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  • Belles In Biz: Annabelle Laroque Babcock, Designer of Laroque

    Sep 16, 2015 CATEGORIES: Belles in Biz, Gridiron Belles: A Guide to Saturdays in Dixie, South Carolina, Southern Women

    Annabelle Babcock knows hard work. With what started as a sewing project of dresses and skirts for friends and family turned into a local–and now national– success, nearly over night.  But don’t let Annabelle’s laid back first impression fool you.  This Belle is a design and business women force to be reckoned with. Certainly someone to take note of.    After all, trading in the corporate world for a sewing kit isn’t generally the opening line to a success story, but in the case of Annabelle Babcock and the Laroque label, success was inevitable thanks to the drive and dedication from the South Carolina native. 

    Meet Annabelle.  You–and your wardrobe– will be glad you did. 

    Name:  Annabelle Laroque Babcock

    Name of Biz:  Laroque

    SEC Team:  South Carolina… but slowly learning to pull for Clemson… I married a Clemson fan.

    Explain your role:  I am the owner and designer here at LaRoque in Columbia, SC.  I run a retail shop where we only sell LaRoque pieces. I also design two wholesale collections each year that are shown at the Atlanta market. 

    How long have you been in this role? 8 years.

    Most challenging part of your biz?: The most challenging part of my career is managing a balance between my personal and professional life. Now that I am a wife and a mother I have to delegate more.  Before I wore many hats and now I try to focus on design. 

    Most rewarding?: The most rewarding part of my career is when I see someone truly happy in a piece that I have created. There are so many talented designers in the world, when someone chooses my creation for a special event there is no greater feeling. 

    Business advice to other Belles? Have a clear goal. What do you want to create, do or help you audience with?  If you have a clear vision and passion no one can stand in your way! 

    What’s next? Expanding the wholesale collection. We’ve also started a “Mini Collection.”  (Shown here on Annabelle’s adorable daughter!)

    Favorite part about being a Gamecock fan? The best part about being a gamecock fan is living and owning a business right here in the heart of Gamecock country. Being in Columbia during the fall is so much fun! Everyone is so excited to cheer on the gamecocks; the energy that football season brings is unmatched.

    Favorite tailgate dish? Fried chicken from Lizards Thicket! 

    Game day drink of choice? Rum and coke.

    What do you always have in your touch down purse? Always a camera.  I have so much fun capturing all of the tailgate and garnet moments on a game day. The best part is when I spot another fan in one of my pieces! 

    What do you wear on game days?  Can’t go wrong with a flow silk top–or our Ivy Top (below) and a pair of skinny jeans.

    Heads or Tails: Heads

    Coach Crush? My all time favorite coach is Ray Tanner. He was our baseball coach and led the Gamecocks to the national championship several times. He is now the athletic director here at USC. I really admire his loyalty to the Gamecock and South Carolina. (Pictured here)

    Who wins it all this year? The Gamecocks of course! Well, or maybe Clemson!

    Don’t miss out on seeing  all the game day outfits—and much more–that Annabelle has created for Laroque and stores near you!

    Website,  Facebook , Twitter,  Instagram

  • Game Time Week 9

    Oct 24, 2014 CATEGORIES: Alabama SEC Football, Gridiron Belles: A Guide to Saturdays in Dixie, Kentucky Football, LSU Football, Mississippi State, Ole Miss Football, SEC, SEC Football, South Carolina, Tennessee Football

    Sneak peek of what’s to come at the Gridiron Belle tailgate this weekend!

    We want to encourage you to get set up for game day in time for the Arkansas kick off (no SEC game should be left unappreciated), but with a non-conference match up, we just can’t suggest full schedule clearing.  We’ll be pig-sooooooie-ing as we wrap up our errands and get ready for 3:30.

    At 3:30pm on Saturday, fans in the Bluegrass will hope to recover from the merciless stomping they took from LSU last weekend… too bad this year Mississippi State is not an easy game.  Nevertheless, Stoops’ Troops have gumption. Plus, we’ll be in town with an amazing pre-gridiron spread and our fingers crossed.

    The Bengal Tigers in Baton Rouge will be in full force… tailgating, cooking and trying their damndest to knock off Ole Miss. No man, woman or child, will be spared from the taunting sound of “Tiger Bait”.  This is one of the best rivals in college football— in the parking lot AND on the gridiron. 

    For as much disdain as there is between these two schools, the Alabama v. Tennessee match up hasn’t been very exciting in recent history.   We are hoping for a good game… mainly because kickoff is at 7:30 and it just feels like those Volunteers need some hope to get through the end of the season.

    In case the BAMA game becomes a red-zone game, there will be nothing short of a battle between South Carolina and Auburn on the other channel.  Auburn is ranked, unlike Old Ball Coach and his boys, but this has “closer than it should be” written all over it. At least for the first half.

    Here is your game day schedule, enjoy!

    Xs and Os

    Christie Leigh


    12:00pm          UAB @ Arkansas

    3:30pm            Mississippi State (No. 1) @ Kentucky

    4:00pm            Vanderbilt @ Missouri

    7:15pm             Ole Miss (No. 3) @ LSU (No. 24)

    7:30pm            Alabama (No. 4) @ Tennessee

                                 South Carolina @ Auburn (No. 5)

    Bye Weeks:



    Texas A&M


  • Gridiron Belles Weekend of Events

    Oct 3, 2012 CATEGORIES: Gridiron Belles: A Guide to Saturdays in Dixie, Lilly Pulitzer and Gridiron Belles, SEC Football, South Carolina, Southern Football, Swoozies

    Gridiron Belles has a busy weekend ahead, join us where you can!

    The 2012 Gridiron Belles Tailgate Tour is well on its way .  After a first time experience in College Station last weekend, we are now headed east to Carolina for some top-ranked football, and of course, tailgating!

    Gridiron Belles Weekend of Events:

    Thursday:  Swoozies event in Greenville, SC 6pm.  We’ll be serving Mint Juleps (our favorite!) and having some giveaways.

    Friday: Pink Sorbet Signing in Columbia, SC 12-5pm.  Pink Sorbet is a Lilly Pulitzer via store, so come on in for a game day dress, get a book signed and enjoy a Friday afternoon in Columbia!

    Saturday: Gridiron Belles is going to be with SoLeague and Olly Oxen as they tailgate from 12- kickoff before the UGA v USC game! Look for the SoLeague and Olly Oxen flags flying in the Fairgrounds lot!

    Don’t forget to tell us where you’ll be this weekend and send in your Belles of the game photos to!

    Xs and Os,

    Christie Leigh

  • A Thousand Thank-Yous

    Jan 17, 2012 CATEGORIES: Alabama SEC Football, Athens, Auburn, Florida, Georgia Football, Gridiron Belles Tour, Gridiron Belles: A Guide to Saturdays in Dixie, LSU Football, LSU v ALABAMA football, Ole Miss Football, SEC Football, South Carolina, Tennessee Football, Uncategorized, Vanderbilt

    "Real Belles Watch Football"--and have chandeliers at their South Carolina tailgate!

    "Real Belles Watch Football"--and have chandeliers at their South Carolina tailgate!

    These Bengel Belles had quite the story to share- Thanks for all being Gridiron Belles!

    All season I’ve preached about the importance of thank you notes.  Thank you notes for your tailgate hosts, thank you notes for the people who get you tickets, thank you notes for the people who have you over to watch a game. (We really all should be writing thank you notes to our team’s players…)  All season, I’ve received some ever so kind thank you notes myself from fans I’ve met along the way. So, it’s only fitting that I thank YOU for all that you have inadvertently done for me this season.

    Aimee introduced me to Chimes and hosted me at her competition ready tailgate

    For the past 5 years I have expressed my obsession with SEC football with anyone who would listen.  For research purposes, I have talked unceasingly about traditions, clothing styles, tailgate menus as well as players and coaches on the field.  Then, I started asking for help.   I started asking the Belles and Gents that I had met along the way to reach out to their friends to help me. I needed pictures, quotes and stories and boy did I get them!

    Lesson learned: never go to a game in the Swamp before November!

    If you’ve ever written your own book, you know that the chronic nerves that surface once the book is at the printer requires more support than anyone anticipates. For those of you, strangers and friends alike, that offered your calming words via calls e-mails, posts, and tweets of encouragement, a thousand thank-yous.

    The Grove is the perfect place to display your Pink and Proper Lilly purchases! Thanks, P&P!

    Ready or not September 3, 2011 came around and it was time for the rubber to meet the road.  From the first game of the season to the last, strangers–now friends– took me under their wings.  Generous fans invited me to lavish tailgates, allowed me to stay in their homes and graciously promoted my book to their friends.  People I didn’t even know were inviting me to special events and treating me like kin.   Southern hospitality at it’s finest.

    My new friend, Kelly, took me on the field in Neyland Stadium... wow!

    Thanks, Vandy Belles, for all of your support and enthusiasm!

    Even those fervent SEC fans, that maybe didn’t love everything I wrote about their team, taught me something.  They thickened my skin. Taught me to be more open-minded. Encouraged me to look at all sides.  They reminded me that Belles are courageous and tough.

    The most supportive parents in the world. Also the most excited to be at the historical BAMA v LSU game.

    Without tearing up the way I do while watching Steel Magnolias, I’ll keep it short and sweet. It was because of YOU that my 2011 Gridiron Belles tour was a success.  It is because of YOU that I was able to fulfill my dreams of being an author. My career for the past 4 months has been tailgating.  And because of YOU, Gridiron Belles worked.

    These UGA Belles told me that the sky was the limit-- thank you!

    Thank you, from the bottom of my Southern Belle heart, for being such hospitable, generous and devoted fans of your team.  It is the spirit and excitement that y’all displayed that kept me going on the road for 93 days straight without a break from the South’s greatest pastime. It is people like YOU that make Southern football the living legend that it is.

    The savvy mama, Doran, thanks for having me on your wonderful show!

    Thank you all. For everything.

    Xs and Os,

    Christie Leigh



  • God Bless the Palmetto State

    Oct 6, 2011 CATEGORIES: Gridiron Belles Tour, SEC, SEC Football, South Carolina, Southern Women, Uncategorized

    South Carolina v Auburn in Columbia, SC

    1) The Gamecock’s AP and Coache’s Poll ranking may have gone down, but they sky rocketed in the Gridiron Belles Poll

    2) South Carolinians use the Palmetto symbol more than Texans use the lone star.

    3) Prayer trumps all stereotypes within the stadium. And at the post office.

    I arrived in Columbia, SC on Wednesday before the Auburn game to give a brief talk to the South Carolina Kappa Deltas about business etiquette and SEC football. I was told that it would be a small crowd of about 50 girls because there was a bible study at the same time that most members attended.

    Thursday, I spent a substantial amount of time at the local post office where I was told to “have a blessed day” by workers and patrons alike… for no other reason than maybe my hands looked full and I could have been glistening.

    Friday, at LaRoque clothing store, the owner and her friend Elizabeth (GIB Tailgater of the Game) told me they met at church.

    Garnet perfected at LaRoque

    The next day at the game, while I stood and placed my hand on my heart for my favorite part of the game, the National Anthem, I was surprised when the “voice of god” no pun intended, asked the entire stadium to bow our heads in prayer.

    Let’s be clear.This wasn’t a quick, generic prayer that you’ve heard 100 times before. This was someone down on the field, in synch with the Divine, talking to the Divine and asking the Divine to bless the players, coaches, fans, opponents, and the Palmetto state. True story. The prayer went on for at least 4 minutes. You can imagine all of the things blessed in that amount of time.

    I felt like I was responding to the prayer/petitions of the people at church on Sundays. Just about everywhere I turned, it seemed like the Gamecocks and Tigers needed a prayer refill…

    South Carolina fans commenting on the improvement of the marching band as more significant than the football players indicates a long game ahead. Pray for us.

    Auburn’s Michael Dyer carries the ball down the field 1000 times. He then gets walked off the field by trainers. Pray for us.

    South Carolina’s Garcia can’t seem to connect with one receiver. Someone in the stands suggests adding liquor to Garcia’s Gatorade. Pray for us.

    Displaced Auburn fan disguised in garnet and black is spotted. Pray for us.

    Auburn’s quarterback Trotter took the snap. The ball is in his hands. Please pray for us.

    One extra second left on the game clock didn’t get played. Whoops. Pray for us.

    South Carolina fan immediately sells his season tickets to the lowest bidder. Pray for us.

    Sloppiest game I’ve seen in a long time. Pray for us.

    Aforementioned disguised Auburn fan didn’t brag or partake in trash talking after a win. Pray for us.

    Aside from all the praying and the need for all of the praying on the field, I must say, South Carolina Belles, Gents, tailgaters and fans deserve some credit for being wonderful. Four and a half days in Columbia and I not only figured out how to correctly say “Gervais Street” and “Huger Road” but I have a whole new group of friends, I felt a part of the community and I feel more than comfortable launching USC near the top of the Gridiron Belles poll.

    Morgan and George and gang, thanks for a great tailgate!

    Allison and Joel... the most patient USC fans I know. They sat next to an Auburn fan for four hrs. And gave her a ride home.

    Thank you to my wonderful hosts, Reeve and Scott Ballew. My new favorite place to shop in Columbia, La Roque. My new favorite USC tailgaters, Elizabeth and Wesley Donehue, Allison and Joel Hughes and Morgan and George Crouch. My new media friends, 107.5 The Game, 97.5 WOC and Chloe from The Gamecock. The Columbia parking enforcement team…. You got me this time… twice… but I’ll be back!

    I may never look at a crescent moon the same way again… but then again, Saturday is three days away so I’m likely to be swooned all over again.  Yep, go a head, Pray for us.

    Xs and Os, Christie Leigh

  • Three Belles walked into a bar…

    Aug 23, 2011 CATEGORIES: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky Football, Mississippi State, SEC, SEC Football, South Carolina

    Because sometimes it’s just plain funny to laugh at the other team’s expense!

    What does the average Alabama player get on his SATs?

    What do you get when you put 32 Arkansas cheerleaders in one room?
    ………A full set of teeth.

    How do you get a South Carolina cheerleader into your dorm room?
    ………Grease her hips and push.

    How do you get a Georgia graduate off your porch?
    ………Pay him for the pizza.

    How do you know if a Mississippi State football player has a girlfriend?
    ……..There is tobacco spit on both sides of his pickup

    Why is the Kentucky football team like a possum?
    ………Because they play dead at home and get killed on the road.

    What are the longest three years of an Auburn football player’s life?
    ………His freshman year.

    How many Florida freshmen does it take to change a light bulb?
    ………None. That’s a sophomore course.

    Feel free to change any of these teams around–these are just for fun and are not intended to hurt anyone’s feelings.  But, to be honest, if these G-rated jokes hurt your feelings, you may want to reconsider changing conferences and never step foot at a tailgate where the jokes are a tad bit–to a lotta bit– more insulting!

    Xs and Os,

    Christie Leigh


  • Heaven on Steroids

    Dec 8, 2010 CATEGORIES: Atlanta, Auburn, Cam Newton, SEC, South Carolina

    If you told me that I had died and gone to heaven last weekend in Atlanta, I would have believed you; every person I saw was an SEC fan, my dad was my date, and Auburn won the SEC Championship.

    If you were not blessed with the good fortune of walking through the golden gates of the GA Dome last weekend for the SEC Championship game, here is what you missed:

    1) Visors. Everywhere. Spurrier’s team made it to Atlanta and his fans followed suit in excitement and wardrobe.

    2) Creative but misleading t-shirts with “$CAM Newton” printed on them.

    3) Grandparents. Age doesn’t matter when it’s once in a lifetime. For fans of both teams, there may not be another chance to watch their team in the SEC Championship game for a long time. Especially if they are 80. “We don’t have to win tonight. I’m just glad we’re here” said a lifelong gamecock fan.

    4) BAMA fans wearing Houndtooth, Florida fans wearing jorts. Old habits die hard. I suppose they are just used to making the trip.

    5) God Bless America. Times two. Done in SEC marching band fashion. The South Carolina and Auburn bands both took the field and played National Anthem together with more vigor and pride than I’ve ever heard. Is there anything more American?

    6) Belles in pearls yelling “Go Cocks!” Lots of them. It still makes me wince.

    7) Four Auburn sorority sisters calling the entire game on the field before the refs had a chance to blow their whistle. I don’t think these belles will need to read the Xs and Os chapter of the book.

    8 ) No trace of cacophony by 70,000 plus fans. Four quarters of Southern drawls inside the GA Dome was a blissful melody.

    9) Gamecock fans leaving in the 3rd quarter. How can you be a fair weather fan when it’s 72 with a chance of a championship inside the GA Dome?

    10) Toilet paper being thrown throughout the stands as Coach Chizik wins his first SEC Championship during his second year as head coach, and the Tiger players parade around the field in front of the elated fans. Who needs confetti when the Plainsmen use two-ply to celebrate everything?

  • Sleepless in Atlanta

    Nov 30, 2010 CATEGORIES: Auburn, Coach Chizik, South Carolina

    Football season is less than predictable. It’s torturous and riveting. And it most certainly leaves us sleepless on Friday nights.

    This week is different. This week the sleepless nights aren’t waiting until Friday.
    Perhaps I am not sleeping well because my lucky navy dress is at the dry cleaners. Maybe I’m shooting up in bed because I am missing some recipes for the book. Tossing and turning could be from the musical chair game between conferences for automatic qualifying status. (More on why TCU moving to the Big East was a lateral move later).  Maybe my irritation with the BCS computer system is becoming a deep abomination mixed with fear.

    The fact of the matter is, my sleepless nights are caused by the SEC Championship matchup between The Ole Ball Coach’s Gamecocks and the relatively fresh Gene Chizik’s Tigers. Again.

    Alas, they don’t call Coach Spurrier the “Ole Ball Coach” for nothing. This man, this legend, has been here before. He’s been to championship games as a player and a coach and has a pretty decent record. (6 SEC championships, 1 national championship while coaching at Florida)

    This will be the Cocks’ first trip to an SEC Championship. This is the biggest game of South Carolina football in school history. This is also the best coach South Carolina has been blessed with in years. Good coaching can almost fill any gap for shortcomings on the field. Most of the time.

    I caution you not to count out the Plainsmen.  Let us not get lost in the hype of a legend. Let us recall that the Tigers are 12-0—including a win against: the Devil, the Ole Ball Coach, and the reigning God of college football, Nick Saban. (That’s pretty good for Chizik’s second year). Let us remember 2004.

    Saturday in Atlanta is going to be no different than every other weekend, another matchup between two teams in the toughest conference in the country.

    Either way, “If South Carolina wins, Gamecock fans will most likely create the second-coming of Sherman in Atlanta. I hope the Atlanta Fire Department is ready.” Calhoun Hipp, South Carolina fanatic

    If Auburn wins (again), they’ll return to the plains to practice and prepare for Glendale. “After all, tomorrow is another day.”Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind

  • Who Schedules These Things?

    Nov 8, 2010 CATEGORIES: Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State, SEC, South Carolina

    The second weekend in November means blood pressures are high, breaths are being held and many a dreams are being shattered. It also lends itself to upsets, surprises and clearly, fogging of TV scheduler’s logic.

    With five SEC teams in the top 25 it’s apparent that the “TV Scheduler” has it out for the SEC. Or, at best, is a Little 12 or Big 10 fan. Does the omnipotent TV Scheduler not realize that SEC fans do not discriminate and we watch ALL SEC games? Especially this late into the season?

    Here are two clues to why I am peeved by the TV Scheduler’s inconsiderate, almost basketball -loving, decisions:

    1) No.19 Mississippi State plays at No. 12 Alabama at 7:15 ET.

    This is going to be a tremendous battle of will and guts. Alabama coming off a loss to LSU will either have them down trodden and mentally out of the game or will have them fired up beyond reproach. Mississippi State will be attempting, for the first time in a long time (possibly ever), to stay in the Top 25 for the better part of their season.

    Dan Mullen has his boys convinced to kill anything that steps in their way of a bowl game appearance. An amazing game to watch if Mississippi St steps up to the plate and doesn’t get intimidated by the pom-pom-shakers in Tuscaloosa.

    2) No.23 South Carolina plays at No. 22 Florida at 7:15 ET.

    Sure, this one is a battle for a spot in the Top 25 or a chance to play in the SEC Championship, but it’s much more than that alone. Steve Spurrier now lives in Columbia, South Carolina and wears a Gamecocks visor. Just ten short years ago, The Ole Ball Coach was sporting Florida Orange and Blue in Gainesville.

    Basically, Spurrier is responsible for putting both football programs on the map. While he won his Heisman Trophy as a player at UF and won his first and so far only National Championship as a coach at Florida, he now has to handily beat Florida to take his new love of his life, the Cocks, to Atlanta.

    So yes, you could say I’m rather peeved. I’ll be at the UGA v Auburn game at Auburn (3:30 ET) so I’ll be happy, but so much is riding on these two games that it’s impossible not to be concerned with every play of both gridiron match up.

    While Mr. or Ms. TV Scheduler has made it challenging on us SEC fans to bear witness to all of the SEC glory and defeat that will ensue on Saturday, basically placing a low obstacle in between us and our reason for living, we’ll survive. We’ll find a way to see it all. And in the end, we will still have more teams in the top 25 than any other conference.

    What’s that cheer that everyone envies us for? S-E-C? Yes, that’s the one….

  • Eat Drink and be Southern

    Oct 19, 2010 CATEGORIES: Arkansas, Auburn, Food, LSU, South Carolina

    My gameday ritual is fairly nonnegotiable: A nice morning run, a trip to the grocery story for gridiron grub and the paper, getting ready in front of Game Day with Kirk, Lee , Chris and Des, cooking during the first half of the 12 o’clock game ( none of my teams have had to play that early), and then sitting down ( if at home) or heading to tailgate( if attending a game) to prepare for kick off.

    Don’t even think about asking me to be social unless it’s in front of a flat screen or in a stadium and includes incessantly discussing the games in play, rankings or upsets.

    This weekend was no exception, except I actually got my exercise in. Times three.

    The Auburn v Arkansas game started my day off on the right foot minus an obvious lack of defense. The Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson show was quite entertaining—for reasons other than watching my dog scamper under the table when I cheered. I was pacing, yelling and clapping for four quarters. (Pretty sure that’s cardio, weights AND practicing healthy lung care). Between the rushing Cam Newton was doing and the tackling Nick Fairley was executing, I was burning calories through osmosis. Thanks boys!

    Finally, I thought, an evening of seemingly one sided match ups. I prepared to sit and relax while  watching (unlike my pacing and dog-scaring from earlier).
    Thanks to the drive of the KY Wildcats upsetting Steve Spurrier, Coach Mullen transforming from the grasshopper to the professor (enter Karate Kid reference), and LSU only soundly beating McNeese State in the 3rd and 4th quarters, I was left getting my calisthenics in the form of nervous twits (no, not tweets… who has time for that during a game?), excessive pacing and high-rep-squats (sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up—repeat—for hours).

    When the last second ticked off the clock, I was exhausted and ready to celebrate. Auburn was still undefeated, Mississippi State and Coach Mullen got the big win they deserved and the anxiety of UK coming back to beat South Carolina was now over.

    How do Southerner’s celebrate best? Food, bourbon and more food.

    Thanks to the mentioned cardio sessions, I indulged in an Arkansas staple of sausage and cream cheese and a Mississippi staple of marinated cheese. Did I mention the nice glass of Woodford that got poured for the KY victory? Well, that was probably going to be poured regardless…

    So Belles, next time you think you need to take a pass on the carbs and sausage or stick with light beer, realize that you’re a true fan. You’ve done your exercise. Finish out your Southern duties and enjoy the fine delicatessens and spirits of our heritage!

    If you have any favorite gameday recipes, for celebrating or commiserating, please send them my way!

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