Still wearing white? You’ve been snookered

September 10, 2021


This story first appeared in newspapers.

*Technically, I always learned the rule was geared towards no white SHOES before Easter or after Labor Day. The white clothing is a newer addition to the rule, but it seems to make sense. Right? What do you think?

Here's how WINTER White can look beautiful — or is it ecru? ivory? eggshell?

I hope you had a happy Labor Day. And may I inquire, are you still wearing white? If so, it’s probably because you were snookered by one of the many stories, written by a 22-year-old who didn’t grow up around here and took it upon herself to boss Southerners around. People love to do that and don’t realize our unofficial motto is, “don’t tell me what to do,” followed closely by, “Mama knows best.”

Wearing bright white all year? Then why not leave your Christmas stockings hanging by the hearth for 12 months, or go around knocking on your neighbor’s doors in February demanding tiny candy bars be thrown into your pillowcase? Go ahead and pinch a few people who aren’t wearing green in August and see how that goes over. We have seasonal rules for a reason.

Our mothers, grandmothers and aunts said if we broke the rule, society would fall apart. Look at the evening news. They were right. 

Truth be told, I’d be in favor of stretching white to the official end of the summer equinox, September 22, but that’s just a rebellious thought. I’m not really a maniac. 

Tradition convinces us the haints from generations past would surely appear in nightmares if we wore white shoes to an autumn tailgate party. Unless, of course, we were costuming as an out-of-towner. Then, we’d add knee high stockings as well. “Don’t be offended, it’s just a silly costume,” said a smiling Varnetta Faye. 

A regional publication recently quoted so-called “tastemakers” who insisted we could wear white any time we want. 

I investigated these self-proclaimed tastemakers, who like the author herself, haven’t lived long enough to experience many seasonal changes, and discovered most hail from a region where the weather actually changes 4 times a year. As lifelong Southerners know, it’s possible to feel the same 80-ish degree sticky humid weather all 12 months of the year. We’ll freeze one day and swelter the next. 

Specific clothing alerts us to our place on the calendar. When the weather is confusing, our closets set us straight with direction and meaning as to where we are in the year.

A linen dress? It must be Summer. A brown shift? Happy Fall. Tartan for Winter and pink for Spring – and finally, white for Easter through Labor Day. Orderly clothing is important for a proper society.

A stylish crowd in summery white at the Eastern Shore Art Center in Fairhope, AL

Contemplate those on airlines this summer who had to be duct taped to their seats or tackled to the floor. The badly behaved offenders were rarely, if ever, clad in a seersucker suit or a breezy linen frock. Appropriate wardrobes breed appropriate behavior. 

My favorite Sunday School teacher taught me, “For everything there is a season. A time for every outfit under the heavens.” — NJV (New Jumbled Version). 

Off white, winter white, ivory and ecru in heavier fabrics like wool are allowed the rest of the year. Even if we must turn on the air-conditioning, which we always do, it keeps us feeling holly-jolly and Hallo-weenie. 

Brides, babies, official mourners in some churches and scientists in white lab coats — like the ladies at the Clinique counter, are the exception to the rule. So, you choose; either follow our Southern tradition, or follow a 22-year-old writer who probably shows up for Christmas dinner in stretchy ripped jeans, a tank top and white sandals. Southern Santa says, “Ho-No-No.” 

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