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Rules for Wearing White

Woman wearing white

Depending on where you live and your age, you may not have even heard there were rules about wearing white clothing. Typically, women who grew up either in the Southern part of the United States or were born before the 1980s are more familiar with this particular fashion etiquette. However, the South experiences much warmer weather than the North, making it the ideal region to wear light colored clothing, even in winter. You'll probably get different answers to questions about rules for wearing white, so keep the age and background of women in mind if you're curious.

Basic Rules for Wearing White

With the modern day emphasis on style being more of an individualized concept than of people blindly following advice without knowing the original basis, you might feel there are no hard-and-fast rules to follow when it comes to fashion. Still, if you're more of a traditionalist, are afraid of showing up wearing the wrong thing or just like sticking to style guidelines (even if others say they're outdated), you can follow these "rules."

Don't Wear a White Dress to a Wedding

This is one that most fashionistas seem to agree on. The only woman who should wear a white dress to a wedding is the bride. It's fine if your ensemble has white in it, but head-to-toe white for anyone but the lady exchanging vows is generally seen as a no-no.

Warmer Climates Usually Have More Leeway

warm weather dress

If you live in a tropical environment, white clothing probably seems necessary, even in winter, especially if your days are full of 80 degree weather. You can probably pull off cute summer dresses in light colors year-round, and no one in such a hot climate will bat an eye.

Wear Off-White in Cool Weather

If you just love white and the way it complements your complexion, but you're still afraid to wear it during the winter, choose off-white, cream, and beige clothing instead. Even die-hard fashion traditionalists usually O.K. winter white.

Avoid White Clothes in City Environments

For anyone who lives in a bustling city and relies mainly on public transportation, wearing white clothes is akin to courting disaster. Between subways, taxis, dirty seats, and puddles, it would be a miracle for a white dress or slacks to make it through the day unscathed. This is one of the main reasons you see so many metropolitan women sticking to black ensembles - not only are they slimming, they don't show dirt as much.

Wear the Right Shoes

Heavy black pumps paired with lightweight white dresses can be an odd combination. If you wear a white dress in the spring or summer, better options include natural toned or white sandals. If you choose to wear white in fall and winter, brown shoes still look better than black (and for sticklers to the rules, white shoes should be avoided after Labor Day).

white shoes and cute dress

White Clothing After Labor Day

There was a time when people stuck to the rule that white clothing was only "allowed" between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This was summertime, after all, a time for picnics, barbecues and a general carefree way of life. Because this fashion rule is decades old, young people today may wonder if it is okay to wear white after Labor Day. They may not have ever had anyone explain it to them and break down the difference between summer and fall's fashion colors.

Again, this is usually a regional issue, but even many people in Southern states have relaxed this style rule. Some call it cutting edge when women boldly go forth in white during the winter, while others are going to make snide comments no matter what. Fortunately, there are no real fashion police who can arrest you for breaking fashion laws, so if you want to wear white clothing from January through December, the choice is yours.

The Choice Is Yours

Maybe you grew up hearing the rules for wearing white and you're a stickler for them. Or you may have heard these rules and decided to wear what you want, when you want, anyway. Fashion changes all the time, so what was considered a "law" at one time could be outdated today. Traditionalist or fashion rebel - when it comes to white clothing, the choice is yours.

Rules for Wearing White