It Is OK to Wear White After Labor Day

By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL
|  Friday, Sep 4, 2009  |  Updated 1:32 PM PDT
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It's an old-school rule that you shouldn't wear white after Labor Day, but even the newfound fashion freedom to wear light colors in cooler weather comes with some strings attached.

When summer really is turning into fall, it's time to re-evaluate the fabrics in your closet. Linen should get packed away first — and it doesn't really matter what color it is, says designer Shoshanna Gruss.

“You wouldn't wear a strapless sundress if it were white linen or black linen in the fall,” she says. “Summer clothes are summer clothes, but, colorwise, it's more interesting and fun to play with your wardrobe and not leave any color out.”

Her quick replacement for that cocktail-party sundress would be a brocade, which she says would look stunning in a creamy white and probably complement most skin tones in the process. Indian summer and early fall is when many people look their best with just a hint of a golden glow, and a rich white will just show that off, Gruss says.

Considering the Little Black Dress is so famous — and so popular — the woman who wears the Little Winter White Dress has the chance to be the first one noticed in a crowded room, adds Kelly Golden, owner of the upscale store Neapolitan in Winnetka, Ill. “The right shade of winter white is flattering on everyone. It looks rich,” she says.

When it comes to pants, Gruss will be switching to winter-white wool, probably paired with a jewel-tone sweater, or, even better, a chocolate-brown top.

Don't put away white denim, though, says Suze Yalof Schwartz, executive fashion editor at large at Glamour. Nothing is more chic than white jeans in the wintertime with a chunky cozy sweater or a blazer and leather boots, she says. That will look “very Michael Kors.”

Stefani Greenfield, the co-founder of Scoop boutiques and curator of the Curations collection for HSN, makes the case for a Jackie Onassis-inspired outfit: a black turtleneck with those white jeans, animal-print ballet flats and either a cuff bracelet or pendant necklace.

(Either way, Yalof Schwartz warns against too-tight white jeans, but that applies year-round, and undergarments should be flesh-tone not white, which might show.)

A shot of white, maybe a turtleneck under a sweater or a white shirt under a cardigan, can also have a slimming effect in the way a black vertical stripe does on a bathing suit. Mixing a few tones of white in the same outfit can be very cool, adds Patrick Robinson, creative director at Gap.

Yalof Schwartz likes a white sweater dress worn with dark, opaque tights. White legwear is almost always a no-no, however.

Greenfield prefers the purity of white, so she recommends staying away from prints and wearing it instead with tonal solid-color pieces, especially camel and oatmeal. To her, navy-and-white combinations scream “spring.”

As long as you can keep it clean, white outerwear is a way to make a striking and stylish statement, says Greenfield, who has both a white down vest and white ski jacket — which she alternates as her cold-day “uniform.” “There are ways to wear white after Labor Day and not stick out like a sore thumb.”

A white cashmere-blend coat over a black dress is a perfect package, adds Golden. The brightness, she says, can give a needed punch to a fall fashion season that's dominated by dark colors.

One no-white rule does still apply, though, according to Yalof Schwartz: No matter the time of year, don't wear it to a wedding unless you are the bride.

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