There is a certain romance in the notion that the winter season has its own white. It seems quaint, like a ritual from an era in which dinner jackets and fish forks were common and urgent news was sent by telegram. But the winter white “tradition” isn’t so much a relic of the past as an accommodation of old rules and twentieth century style trends.
Before we had winter white in fashion and textiles, we had to have white in winter. This was no easy feat. The rule against wearing white outside the summer months has been a commandment for ages. While its origins are fuzzy at best, it is believed to have emerged in the 1800s, when the wealthy could escape the sweltering cities for the more bucolic – and cleaner – shores and country sides, where wearing white was more practical. A return to urban life at summer’s end meant a return to darker clothes that better concealed dirt and stains.
It took a force as fierce as Coco Chanel to challenge that custom. A great admirer of white’s purity and luminescence, she took to wearing white year-round. And as Chanel went, so went the fashion elite. Resistance to the wearing of white in winter thus began to wane, at least in certain circles, but the custom maintained its grip among the general population and its clothiers.
“Winter white” is a bridge of sorts between these old and new worlds. Often described as a “yellow white” or ivory color, winter white is a nod to the prohibition against white after Labor Day and a grant of leniency at the same time. It is white, but a specialized version designed specifically for the winter season.
Winter whites today appear in a broad array of undertones, from yellow to pink to cream or grey. Often used with soft, warm fabrics, these shades create a sumptuous and sophisticated look, distinctly richer than the stark whites of high summer. They are as beautiful in accessories and jewelry as they are in clothing.
Yes, there is a certain romance in winter white.