How to Wear White in the Office

How to wear white in the officeAlthough no one is positive exactly where the “don’t wear white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day” rule originated, the best explanation I’ve heard comes from Mental Floss magazine: “The wives of the super-rich ruled high society with an iron fist after the Civil War. As more and more people became millionaires, though, it was difficult to tell the difference between old money, respectable families, and those who only had vulgar new money. By the 1880’s, in order to tell who was acceptable and who wasn’t, the women who were already “in” felt it necessary to create dozens of fashion rules that everyone “in the know” had to follow. That way, if a woman showed up at the opera in a dress that cost more than most Americans made in a year, but it had the wrong sleeve length, other women would know not to give her the time of day.”

So, if the no white “rule” really has no basis – other than the whims of some 1880’s “mean girls” – I say forget it!

But, trying to wear white in the office can still be tricky. It’s important to choose just the right white pieces – those that are appropriate for warm weather and look professional in the office.

A simple white dress, like the sleeveless sheath from Anne Taylor pictured, is a great place to start. Or, pair the season’s hottest voluminous white cropped pants with a tailored, black “tie” blouse. Swap shoes, add jewelry and this look transitions from day to night.

Other favorite ways to wear white include:

  • white jewelry used as an accent (see our fave white enamel jewelry from FORNASH)
  • a white bag in a classic shape, or accessories
  • a white silk scarf tied at the throat
  • long white sweaters that double as casual jackets (our top pick from Anne Taylor is shown)
  • a white pashmina (for chilly offices, like mine!)
  • a long white pencil skirt that pairs with everything from a silk tank to a conservative jacket

The no-no’s? Anything too sheer, too short, too lacy, or too casual (such as white denim, gauze or Spandex).

So, although it’s not Memorial Day quite yet, I say go ahead and wear white!

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  1. 2
    Lauryn R

    This was such interesting, I never knew where the wearing white rules came from! I pretty much don’t wear white often because I have 3 kids, and keeping it clean is almost impossible for me.

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