Reader Response: White After Labor Day: Vol. 6, Issue 31

Etiquetteer was surprised and gratified by the number of people who responded to the recent column on white after Labor Day:

From a well-read gentleman: May I offer an additional resource into evidence? Vogue's Book of Etiquette (1948), by the inimitable Millicent Fenwick, matron extraordinaire and later an esteemed Representative from New Jersey. It was the first major post-World War II etiquette book, IIRC, and was highly esteemed in its day. I would suggest that the issue is not so much that white was verboten as such between Labor Day and Memorial Day, but that it was commendable in the country (as opposed to town) in certain situations between Memorial Day and Labor Day. (The issue is between prescription and proscription - subtle but important.) That may explain the lack of commentary in the works you referenced.

From a genteel person of discernment: That there is such wide-spread disagreement regarding a subject that makes no appearance in the literature until 1982 suggests that the boundary dates for summer whites is one of those time-honored traditions that, like diamond engagement rings, grill forks, and Christmas, have only become honored in relatively recent times, either for economic benefit or as a means of social exclusion, as in the case of dear Mrs. Hammersley. It is, of course, disrespectful to wear white to certain ceremonial functions, such as a wedding if one is not the bride, but who can truly claim offense on a warm Autumn afternoon if the gentleman at the next table on the club patio is neatly attired in a tasteful white coat and tie?

Etiquetteer responds: I don't know that it's a question of "claiming offense" if someone is not dressed according to the rules, but it does identify them as people who don't know the rules or, even worse, as people who ignore the rules; the latter could be considered dangerous to know.

From a stylish urbanite: There are two things I mourn each September: the herds of moving vans that clog the streets of my city and the storage of my summer whites. Thanks so much for insightful and amusing column on this worthy tradition. And look at it this way: cashmere season is just around the corner!

Dear Etiquetteer:

No white after Labor Day you declare. Now I can understand tucking away the seersucker -- it always speaks of summer holidays I think -- but the color itself is expelled? Just what is the so-called "winter white" then?

Dear Whitened:

Etiquetteer defines "winter white" as a shade one or two notches away from the usual blindingly bright white we’re used to seeing in summer and in the underwear aisle. Yahoo! describes winter white as "cream-colored wool." In 2005 Perry Ellis described a winter white sweater as "ivory." Etiquetteer thinks you could get a whole descriptive range from Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams, but you get the idea.

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