Elegant Stationery for When You’ve Gotta Write; Mrs. John L. Strong and More – WSJ.com

If I am being honest, the last time I put pen to paper was sometime in early 2007. Right before The Epic Recession when one didn’t think twice about opulent things like embossing and postage. My last written correspondence was so long ago, in fact, that when I recently moved to SoHo, my box of costly, custom note cards went into the recycling bin and I wondered whether I should actually have new ones made. I didn’t, and of this, I am slightly unproud.

Paul Costello for The Wall Street Journal

Having beautiful monogrammed stationery makes you want to write. The note card and calendar pictured are from Mrs. John L Strong (mrsstrong.com).



Thoughtfulness notwithstanding, having and sending your own monogrammed stationery is a luxury denoting superhuman levels of organization, good manners and time management. Some people are very good at this. For example, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter hand writes a pithy note of thanks to every contributor and gift giver. On beautiful GC stationery. It is a thing of great surprise for those recipients, a coveted note from a super busy and important person.

Equally impressive is receiving a card from someone not very busy, but very important, like HRH Prince Charles (my friend just showed me her personal letter of thanks from His Royalty for doing some charity work at a public garden). Better still, is the card I received from a 4-year-old godson who hadn’t learned to write yet, but scrawled illegible thanks on his tiny person’s stationery. All the above are coveted written artifacts to be tucked into the mirror above the mantel and savored. You can’t frame an email. Well I guess you can…but still, not the same.


In case you were wondering: A slash through a surname means your friend, not an acquaintance, is writing.

For custom-stationery longevity: Omit your address on the envelope and simply put your name or monogram—now you can move as many times as you want and keep the same cards.

If you are at a loss for words: Just scrawl out a huge thanks. Still mantel-worthy.


The time is nigh for writing thank-you notes. I have requested my mother-in law give me the gift of Sara Ruffin Costello stationery this year. Hint: Cards by Mrs. John L. Strong, please. Servicing those both chic and cool—from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to photographer Bruce Weber—Mrs. John L. Strong is the dernier cri in bespokery. I was delighted to learn this venerable old company, the best in the business of custom stationery, had been rescued from bankruptcy and extinction by Southern business belle Jacqueline Kotts. When in New York, it is worth a visit to their jewel-box showroom on Madison Avenue, where you can choose from the totally amazing 80-year-old archive or design something a bit more modern. If you get your act together soon, you can actually have something made up in time for gift giving and thank-you note writing. This year I intend to do both with unprecedented timeliness.

—Sara Ruffin Costello is a design consultant and style journalist in New York.

Good to remember… or to know.