Monday, September 04, 2006
That’s right — wear white now
Various shades of white — combined with splashes of gold and camel — combine for a fashionable ensemble fit for wearing into fall and winter. Photo Illustration By Trent Penny and Theresa Shadrix
By Theresa Shadrix
The Anniston Star
Ask any good Southern girl why she packs away her white wardrobe, including shoes, purses and pants, on Labor Day and it usually has something to do with her mother.
Labor Day celebrates the American worker and marks the beginning of the unofficial ‘no white’ period for Southern women.
Boxes are packed, closets are cleaned and everything white is stored away during the winter months.
Ending on Memorial Day or Easter, the No White Period is a seven-month hiatus of all things white — or is it?
“For me Labor Day is the end of summer, and when summer ends, the sandal-wearing ends also,” says Delana Gilmore, publications secretary for The Calhoun Baptist Association.
One of the many Southern women who learned the No-White rule from her mother, Gilmore contends that she is not sure if keeping to the Labor Day fashion rule is owed to the voice of Mom in her head or to lessons learned at Judson College, an all female Baptist University.
She does know that wearing white in winter is sure to get a Southern girl a few discourteous stares.
“If I do wear bright white shoes in November or December, I will be so uncomfortable and self-conscious about it that I probably try to hide my feet,” she jokes. “I know that it’s not a don’t any more. However, the ideas that I grew up on are what I govern my life by.
“They might not be for everybody, but those ideas are what make me ME.”
Like many other women in the South, Gilmore is not alone in following the advice of her foremothers.
Eula Tatman, grants manager for the Calhoun County Community Foundation, grew up in Kansas and says her mother planted the White Rule in regard to shoes in her psyche every Easter.
“Mom rarely bought white shoes for Easter (I have five sisters). She bought black patent leather shoes,” she says. “She wanted us to be able to wear our Easter shoes year round.
Therefore, I guess as a child, it was instilled in us that white shoes were not to be worn all year round.”
Tatman says she adheres to the No White Shoes rule due to fashion peer pressure.
“As an adult or college-age (girl), you would get a stare from your girlfriends who’d threaten to call the Fashion Police, unless of course it’s winter white.”
White Plains Elementary School Title I aide Patsy Cronan also recalls learning the white shoe rule on Easter.
“I can remember getting white sandals and I couldn’t wear them until Easter and I could wear them until Labor Day,” she says with a grin.
Another good Southern girl, Cronan would never go against the Shoe Rule but wonders about her white pants.
“I wore these (white) pants today and knew that I had to put them away next week,” she adds. “If you find out that we can wear them, you let me know.”
A native of England now residing in Atlanta, Ga., Lynne Marks is president of the London Image Institute and is one of only six Certified Image Masters worldwide.
She believes the rules are American, observed mainly in the South and white can be worn year-round. And yes, that includes pants.
“White is a summer and a winter color, but for winter it would be in wool and called winter white, which is ivory.”
She says that black and white were described as the new look this year, but they are always in style for midsummer.
Debra Lindquist, a certified image professional and president of Color Profiles/ The Total Look in Denver, Colo., says the root of the No White rule really pertains to shoes.
“Years ago, we did not have as many shoe color options as currently exist in 2006. There were black shoes, brown shoes and white shoes. The idea was that people needed white shoes for summer,” she says.
Today, Lindquist explains that certain rules still apply when wearing white, regardless of the season.
“Wearing white shoes is only appropriate when white is worn as a color in the rest of the outfit,” she says. “Putting on a print dress that contained no white in the print or in the print background would give the wearer an Edith Bunker type of look.”
Robbie Boggs, instructor of merchandising at Jacksonville State University, agrees the old rule was to wear a lighter colored shoe than the pants, dress or skirt but now it’s the overall look that matters in fashion.
“Bottom line, does it look good?” she asks. “Fashion rules are now obsolete and rules are broken. We are becoming a lax society and even manners are going out. Get some style and dress out of the box is what the message for fall is all about.”
But in the South, tradition in fashion is like the roots of the longleaf pine – embedded deep in the red clay and resistant to outside disturbances.
“According to folklore, most likely the rules of wearing white originated in the South — south of the Mason-Dixon line,” says Boggs.
She is not sure if wearing white had to do with the hot temperatures in the South, with white reflecting the heat of summer, or a social class issue.
“As the emerging, new middle class began growing with the industrialization of America in the 1800’s, rules of dress were applied,” she explains. “Again there was a technological boom in the 1950’s with more of society moving to the middle class.”
With the newly established middle class, Boggs says strict fashion etiquette guidelines were made and passed down through the generations.
Regardless of the fashion rules and Southern heritage, in 2006 it is all about individuality.
“If you want to put a white boot with a black skirt, just go for it,” says Boggs.
Just pray the Fashion Police are not giving out citations.
Rules for wearing white
• To avoid the Fashion Police, the No-White period for shoes is after Labor Day and before Memorial Day or Easter.
• It is not against the rule to wear a white shirt or pants in winter but winter white is best.
• White adds pounds. When wearing white pants, try a pair with pinstripes for a slimming look.
• Debra Lindquist offers a solution for those who are not sure of the when to wear white shoes. “White shoes are available but are not a must have in every wardrobe. Metallic shoes are an option that go with many colors of clothing and have replaced white.”
• Lynne Marks says whites should be washable and bleached otherwise they will go yellow with age. So, washable cottons are best, not polyester.
• It is also important to avoid lines from undergarments when wearing white. Marks suggests flesh-colored foundation garments with white. “NO panty line!” she says. Bras in gossamer flesh-colored nylon and panties without a strong leg elastic, or even thongs are essential. Marks says you can dye white underwear in a solution of warm water and tea bags to get it to the right color to match your skin.