Friday, April 16, 2010


Seems to be the question on a lot of minds out here in bloggerland. An early Easter and lovely warm weather has everyone asking "Is it too early to wear white?"

I will begin with saying that fashion in its truest form should be about whimsy and beauty, something fanciful and fantastic and not about rules and regulations. The only thing to be taken very seriously when speaking on such a topic is the art form and the artist.

With all that heavy jazz out of the way, let's get down to it.
The actual 'rule' in its original context suggests that white shoes (and not white clothing as some are lead to believe, although in some circles it has evolved into including white clothing as well) should not be worn before Memorial Day (or Easter Sunday, depending on how far south you lay your hat but more on that later) in the United States and Victoria Day in Canada.
(For our readers in Europe, Australia and elsewhere, I must admit that I am not as well versed on what is considered the norm and commonplace in their countries but would love any feedback that they could pass along to us, in the name of research of course!)
This guideline dates back to days gone by when the weather was a little more predictable. Rain and dampness in the early spring meant muddy steps in our dirt and cobblestone roads, obviously not very friendly to white shoes with the tendency of getting dirty easily.

Also, with the rise of an expanding middle class of people who were not born and bred of that situation, the etiquette of attire was really their guide to not making a mis-step so to speak, giving them some sort of idea as to when and where certain attire was appropriate and when it wasn't, to avoid looking like they didn't belong with their new-found social circle who might have been schooled as youngsters about the subject at hand.

Geography seems to play a pivotal role when speaking of the rites of white. In the southern states, the date seems to be pushed a little earlier, citing Easter Sunday as the beginning of the season as opposed to Memorial Day. Logical really, since the weather gets warmer and drier earlier in the southern states in comparison to the Nothern (or Yankee) states and Canada. In tropical and resort areas like Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii to mention a few, there is no distinction in weather patterns and white can be worn all through the year if you are lucky enough to live in or visit these climates.
As such, that seems to be where our debate begins, who is right, who is wrong and is this an antiquated notion?

Your geographic location and a little commonsense are your guidelines if you are looking for a concrete date. North of the Mason/Dixon line, Memorial Day or Victoria Day is your day to pull out the white shoe, South of that line, Easter Sunday is your starting point, regardless of when it falls.
Commonsense comes into play when we have arrived at the dates mentioned above. If it is sunny and glorious out in the open, wear your whites but if the weather is not working with you (rainy and mucky!), have a heart and spare your coveted white shoes, they have harmed no one and should not be put in harms way either!

I know there are many out there that think of this tradition as old-fashioned and antiquated and there are just as many that hold this tradition close to their hearts for no other reason than "this is what my mother taught me was right, and in turn, this is what I have taught my children". A personal choice I say, when you choose to wear white is not governed by the police (as far as I know), therefore it is up to the individual, and not for the rest of us to aggressively enforce.

On a personal note, I observe this tradition. Being a Canadian, I never don my bright whites before Victoria Day (which falls on May 24th this year). If that labels me as old-fashioned, so be it. I like to follow these harmless traditions, they assault no one and if their goal is to beautify and please the eye, why would I shun something like that? I think we have turned away from too many of these so-called 'old-fashioned' traditions in the name of modernity while unfortunately, forsaking their original rationale, aesthetic appeal.
For a little more light reading on the subject, the ever so eloquent Toad over at To The Manner Born had a fabulous post awhile back on the very subject of the Yankee vs. the Southern perspective. An absolutely wonderful read for anyone interested (and you should be!), click on the link above or here to be taken to his blog.


Sweet Southern Prep said...

As a Southern girl, we were always told that white should be worn after Easter, and then not after Labor Day.

Seriously, if I was tanner during the winter months, I would probably wear white more often. But it seriously washes me out when I'm not tan, that's my only gripe about breaking the Southern cardinal rules on when to wear white. :)

Marilyn said...

I only wear white in the summer unless it is a white shirt under a heavy cardigan in the winter!! BUT...sandals are something entirely different!! I wear my Birkies as soon as the weather permits & after September until I can't stand the cold!! LOL!!

BaronessVonVintage said...

Fascinating post! I tend to almost subconsciously adhere to these rules: my brightest whites are usually worn in the summer...whilst my winter whites are just that ;)

Suburban Princess said...

My mom always told me this but I never really applied it - I tend to avoid white dresses and pants as to not look like a big marshmallow lol! I did wear a white polo the other weekend when it was soooo nice and sunny here but I just wore it around the house and garden :O)

I read the post by Mr Toad and found it so interesting!

Bumpkin on a Swing said...

Wheewwwwww thank goodness. I'm going, I'm goin' Lily I'm going, and I am very interested. Love this post, one of my favorites, this is what I come here for. Wisdom, Elegance, and all things Lady!

Bumpkin on a Swing said...

As I speak I am 25 minutes from Fairhope Alabama. This is perfect for me. If you are in the legal business here David Bagwell is a name you have heard many times in your life. This is why I refer to your group of bloggers as my Divas, and look to you for mentoring. I am also surprised to know as a Captain's girl, that white is acceptable year round on a yacht. I wonder if this also includes a Yacht Club, as sometimes I would rather run, than face the harsh criticism there. You have provided me with an invaluable lesson, and I am much appreciative.
Not a bumpkin for long with you on my side,

Blondie said...

What a lovely post. I love wearing white in the springtime. I need to get back to you on your guest post honey. I am so excited about it! Kori xoxo

Town and Country Mom said...

Here in the land of moonlight and magnolias, I wear white blouses and shirts year round. White trousers, capris, or skirts I don only after Memorial Day. The only white shoes I have are athletic shoes, and I don't think they count! Interesting post!

bevy said...

This South Carolina girl adheres to the Easter rule... lucky us! We get to wear the light colors and white a bit earlier.

Loved the blog link... thanks for sharing!

Annette Piper said...

No rules on wearing white in Australia - with our much warmer climate in general, you can wear it mid winter if you like!

Toad said...

Lily thank you for linking to David's very informative post. I am very happy your readers enjoyed visiting.

EntertainingMom said...

i grew up (NYC)with the understanding strongly influenced by my mother that white was ONLY to be worn after Memorial Day (end of May) and Labor Day (early September). I have learned to break the rules somewhat... I bought pair of slim-fitting whit jeans que j'adore!!!!! And if the mercury tells me we are having a June-like day in April, then by gosh I am going to wear them!!!

Giorgie said...

Personally I don't apply the rule when it comes to blouses, ever. A nice white shirt with dark pants or skirt looks great in the office year-round. For pants and shoes I'd say if it looks like summer and it feels like summer, why wait? Of course I live in Canada and while it's been quite warm here the last few days I haven't pulled out any whites to wear. I have been wearing lots of beige shoes though. I guess the hotter it gets the lighter we can go. If you live in a Southern state I don't know what would stop one from wearing white if the climate cooperates.

LPC said...

Lily, lovely job of balancing the desire for tradition against the important drive to allow people as much room for personal style without judgment as possible.

North of 25A said...

Great post - and I must agree with the no white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day rule. My exception to this is a crisp white blouse... it works for me and Carolina Herrera!

The Style Mansion said...

I like wearing bright colours all year round. I have a favourite white poloneck which I wear under a tan leather jacket and jeans in the winter. English weather is incredibly unpredictable, so we make the most of a good day when we can!

Erin said...

I save white shoes, dresses, pants, skirts for Easter through Labor day. I don't think this rule applies to white shirts or sweaters as they can be worn year round. I also use this date range, because I don't know of any others, as the cut offs for winter fabrics- suede, cordouroy, wools and summer ones - linen, seersucker, madras and the like.

Paris Pastry said...

I personally like to wear white in the winter (living in Europe that is considered just fine). White wool trenchcoat, white tweed suits, white mittens ... I could go on!

Housewife Bliss said...

I agree with Paris Pastry, however I will not get my white summer items out until late May...I just loved this post. Fab read.