Growing up, my mama taught me all the rules of being a Southern lady, including the fashion faux-pas to avoid. One point she emphasized often was to never wear white after Labor Day and before Easter; the same went for open-toed shoes. For me, white always symbolizes rebirth and new life, just like spring, so I did as I was taught and stored my white skinny jeans and sandals away after September. When I spotted someone breaking the rule, I mentally wagged my finger.
One day last month, I spotted a girl walking around my campus wearing white dress pants and white open-toed shoes. In February. With twenty inches of snow on the ground. I couldn’t believe it. But bless her heart, she probably didn’t know better.
Like many of my Southern-bred pals, I followed the rule because it was what I was taught; I never knew anything different. But there are two other sides that I never considered: winter white and location.
To me, white in winter always resembled snow; if you wore white in the winter, you just blended in with your surroundings, like a fashionable arctic fox. Winter camouflage? Not my thing.
But, as with any set of rules, there are exceptions. A few of my friends have recently pointed out that winter white is okay as long as snow isn’t on the ground. For me, this also depends on article of clothing. White pants (or a dress or skirt) in February is never okay, but sweaters or perhaps a coat are permissible in the right context. I have a couple of white sweaters that I wear sometimes, but I would never wear my favorite white dress before Easter.
Another exception involves climate and location.
Tropical or warmer climates that don’t experience a “real winter,” like Florida, have a little more freedom. Who cares what you wear when it’s sunny and 75? If I could rock white on the beach in January, I’d do it in a heartbeat. So if you’re traveling somewhere warm for spring break, wear that white while you can, because you’ll have to wait another few weeks when you get home.
To some, the “white after Labor Day” rule seems silly. “Why does it matter?” they ask. “If I look good in it, then I’m going to rock it!” To those of you marching to that drum, you are awesome, and I’m sure you’ll look great.
But I will wait until April 20 to break out my white skinny jeans. Who needs to wait for Memorial Day?
Kate Robertson is a features writer for Pretty Southern, and a senior at Virginia Tech, studying communication and English. Originally form Atlanta, Kate plans to graduate in 2014 to launch a professional career in writing and public relations. Follow her on Twitter @kate3robertson. Click here to read her column “Love VT”.