MRS. LEMONTREE’S GUIDE ON HOW TO BEHAVE HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE: When Is The Time Right To Wear White?
(For our readers in Europe, Australia and elsewhere, I must admit that I am not as well versed on what is considered the norm and commonplace in their countries but would love any feedback that they could pass along to us, in the name of research of course!)
This guideline dates back to days gone by when the weather was a little more predictable. Rain and dampness in the early spring meant muddy steps in our dirt and cobblestone roads, obviously not very friendly to white shoes with the tendency of getting dirty easily.
Also, with the rise of an expanding middle class of people who were not born and bred of that situation, the etiquette of attire was really their guide to not making a mis-step so to speak, giving them some sort of idea as to when and where certain attire was appropriate and when it wasn’t, to avoid looking like they didn’t belong with their new-found social circle who might have been schooled as youngsters about the subject at hand.
Geography seems to play a pivotal role when speaking of the rites of white. In the southern states, the date seems to be pushed a little earlier, citing Easter Sunday as the beginning of the season as opposed to Memorial Day. Logical really, since the weather gets warmer and drier earlier in the southern states in comparison to the Nothern (or Yankee) states and Canada. In tropical and resort areas like Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii to mention a few, there is no distinction in weather patterns and white can be worn all through the year if you are lucky enough to live in or visit these climates.
As such, that seems to be where our debate begins, who is right, who is wrong and is this an antiquated notion?
Your geographic location and a little commonsense are your guidelines if you are looking for a concrete date. North of the Mason/Dixon line, Memorial Day or Victoria Day is your day to pull out the white shoe, South of that line, Easter Sunday is your starting point, regardless of when it falls.
Commonsense comes into play when we have arrived at the dates mentioned above. If it is sunny and glorious out in the open, wear your whites but if the weather is not working with you (rainy and mucky!), have a heart and spare your coveted white shoes, they have harmed no one and should not be put in harms way either!
I know there are many out there that think of this tradition as old-fashioned and antiquated and there are just as many that hold this tradition close to their hearts for no other reason than “this is what my mother taught me was right, and in turn, this is what I have taught my children”. A personal choice I say, when you choose to wear white is not governed by the police (as far as I know), therefore it is up to the individual, and not for the rest of us to aggressively enforce.
On a personal note, I observe this tradition. Being a Canadian, I never don my bright whites before Victoria Day (which falls on May 24th this year). If that labels me as old-fashioned, so be it. I like to follow these harmless traditions, they assault no one and if their goal is to beautify and please the eye, why would I shun something like that? I think we have turned away from too many of these so-called ‘old-fashioned’ traditions in the name of modernity while unfortunately, forsaking their original rationale, aesthetic appeal.
For a little more light reading on the subject, the ever so eloquent Toad over at To The Manner Born had a fabulous post awhile back on the very subject of the Yankee vs. the Southern perspective. An absolutely wonderful read for anyone interested (and you should be!), click on the link above or here to be taken to his blog.