This weekend I attended a gorgeous wedding in wine country celebrating the marriage of two of our very good friends. For the most part the guests matched the setting turning it out in sophisticated, colorful and generally elegant attire. A few guests however, seemed to miss the mark.
In todays world of rule-breakers and non-comformists, I think it’s time for an upate on the rules applying to that fashion scandal maker – the color white. Two questions have long plagued the sartorially conscious – Can you wear white to a wedding and Can you wear white after labor day? After some discussion with friends I found that shockingly many people don’t seem to know the origins of these two schools of though, and still very much struggle with distinguishing what rules they want to apply to their own lives. In this post I plan to help you out with a few subtle (or not so subtle) suggestions.
Can I wear white to a wedding? In a word – NO – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some debate. According to the ubiquitous Peggy Post, “you can wear white to a wedding so long as it doesn’t remotely resemble bridal style.” Now, that’s all fine and good – but what resembles “bridal style” is definitely up for interpretation. Trust me, on her wedding day – your friend is NOT going to be interested in seeing your “interpretation”. Bottom line, if the main color of your gown (i.e. 30% or more) is white – just don’t do it. Take these two housewives above. The town idiots of Orange County. Both women claim to be ladies of grace and class, but in their usual crass behavior garnered thousands of online and in person critiques for their attention seeking ensembles. The overwhelming opinion? No Bueno. Not off white, not cream, not egg shell. Just say no. In the same vein, if your bride wants you in white, then by all means put on that white dress. The bride is always right – aint that so pippa?
Now as for the labor day bit. The story behind the idea that you aren’t supposed to wear white after labor day is that back in the day of hard core society tradition, the upper crust would spend the summer months seaside wearing little more than linens and sheer whites. It was a distinct change from the tweeds and buttoned up styles they were accustomed to in the city. Come August it was business as usual and they would return to their general day to day style.
As new money started to make their way into New York society, the original snooteratti found the new money tendancy to extend their “leisure style” into their day to day as a crass display of opulence in the face of common every day working people. As a way to tell new money apart from old money, the queen diva’s of society took to never wearing white after labor day as their own little way of telling the old from the new. As their flashy rich friends rocked linens and white dresses into September they talked sharply under their breathes and smiled to their faces.
Eventually new money wised up and adopted the rule themselves as they continued to clime the social later. One hundred years later practically everyone was on the in with this one time inside joke. Kind of ridiculous right?
So my take on this fashion tradition is to throw it out the window. Their are all kinds of fall and winter options that come in beautiful shades of white. Don’t be intimidated by stodgy classism.