Personalizing possessions: Monograms

Some people are mad for monograms, and take every opportunity to apply their initials or name to their belongings. Others avoid even the most discreet personalization.

A monogram is a motif made by overlapping or combining two or more letters or other graphemes to form one symbol. Shown above, Queen Victoria's VR monogram, from her petticoat.

A series of uncombined initials like that shown at left, properly referred to as a cypher, is frequently called a 'monogram'. Sometimes a single initial or full name earns the term, too, though they are more accurately called personalized.

In men's wear, dissent has raged for years about whether and where to monogram; the monogrammed shirt cuff is considered the parvenu's affectation by experts like the author and designer Alan Flusser, but a monogram at the bottom left tail or inside the collar is acceptable. Mens' handkerchiefs may bear a white-on-white block-style monogram.

In women's wear, monograms are a standby of preppy style. Both J. Crew and Lands' End will monogram sweaters; I find they clutter a garment.

A monogrammed tote bag, like LL Bean's, s
eems girlish after 50, but if you love it, who am I to get between you and your three letters? Just don't choose your name, such as "Joanne", or you will look ready for summer camp.

I enjoy beautifully-monogrammed bed, bath or table linens, though the ornate embroidery like that applied to this French linen sheet circa 1920, is a vanishing art.

I'd monogram the lining of a fur coat or another item for which identification is useful, in a place invisible until sought.

Monogrammed jewelry serves no real function; it's just about-you adornment. If someone longs for her letters on a chain, a three letter monogram, like the cutout pendant shown, from Rose Petal may please.

Single-letter pendants: I think of these as a young woman's accessory, but from the profusion of letter pendants I see on older necks, clearly others think they're letter-perfect.

I'm adamant here: wearing your name as jewelry is a tween-teen thing or like, totally Carrie Bradshaw.

I like monograms on silver objects such as flasks, picture frames, baby cups, and table or barware. The silver engraved with my mother's and grandmother's monograms is more treasured than plain pieces; it's as if their essence is embedded in the object.
If you are monogramming a gift, consider the scale of the object; the size, style and placement of the monogram are very important. Insist on hand-engraving, and if dealing wit
h a new shop, ask to see examples.

Which initial, and whose?

When giving a monogrammed item to a couple, the traditional approach (in a traditional union) is "her monogram on linens, his on glass
ware." Conventions are challenged when Timothy Jones marries Mark Smith, but if they love their monograms, they'll tell you how to instruct Asprey.

For women, the monogram using a single initial follows the convention of the first initial for jewelry and handbags, and either the first or last initial on a towel or table linens.
For stationary, a woman uses either her first or last initial if choosing a single letter monogram. For three initials on stationary or any other object, the woman's last initial is placed in the center, so Jennifer Eloise Tucker's monogram is as shown, left.

A man's monogram such as one placed on a briefcase, luggage or shirt is three letters of equal size, in the sequence of first, last, and middle initial, so Benjamin William Reilly's monogram is as shown.

If Ben is receiving a pair of gold cufflinks, it is also correct to have them engraved with in the same style as Jennifer's, with the surname in the middle.

A child of either sex also has this style of monogram or simply a first name. "Joe" is inscribed on the handle of this Old Chippendale silver baby spoon from Silver Monogram Finds, a marvelous site to find a special silver piece already monogrammed, and mellowed with the soft patina of time.


Excellent overview !
I do so love a subtle monogram on sheets and linen hand towels ,
as well as in an almost hidden spot for a coat lining.
Anjela's Day said…
I love monograms on silver pieces and yes the hand engraving is well worthwhile.
It is amazing how beautiful even a silver plated little box can be when engraved. Why most customers chose silverplated in my store is cost!!$30.00 as opposed to sterling silver (comparable box is $350.00)
(Most of my business tends to be engraving) so I enjoyed this blog very much! Educational, fun and beautiful visuals.
see you there! said…
Very interesting information. I am partial to engraving on silver. Especially old silver and even if the initials don't really belong to me.


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