No, it’s not tax time, Christmas time, or time to seal the stone surfaces at your house. It IS time to put away your white shoes, pants, etc. until next year…or is it?
If you regularly read my blog, you know that I am a rule-following traditionalist. My mother taught me that bright white (as opposed to winter white, which is really off-white) could only be worn between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I usually follow this rule for several reasons: My mother said so, I don’t want to look like a country bumpkin, and honestly, I like switching my wardrobe to fall colors and fabrics.
Much debate has transpired the last decade or so about whether or not one should still adhere to this etiquette rule. I have a secret…the fashion police do not really exist. Yes, my sister and I do sometimes try to pass ourselves off as the fashion police, but no one ever really pays attention to us.
Here is my take on the subject. My preference in life is to always try to be appropriate for the situation. Whether with clothing choices or behavior, I hope to show my understanding and respect for a situation.
As far as wearing white, if I am heading to NYC for a summer getaway, I am probably not going to take white shorts. They would get dirty in subways, taxis, etc. However, for me, white shorts packed for a beach getaway is totally doable. The sand isn’t going to get them dirty. This has less to do with the time of year as it does for the situation. However, I won’t be taking white shorts to a March beach holiday, either.
There is debate over the origin of this rule. Some say it has to do with weather. White clothes tend to be lighter weight fabrics, so they are more cool for wearing in the summer. On the flip side, white, flimsy clothing doesn’t provide the warmth necessary for winter months.
The other theory is that, back-in-the-day, the social elite wore white clothes for their summers spent at Martha’s Vineyard or other getaways for well-heeled folk. Whereas the blue-colored workers kept right on wearing their dark work clothes. The idea is that the uppity ups created this rule in order to set themselves apart.
With most rules of etiquette, they are born of necessity and understanding. I feel like the weather related origin is probably more true than the latter. However, is this a rule that should still be adhered to?
That, my friend, is a matter of situation and choice. If you want to impress an old-school group, like the Beverly Hills country club set, then you will want to closely follow the rules of white attire. But, if you are hanging with the a avante-guard of NYC, then you may choose to go ahead and push your limits.
Of course, wearing white to a wedding, unless you are the bride, is a universal no-no regardless of time or location. And, a funeral requires a more somber color than white, at least in our culture. Oh, and white shoes will always make your feet look big. Not that that matters, but it is true!
So, to sum up my opinion on wearing white, be thoughtful when selecting white attire. Season is important, but so is event, location, and context.
You may love rocking your white jeans, but there is always next summer!
Tidbit: Winter white is a color. As mentioned earlier, it is not starch white, but rather an off-white. Look at Sherwin-Williams’ color Dover White for a good idea. I have ran across people who think white worn during winter is winter white. It just isn’t true!