White Rules

30 May

When spring rolls around and the first hints of a summer tan appear, it seems like suddenly everyone wants to wear white. Today I tackle the age-old question: When is it okay to wear white? (If this is the first you’ve heard of the “rules” of white, take heart. We’ll break it down.)

First of all, the color white–more than any other color–is more appropriate at certain times of the year than others.  According to Calvin Klein Collection’s Francisco Costa, you should “stick to ivory or winter white in cooler temperatures” (as quoted here). But when summer hits, you should feel free to just go for it with white: white slacks at the office or white jeans on the weekend, white shoes, white dresses, white purses, etc.

Second, as is usually the case in fashion, there are a few exceptions to the rule. For example, a white oxford shirt — one of Office Pretty’s must have Staples — is a year-round basic wardrobe piece. Variations like long sleeves make it wearable all year long; short sleeves means its a spring / summer / fall piece (depending on where you live in North America).

Third, Memorial Day officially launches the open season for white. (Most agree that Labor Day is the close of the season.) I spent a few hours yesterday packing up my ski boots and long johns and unpacking sundresses and white jeans. Bill Cunningham’s Sunday column in the NYT celebrated the reemergence of white on the streets.

Finally, buyer beware: I would argue that wearing white raises the risk of committing a fashion faux pas more than any other color. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Undergarments. If you plan on wearing white on top or bottom, you also need to have nude colored undergarments to wear. White is unforgiving when it comes to showing what’s underneath (a quality that makes it a summer favorite).
  • Weddings. Where I come from (Dixieland), my momma always said that you can’t wear black or white to a weddin’ no matter what time of year it is. Some traditionalists cling to this rule when it comes to black (see embarrassing call outs of certain Royals/guests at Will & Kate’s April nuptials), and some people say for less formal affairs, it’s totally fine these days (I’m in the latter camp). The idea of not wearing white is to reserve the color for the bride on her special day because of it’s symbolism and significance. (That’s one tradition that gets my full support.)

Got questions I didn’t answer about wearing white? Comment below and Laura or I will reply. Chances are, someone else has the same question as you do.


One Response to “White Rules”


  1. White is out, fall is in « Office Pretty - September 2, 2011

    […] out the ever challenging winter white later this year and, of course, we’ll remind you when Memorial Day rolls around in the spring and it’s safe to once again wear your white linen […]

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