with a client, I usually chat with clients about 15 minutes first. I take cues from the way they are dressed,” say Margaret Jones, founder of Scriptura in New Orleans. “People tend to wear colors they favor. Some people wear blues and greens, others prefer reds, pinks and oranges. Many are quite classic and wear whites, taupes and neutral colors. These non verbal clues tell me a great deal about the samples to present.”
Consider your handwriting style.
Margaret Jones also asks clients to write a few words on a piece of paper so she can see the size of their hand writing. “For instance, mine is very large and bold, consequently I prefer oversized cards, and letter sheets,” she says.
How will you use your stationery?
“I also like to ask how clients are going to use the stationery,” says Jones. “Different situations require different approaches. For instance, brides usually prefer a small folded note due to the large number of thank you notes they will be writing. I also like to know if we will be creating the only set of stationery the client will be using. If so, I want it to be versatile and appropriate for a variety of purposes – thank yous, sympathy and business. The real fun begins when we can create a few different types – a classic one for restrained circumstances, and kicky one with bright colors for happier missives.”
Engraving, Letterpress, Thermography, or Hand-Lettering?
“For men and women, there is nothing like a beautiful engraved or letterpressed correspondence card, whether it is with a monogram or a name,” says Nancy Smith, founder of Walton Street Stationers. “It suits so many occasions, and the color of the paper and ink can make it more or less formal. We strongly believe the quality of the paper matters, and with that, thermography can also be nice when it is on good quality paper. For children, it is so fun for them to have something with their name on it, and sometimes, depending on their age, a fun motif that reflects them. We work with vendors who have some absolutely adorable motifs and we can also have them custom made, which is really fun!”
Emilie Dulles, owner of Dulles Designs, says, “Engraving is the most luxurious form of printing and it stands out in a sea of quickly printed, lower-end, online papers. I have seen an increased appreciation for engraved stationery over the last few years, especially with clients who are very color conscious and want to have their stationery reflect their level of taste, sophistication, and style.”
“Hand-lettering artwork for your name and hand-drawn monograms are also highly sought after by clients who appreciate a bespoke stationery concept from start to finish and are interested in having a font for their name that might be used by a family member or friend,” says Dulles.
Other flourishes and personalized touches
Dulles says “Our custom printed patterned envelope linings – using florals, stripes, motifs, and watercolors – are a trend that is here to stay as they are the essence of bespoke stationery and embellish any envelope and message delivery with distinction and panache! Hand-painted edges, bevels, and borders are sumptuous embellishments to dress up any note card and elevate stationery to a work of ‘mailable’ art!”
Smith says, “I love a printed return address, as it just gives the stationery a polished finish. But, if you have moved and still have envelopes that you don’t want to waste, you can get nice return address labels that will cover the old address without having to order new envelopes. Another thought, if you think you might be moving, is to order an embosser or a stamper with the return address, and then you can update those with a new address. We sell the stampers with many different setups as well as ink colors, so it will still give your stationery a finished look.”
Dulles says, “Lastly, don’t forget to pick pretty and on-theme stamps and PLEASE affix them squarely and carefully in the top right corner of your envelope. A crooked or boring stamp can ruin a first impression, so it is critical to put in a little extra effort in gathering lovely stamps to finish off your stationery or invitations.”
Perfect Pens and Ink Colors
Nancy Smith with Walton Street Stationers says, “I am a big fan of different ink colors. While blue and black are always good choices, it can be fun to bring out some other colors, depending on the nature of the note. One of my personal favorites was a light gray correspondence card that we did, with a white border, and white engraved name….suitable for serious correspondence, including sympathy notes, with blue or black ink but such fun with turquoise or hot pink ink for something happy. Another fun option can be a monogram in two ink colors, and then play up those colors with your ink.”
Emilie Dulles says, “All pen selections are very personal! I prefer the fluid application of ink to paper that comes from using a fountain pen or a roller ball, but I’m also apt to use a ballpoint pen if the right tip feels right on certain papers – also depends on the texture and finish of the stock.”
Dulles continues, “I always recommend buying a number of pens in different colors to complement your stationery and to test them out before committing to writing out a full letter or note. It is important to not give up on using stationery just because you don’t love writing on it with a certain pen. Just like a certain pair of shoes can make or break an outfit, the right pen can make all the difference with bespoke stationery.”
“In terms of ink colors for pens, you always want to make sure your selection looks intentional,” says Dulles. “Black, navy, and charcoal are safe bets to go with most stationery designs, yet there are some lovely pen colors that can really pop and elevate a more muted look as long as the tones are consistent and don’t clash.”
Calling cards are back!
Nancy Smith says, “Calling cards are such a great things to have for all ages… when you meet someone and want to be able to connect, you can just give them a nice calling card. For 20+ somethings, they are fabulous as they are entering the work world and meeting with people, networking, etc…it is a great way for that person to be able to follow up with you, and, along, with a hand written thank you note, a great way to stand out in the crowd.”
“The elegant world has grown tired of email and texts and Zoom communication. Calling cards are not only terribly chic and refined, but they are also wonderfully discreet and useful for today’s networking and socializing,” says Dulles. “Not only can a calling card be designed to each person’s aesthetic and reflect their unique tastes in ways that a text or email never could, but they can also include as much or as little personal information as they desire to share. You can hand-write any necessary contact details on a need to know basis, which allows both ladies and gentlemen to be discerning about who will have their private cell phone number or email address.”
Building your Stationery Wardrobe: Tips from Dulles Designs
Gentlemen who wish to make a distinctive impression socially and professionally should have a well-adorned stationery wardrobe.
It starts with a classic note card, either soft white or ecru paper, engraved in a handsome ink color with their full name in a timeless block font, of which there are many in our collection.
Charcoal, indigo, navy, hunter green, and chocolate brown are always handsome ink colors for gentlemen –– akin to having a bespoke navy blue blazer or dark grey suit for all occasions.
One strong Dulles Designs recommendation is to include a letter sheet that is twice the writing area of a note card, for writing longer missives whilst sharing the same envelope size as their note card.
Lastly, every gentleman should have a personal calling card that is not his career business card, to match his stationery wardrobe. Calling cards can also be as traditional as stating his full name only, or include his cell phone and/or email address.
My husband insists on presenting a couple’s calling card, one that has both of our first names, cell phones, and emails, to be sure recipients know full well that he is happily married!
A woman’s stationery wardrobe can be as aesthetically driven and customized as their clothing wardrobe or jewelry collection.
All ladies, at the minimum, need a classic note card personalized with their full name or monogram to handle a variety of messages akin to a LBD. A soft white or ivory card engraved in a chic timeless ink color is ideal.
Hermès orange is a neutral for some ladies, yet it wouldn’t be appropriate for writing a condolence note, so best to stick to metallic gold, navy, grey, taupe or hunter green for example.
Then ladies need a letter sheet and/or fold-over note for longer messages. Both formats are lovely for more traditional notes and it is up to personal preference as to which is added to their stationery wardrobe first. These can be engraved with their full name or their monogram.
A fun set of note card with a bold color is a must for the fashion forward writers! I love a bright card stock engraved in white or gold ink paired with a colored envelope and unique lining inside. Think of the favorite room in your home or the outfit that makes you feel amazing, then draw inspiration for your stationery that makes a stylistic splash!
Calling cards are always a must for a lady – much more elegant and distinctive than a text message – and if they include just your name, then they can double as a gift enclosure.
Otherwise, the most thoughtful of gifts includes a lady’s gift enclosure with can be paired with a darling petite lined envelope.
The art, tradition, and joy of hand-written notes are ideally shared with children from a young age. The best way to instill this gracious habit in younger generations is for children to have their own custom stationery, even before they can write the notes themselves.
A small note card printed with their name in a cherished ink color and an age appropriate motif is a favorite for children.
Gift enclosures are also a must in a beginner paper lover’s stationery wardrobe, because they are so helpful for the many birthdays and events that little ones attend.
Family crest stationery, either embossed or engraved or full-color printed, is an elegant option that can be used by every member of the family.
Estate or seasonal home stationery with a bespoke rendering or watercolor artwork of the façade or the property name can also serve as thank you notes, as well as for hand-written invitations to planned or impromptu cocktail parties or an intimate dinner party – so chic!
Couples stationery is perfect to thank for a dinner party invitation or to reply to a formal event or to send in lieu of a pre-printed greeting card. This can range from the formal with full “married names” to the more casual with first names only.
Pet stationery is also a fun family favorite that includes a rendering of your furry friend.
All of the above pieces also make fantastic gifts for engaged couples or newlyweds or on the occasion of an anniversary.
Are hand-written letters still relevant in today’s digital world?
In closing, we asked our experts to weigh in on why it is more important now than ever to take the time for handwritten correspondence…
Emilie Dulles, Dulles Designs:
Stationery sales have definitely been going strong the last few years as we all realize the importance of staying in touch and also reconnecting with our loved ones in meaningful ways! Stationery is the perfect tool and gift to reach out and also stand out when so much of our world is going digital.
Stationery, hand-written envelopes, and custom printed invitations also have the advantages of discretion and distinction. You can’t hack or forward or “reply all” to a piece of mail! Our stationery and event printing clients at the highest levels appreciate that their formal correspondence, invitations, and celebrations are kept safe and secure via bespoke papers and a postage stamp.
Writing is an integral part of the human experience for gracious living and communicating. It is also good for our mental health. Writing by hand forces us to slow down, carefully select the piece of paper we want, take out a favorite pen, and then gather our thoughts before putting pen to paper.
Writing words of gratitude –– be they for a joyful occasion (birthday, gift, anniversary, wedding, graduation) –– help anchor gratitude into our spirits or for more somber occasions (illness, grief) they help us to process emotions in a tangible way and remember the love and support that surrounds us.
There is also an element of romance to sending hand-written correspondence that connects us to how our ancestors stayed in touch with loved ones regardless of geographic distance.
When you hand-write and mail thoughts of love, gratitude, and wisdom, you make them even more real and they become part of your personal history to be revisited by and shared with generations to come.
Margaret Jones, Scriptura:
We are all in such a hurry these days, sometimes so much so that sitting down to write a thank you note seems unimaginable – especially with the ease of typing a text or shooting an email. This however, defeats the purpose of genuinely expressing thanks. Out of respect for the individual who hosted a dinner party, referred a client or sent a present, we owe them the gift of our time and consideration in composing a thoughtful note of thanks. There is something satisfying about sitting down, writing on a carefully selected card or piece of personalized stationery and finding just the right words of appreciation. Doing so honors the recipient and helps maintain the bonds of friendship in an elegant and lasting way.
Your mother was right, there simply is no substitute for a hand written note.
Nancy Smith, Walton Street Stationers
Stationery sales are strong…I think there is a real connection that people are having with an actual hand written note, as opposed to something fleeting like an email or text. During the height of Covid, it was a wonderful way to “be with friends”, if you will. Hand written notes are heartfelt. Writing a note, can also be meditative, and in this fast paced world, slowing down to write on nice stationery, is a wonderful way to relax.
I just discovered a book, The Lost Art of Handwriting by Brenna Jordan, and in her introduction, she says “The value of handwriting in relation to our interactions with others is immense. Handwriting is a slowing down, a connection to one another, and the history of our complex humanity. And because there is an in exhaustible craving within us for beauty and creative expression, handwriting is getting noticed in our fast paced culture.”
I am very happy to see the ‘grand millennials’ embracing beautiful stationery. It bodes well for the future. Since cursive writing is no longer being taught in schools, I would recommend the book mentioned above for anyone looking to improve their handwriting as she has wonderful tips to practice penmanship.
Thank you, ladies, for these wonderful and inspiring tips. I want to order one of everything! For additional information or inquiries, please visit the following:
THE GLAM PAD’S LETTER WRITING SERIES
Below is an outline of The Glam Pad’s six-week series on the art of letter writing, and all that is related to the subject. Below is an outline of topics are covering:
- APRIL 8: Why hand-written letters and fine stationery (and calling cards!) are making a comeback, particularly among the Millennial generation. CLICK HERE TO READ
- APRIL 15: The fascinating history of calling cards, and how they are relevant today. – A guest post by Nancy Sharon Collins. CLICK HERE TO READ
- APRIL 22: An overview of resources for fine stationery. What pieces do today’s letter writing enthusiasts need in their wardrobe and why?
- April 29: A fabulously fun trend… Vintage stamps! How to begin a collection and use them to personalize your correspondence.
- MAY 6: Why cursive handwriting is making a comeback, and what you can do to learn or improve.
- MAY 13: The ultimate in customization – A bespoke monogram and stationery created by Nancy Sharon Collins.