Saturday, June 8, 2013

Fashion Rules - wearing white

Fashion, like anything, has rules and for a good reason. Do you ever people watch to see what people are wearing? I do, I like to people watch and fashion interests me so I look closely at what people wear. Rules like don’t wear plaid with print, don’t mix brown and black, don’t wear white socks with black shoes, and your hose color should either match the hem of your clothing or your shoes, were made for a reason.  The rule that is the most controversial is that you shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day or before Memorial Day. All the fashion magazines write about this rule at least once a year.

Why was this rule made and should we follow it.  I followed it blindly for many years, then the debate started raging in our office and it made me think about the logic of the rule, so I did some research into the reason for the rule and here is what I found.

This fashion “don’t” might stem from the fashion industry itself.  Since fashion editors worked mostly out of New York City in the early 1900’s, the editorial spreads in Vogue reflected the seasonality of – you guessed it – New York City.  With a typically rainy fall, very cold winter, and hot, muggy summer, it makes sense that the editors back in the day shunned this light color post-Labor Day for fear of stepping in an unsightly puddle in their new white pants in fall’s wet city streets.

Perhaps a more accurate explanation, though, comes from a time when “summer” was still a verb and the elite class would leave the city at the start of the season, vacation wardrobe in tow, and return only post-Labor day to the drab suits of the urban working class.  By the mid-20th century, the “no white after Labor Day” rule had become a hard and fast way to draw class lines and educate the “nouveau riche” on the prevailing etiquette of the time.

The third and most practical explanation is that white is worn after Memorial Day and before Labor Day purely because it’s cooler.  Summer is hot, and during a time before the tank top existed in its current form, the only things people used to distinguish summer wear from winter wear were color and fabric.  But very rarely is there actually a functional reason for a fashion rule…”  So I suppose that rules this one out.

Even now most people put away their white clothes after Labor Day.  There was, however, a notable spike in winter white that corresponded with the first week of February Fashion Week – perhaps a testament to the likes of McQueen and Derek Lam.

If you are going to wear white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day are there rules?  Of course there are.

Don’t overdo it. Wear one white piece and pair it with another one of the season’s hot colors like magenta or turquoise in spring or emerald or rio blue for fall. Add some great jewelry and you’ll look great.

Choose the right fabric. Fabric choices are the most important when pulling together a season-friendly (and stylish) outfit.  You would never think of wearing a white parka in July; likewise, don’t wear your white linen trousers in the fall or winter. Make sure that the fabric you are wearing is appropriate for the time of year and the temperature.

Check the calendar. The style of the outfit has to be in-sync with the time of year and the weather. Even if it’s June, if the temperatures are in the 40’s you wouldn’t wear shorts and a tank.
Bottom line, if you want to break the rules, at least look like you know what you are doing by being conscious of fabric and style of the outfit that you are wearing and you will be able to wear white any time of the year.

But whether or not you’ll be retiring your white pants come fall, the season of whites is upon us.  So stock up on light colors and sunscreen, because summer’s right around the corner!
What is your opinion on this fashion rule? Leave a comment below.