When Should You Wear White in Winter?


I’ve always been bemused by the “thou must not wear white before Memorial Day  and after Labour Day” (and for those readers who don’t live in the USA, that means end of May and beginning of September) mantra that I read in books and ‘style rules’ lists from American authors and purveyors of style.

I wonder if this is still a relevant style rule, and why it has become so important in the American culture? And to an outsider, is it any white garment or just white shoes? Certainly, in Australia we have no such rules about wearing white.  And looking at the catwalk trends for Autumn/Winter designers don’t shy away from white clothing in winter.

So what are the modern ways of wearing white and what is seasonally appropriate?

Let’s talk about it as a colour first.

  • Crisp white is a light, cool and bright colour that draws attention to itself and makes things appear larger and more advancing. If you have warm colouring it’s never going to be your best colour.
  • Soft white is a light neutral that can be worn by most people. It is still very advancing and will make things appear larger and more obvious.
  • Cream is a warm white and is best for those with warm colouring. As it is so light it is advancing and make things appear larger.

Here’s how to choose your perfect white.

OK, I’m never keen on white shoes, except for the bride at a wedding, and even then I’d probably prefer silver or very light gold, rather than bright white.

Why no white shoes? Unless you have lovely little pixie feet, it makes them appear bigger than they are. There are plenty of other light coloured shoe options that will draw less attention and make your legs look longer, and go with your light coloured outfits than white. Nude, beige, matte gold or silver all fulfil this requirement.

white shoe alternatives

Light Blondes can get away with white shoes as they relate to their hair. But still, there are many other light coloured shoe options that you can try.

Skirts or Dresses
White dresses do mostly say ‘summer’ so are best worn when the weather is warm. Depending on your location, when that is, is weather dependent.  If you live in Florida, Singapore, Brisbane or anywhere that doesn’t have a traditional winter, I see no reason to ever stop wearing white.   Some places get colder faster and so you are likely to stop wearing white earlier.  Other places are warmer longer and so white remains an appropriate and relevant colour.

The fabric weight also affects how appropriate the garment is.  Anything light or gauzy is for warmer weather.  But a white garment in a heavier weight is still cooler weather appropriate.


There has been a trend over the past year for white jackets and blazers.  These, with their weightier fabric, are year-round appropriate.  They aren’t appropriate for formal business wear as white doesn’t give you the gravitas you need in business.  But to wear in a less formal environment they can work well.


A winter white coat has always been a stylish statement, ensure you have it dry cleaned regularly to keep it looking fresh.


These are always year-round appropriate.


White and really light colours tend to work better in summer than winter.  So as the weather gets cooler, it may be time to swap your white bag for something a little darker.

White winter fashion trends 2012-1013

Winter 2019

White in winter - Autumn/winter 2019 fashion trends

And here are current 2019 Winter white catwalk – white is never out of style in winter!

I’d love to know your thoughts on the white rule – please share them in the comments!

Which is Your Best White

Psychology of Colour – White

My Style: White is My New Black

When Should You Wear White in Winter?


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  • I think it really depends on what winter looks like in your area.

    Among snow, white looks quite good, of course so long as it’s in winter fabrics, whether it’s think jacket nylon or wool.

    If it’s a slushy gray landscape with little snow, I’d say white would look out of place and be less practical, too.

    If it’s above zero, then sure, it’s not even really winter! 😉

    Personally, I’d definitely wear white accessories in winter, but whole garments I’d find too impractical.

    • True if you live in a place where winter is slushy and dirty white probably isn’t the colour you choose – but many of us don’t.

      It may not be Zero here in winter, but it’s certainly not summer either and I get around in 3-5 layers of wool and a coat – so it’s winter to me!

  • Well I say wear it year round if it’s in your colour pallet. Why not? Why do we have to put restrictions on ourselves? Embrace your colours all year round with confidence. How nice to see something other than BLACK!

  • I prefer wearing plain white in winters.. The other shades of white are good for the other seasons, like off-white for autumn, pale white for summers.. But with snow around where I live I absolutely love to have shade of white on the top! Trust me it looks very elegant!

  • I think this old rule comes from making sure people start changing their outfits as the weather changes. If you don’t then you are not paying attention to what you are wearing. White in summer keeps you cool. Don’t wear the same white dresses and white pants, unless they actually look like winter clothes.

    I have learned that it is most important to wear white when it is practical. For all those other people who don’t think about fashion rules, are going to pay attention to your white clothes because they are so bright. Once i wore white cropped pants to a weekend party in the mountains. I thought I looked great (and i was fashionable), but someone yelled out in front of the whole group, you are going to get muddy! (They were playing volleyball). Well my fashion confidence went down a notch for sure. I ended up changing into jean shorts. This applies in all seasons. Where I live right now, white is definitely not practical, especially in the middle of summer. It is very dry and dusty and this is an old mining town, so most of the dirt is actually coal dust (black). There is no hope for sitting anywhere inside a building or outside and not getting some dirt on yourself. White stands out to people here, but a hint of color or pattern is ok, because we know that will disguise the dirt.

  • I live in USA and my reason for not wearing white pants in winter is the slush and dirt mentioned. When I go south in winter for a cruise, I always take my white jeans. I don’t wear white shoes much because I have big feet and I don’t wear bright white close to my face as it doesn’t do much for my coloring. I do have an off-white corduroy jacket that I wear quite often in all seasons except summer. I think it depends on the weather more then anything for me!

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