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Published: Wednesday, 8/29/2007

Fashion rule is no longer black-white

If you are over 50, you probably will agree that the deadline is fast approaching to observe one of fashion's oldest rules.

You will wear your white summer ensembles one or two more times, then stash them for the cold months along with white handbags and shoes, bringing them out for Memorial Day weekend, 2008.

But if you are in the younger generation - say 30s and 40s - you no doubt consider the idea of Labor Day being the official cutoff to wear whites pure nonsense and about as outdated as hats and gloves.

My first thought, when social events began popping up on the September calendar, was that I cannot wear the new white dress that I love and that makes me look thinner or even the dress white slacks. Instead, to be fashionably correct, I must poke through the closets for transitional attire in fall and winter colors and fabrics.

Then curiosity overcame my obedience to tradition and I began asking others their take on the old rule. Are they going to pack up their whites come next Tuesday or just keep on wearing the same thing, even if Labor Day has passed?

I discussed this with a sampling of people who have definite opinions on clothing at all seasons. Women sales personnel in large department stores didn't dillydally for answers but spit them out with frankness. What I learned was that whether or not to ban white clothes after Labor Day is but one more generational difference.

Sales associate Trish Murray of Temperance has experienced both sides of the fence. When she lived in Fort Lauderdale for five years she says she never put any of her white clothing away, but when she returned to this area she remembered, "there's that white rule." However, if Ralph Lauren comes out with a white fashion line in winter, she would buy it. "Blondes look good in white," she said. Ann Gedeon, in the same department, believes the old rule is no longer observed as a definite closure to summer and none of her customers has brought up the subject.

On the other side of the debate table, Joyce Turner of Sylvania is certain it will be the last time this season that she wears the all-white outfit she wore to a party Saturday night. Now it's back in the cleaners bag and put away until spring. "I'm from the old school," the retired probation officer for the U.S.District Court, said. "My standard on white clothes after Labor Day is no."

Sara Embry listened to Turner's comments, then promptly disagreed. The 31-year-old says people should continue to wear whites no matter what month or day it is because "in the 20th century younger styles have brought new rules."

Charity Carwell and Rita Johnson of Toledo, employees in the Toledo store where the dress code is black pants and tops, haven't given putting their white summer clothes away a passing thought.

Carwell believes that white looks good any time - "unless it's dingy." What she is opposed to is too much white; "all-white at the same time, even earrings, bracelet, and shoes is too much."

Johnson agrees with her co-worker, up to a point.

"It's OK to wear white after Labor Day until December but not when there is snow. It clashes."

I feel better about the Labor Day fashion bulletin update based on this intensive research. Do you think the survey will have any impact on public opinion? My white suit is already in the attic.



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