Keeping in Touch · Vintage Ways

Why You Need Monogrammed Stationery

Not so long ago, when someone wanted to send a note, they reached into their desk drawer, pulled out the pen and ink, and then selected a sheet of printed stationery. It might be decorated with the sender’s full name and address. Or perhaps a three letter monogram sets the page apart as unique.

For friends who corresponded often, the monogrammed page was a very simple way to communicate who sent the letter. A business letter looks sharp on stationery that features the sender’s name and address. Nothing says sophistication like monogrammed or printed stationery.

Photo of dip pen and ink set on several monogrammed sheets of stationery. Caption reads: declare your style.
Show your style with monogramed or printed stationery.

If you lament loss in communication, or you want to send and receive pages that you can keep to read over again later, monogrammed stationery may be for you. It’s definitely more classy than a printed email message. And even before you put pen to paper, your printed stationery reveals your style to the receiver. Does your monogram have a Victorian-esque flourish? Does it sport more of a retro vibe? Is it printed in classic black, or did you choose green or dark red for your monogram and return address?

Printed stationery is a joy to use. It’s fun to order. In the past I’ve used stationery with my full name and address at the top. When I was very young that worked well. Everyone not only knew who was writing, but they had my return address at the top of the page, ready to go.

Now that I’m a bit older, the next time I order a set (which will be soon), I’ll order pages that feature my monogram. The envelope carries the return address, so there’s no reason for me to repeat it on the writing pages. So how do you order printed stationery? And where do you get it? And most important, what kind do you need?

Adding that Monogrammed Touch

You can get printed stationery in business size, which is a normal 8.5 x 11-inch page. But frankly, that’s a little large for a personal letter. Most letter stationery is 6 to 7 1/2 inches wide and 7 to almost 11 inches long. A smaller size, sometimes known as Social size, is closer to 5 3/4 by 7 3/4 inches. This size is perfect for an invitation to dinner or afternoon tea, or a nice letter-esque thank you note. If you prefer, you can also find preprinted correspondance cards, often called note cards. All stationery types come with preprinted envelope flaps announcing your name and address.

Which size do you choose? Well, what do you want to do with it? These are questions you must answer when selecting a style and size. Often browsing through the options will give you the information you need. One style, or one size, will speak to you, and then you know which one to order.

What kind of writer are you? Do you

  • Prefer very short, one-to-three sentences with sentiments like “I’m thinking of you” or “You’ve got this!” If so, you might really enjoy a box of monogrammed correspondance cards. Reach for them when you want to send a special quick note telling someone you care, or you’re grateful.
  • Long for an opportunity to turn off the computer or put down the texting device and send a chatty letter to old friends, like people used to do? Then look for a nice medium-size letter page that gives you enough space to set your thoughts down.
  • Fall somewhere in between, or find yourself wanting to throw a vintage party once in a while and send out authentic invitations? Maybe you need a solution for how to say thanks but don’t want to use notes? Look for the smaller social size sheets.

In the past I’ve ordered my printed stationery from American Stationery. They’ve been around since 1919, and I’ve never received an order I didn’t love. Even in the past 20 years or so they’ve expanded their offerings. I remember that while placing one order, I had a choice of four type styles for my name and address. Four. Today I can choose between 27 styles. They offer six different monogram styles, and many different styles of paper/envelope combinations.

How do you organize your initials when you order stationery or use a monogram in another way? Find out how everything goes together in How to Style a Monogram.

The Creative Corner

How to Style a Monogram

Monograms. They’ve been around for well over 150 years in popular use and culture. Women’s magazines from 1865 and before show monogram styles that could be used to decorate linens, clothing, and more. The letter writer often used initials to seal an envelope in wax.

How do you put a monogram together, and where can you use it? From the 1910s to the 1950s, a monogrammed handkerchief made a nice, thoughtful gift for a friend. In the 1930s to 1960s, shirts and blouses with a monogram looked sharp and trendy. The 1980s saw a resurgence in monograms on sweaters and purses, among other things.

1920s-30s monogram alphabet illustration in blue, orange, green, and purple.
Monograms were huge for those who wanted to mark their stuff in a stylish way. This pattern advertisement shows available single monograms that purchasers could apply to all kinds of things.

No matter what decade of vintage you love, you can find a way to work your monogram into it. Or the monogram of someone you love. However, just how do you do that? Believe it or not, even something as simple as monogramming has rules.

The Rules of Monograms

There are certain ways to put a monogram together, whether you plan to decorate your bedsheets or your writing stationery.

  • If you want to use one letter only, it’s called a single monogram. You can use either the first initial of the first name, or the first initial of the last name. In a single monogram it doesn’t matter. Mostly, it depends what you want to project. Do you want S for Smythe, a last name, or A for Annabelle or Adonis, a first name?
  • When you use two initials, you use the first initials of both first and last name. Each initial is the same script style, and they are the same size. One letter is not larger or smaller than the other one.
  • If you plan to use three initials, it’s called a triple letter monogram. And there are two ways to do it. If the name is Adonis Stanley Laurel, and all the letters are the same size, they read left to right: ASL. If one initial is larger than the other two letters, which you often see in stylized or stylish monograms, that large letter in the middle stands for the last name. So the monogram looks like this: ALS.
  • If you want a monogram for two married people, the usual way to do it is Spouse-Last-Spouse. So if Adonis marries Dana, their combined monogram is ALD, with a larger L in the middle.

What You Can Do with a Monogram

Monograms are versatile. They mark your stuff. But more importantly, they mark your style. Are you an Old-English-Gothic kind of person? A monogram will reveal that. Do you tend toward Art Deco? Monogram everything in sight, and everyone will know.

Monograms are the personalized automobile license plate of the past. A nicely done monogram on a party invitation indicated that you had good taste. Nicely monogrammed hand towels transmitted not only that you knew who you were in the world, but it also showed off your skill with a needle. A blouse with a monogrammed first letter broadcast whether you were playful – or not, depending on the lettering style.

In a world where much of the fabric was white, monograms came in very useful. Everyone carried a handkerchief. While that little square could be made of silk, linen, rayon, or cotton, it was almost always white. Two people dropping handkerchiefs at the same time could end in chaos! Not really, but having a monogrammed handkerchief did help if there was any confusion or if an article got left behind.

Monogrammed sheets and towels were the sign of a well-appointed linen closet. Putting an initial or two onto the top bedsheet and pillow cases not only gave these white linens a bit of decoration, but the effort also acted as a This Is My House label. It signified to friends and family that this was a house that took order and ownership seriously. Or not too seriously, depending on the initials’ style.

Paint your monogram onto a Welcome sign for your front entry. Or put your initial onto clothing or luggage. Make an initial into a pin that can move from item to item. Cover a favorite book, and decorate the cover with your monogram. Make table napkins or placemats and decorate with your monogram. Take a boring stretch of wall space and spice it up with your monogram. Bring this time-honored tradition back to life, and celebrate the initials that signify you.