Those who know me well will tell you that I love etiquette books. They will also tell you that due to my penchant for transgressions in this area, I often look to my books for guidance. Of all my favorites, Judith Martin (aka Ms. Manners) rules. What I love —besides her wickedly dry wit— is her unpretentious approach to etiquette. She is on the bandwagon of "disavow(ing) the slightly embarrassing equation of good manners and money." (Time, Nov 5, 1984) In her book, manners are essential to a civilized society because they are all about kindness and consideration for our fellow man.
All that to say that to say that I liked this article from the Washington Post on wearing white after Labor day. I will be walking on the wild side and wearing white after Labor day. Not white shoes, mind you. Or white pantyhose...
Wearing White Only in Summer, Weather or Not
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Dear Miss Manners:
I'm pleased to note how consideration for others seems to be the guiding principle of manners as you promote them, but one rule of etiquette has puzzled me for a lifetime: the prohibition of wearing white or linen between Labor Day and Easter.
This rule assumes September is always nippy and Easter is always mild, when the reverse can often be true in the United States. The rule seems even more arbitrary when one lives in the subtropics, where February days routinely top 80 degrees. Would you please shed some light on how we might understand this rule?
Consideration for others is something you have kindly shown Miss Manners. When this rule is questioned, it is usually with a barrage of sarcasm and disdain rarely leveled on far more restrictive rules.
Miss Manners is aware of the glamour of rebellion, but could there possibly be a more tepid cause?
The source is a misunderstanding that you share with the ferocious rebels. It is true that consideration for others is a guiding principle of manners, but that is not its only function. It is also a repository of folk customs that are indeed arbitrary, but that folks like to practice anyway. Or, as Miss Manners has learned, hate to.
This one has to do with seasons, not with weather. Easter is a time for bringing out pastel colors and, for those few who care to, straw hats. Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, when white seems refreshing. However, there are no wardrobe police to enforce this, which makes Miss Manners wonder what all the excitement is about.