While I believe white can be worn all year round, clever dressing means not only wearing the white that best suits your natural coloring but also knowing how to coordinate it with other colors to ensure you get the best look possible.

The Basics

A great thing about white is, unlike black there is a white for every type of coloring.  In fact according to Pantone Inc., there are more shades of white available commercially than any other color. Whites can be found in shades from the purest, brightest whites to off-white, magnolia and ivory and the best places to experience the gamut of whites is a bridal boutique. 

Types of Whitea

There 3 main color considerations:

Temperature

How warm or cool it is. Pure whites are best for Cool and Clears (aka Winters), Soft white for Cool and Muted individuals (aka Summers). Cream to Ivory for the Warm color directions (Warm and Clear / Warm and Muted – aka Spring / Autumn) 

Intensity/Clarity

The degree of brightness or dullness of the white. Clear bright forms of white are best for the Clears directions (Cool and Clear / Warm and Clear, aka Winters and Springs).  Softer, muted shades for individuals whose colors demands softer, less bright shades ( Cool and Muted / Warm and Muted – aka Summers and Autumns). 

Contrast

When worn above the waist and as a solid color next to your skin. Some individuals need definite light and shade (contrast) between the color they wear and their skin. I’ll explain this later in the feature.    

Pros of White:

  • In the western world wearing white is seen as summery, youthful, sharp, clean, open minded and efficient.
  • Pure white is easy to keep clean as it can often be bleached back to its original brightness.  
  • Like black it is a color that coordinates with all other colors and is a fantastic canvas for accessories of all types.
  • There is always an abundance of white in the stores.

Cons of White:

  • Being a light color it advances and enlarges the area it is worn over.
  • In some countries, white is the color of death and mourning.
  • White can be boring, clinical and unimaginative if worn without accessories or embellishments.
  • For those who have the color direction of Cool and Muted (aka Summer), they will always look best in a color other than white. 
  • Being such a light color it is generally not slimming and therefore, a strategy on how to wear it on your largest area needs to be in place.
  • It’s a one-wear, one wash color.
  • It can discolor easily under the arms through perspiration. here are two great features on how to remove stains from and bleach white clothes.
  • It is notorious for being see-through.

When it’s wrong to wear white

I’ve been asked about the correctness of wearing white quite a few times and the only time I feel that white is not right to wear is to a wedding. It’s the bride’s day and she needs, deserves and wants to stand out. I also understand there may be some grey areas around this so for what it’s worth I’ve added a few examples below. The REALLY IMPORTANT THING – don’t wear all white – no looking anything remotely resembling a bride. 

Not wearing white after Labor Day is one of those old rules that have rightly been dissipated over time – winter or summer it’s fine to wear white if you know how to pull it off. 

Other than that it’s really a matter of practicality like, wearing white to somewhere you’ll get dirty.  

white to a wedding

The practicalities of looking good in white

  • When wearing white above the waist select a white with an Undertone and Clarity that best suits your skin tone.  There’s no getting away from it if you have cool coloring and the white has a yellow tone, the garment will tend to look dull and possibly dirty. 
     
  • If you are full figured or larger below your waist, when wearing white below the waist either:
    a. wear a top with some volume, and in color to draw the eyes upwards.
    b. look for a style that has no cuffs and is in a study fabric.
    c. if you bum is less than bootylicious – ensure your top covers it – see image below.
    d. wear a white open blouse, jacket or vest with a colored top underneath to create a longer neck to hem silhouette.

Cover your bum

ShopBop

  • White is a color that requires a high quality, opaque fabric to look best.  Because of its tendency to be see-through ensure you hold the garment up to the light to judge how sheer the fabric is and avoid pants with pockets or have them removed and the pocket sewn shut.

Watch your bits

  • Wear lingerie that matches your skin color.
Flesh colored lingerie
  • White dresses are best when they are NOT skin tight white will advertise every lump and bump you possess.  The best shapes are those that loose and flow over the body or semi fitted shape.  

tight verses loose

  • Wearing unadorned solid white can be visually uninspiring unless the dress has strong design lines/features.  If you are a clear color direction it’s a good idea to add a pop of color via embellishments or accessories.
    If you are a muted season either look for a textured garment or add an accessory or embellishment near your face.  

PicMonkey Collage

  • White dresses are best kept for summer, however, a jacket and it transmissions well into early winter.

Add a Jacket

  • White garments look best when you have a tan or have dark skin. If you are pale skinned try a spray tan for an instant fix.
    Also, women with Cool,Muted skins tend to best in a color than they do in white. White tends to be too plain on them – see first model below. 

White contrastShopbop

  • Team white in summer with light, bright or skin toned shoes and in the cooler months team with black or tan.  

shoes1Asos

Winter White

Long gone is the rule of not wearing white in winter. When teamed with, monochromatic highlights, neutral colors and cozy accessories such as fur and boots white quickly becomes a winter highlight. 

Winterwhite

Want More?

Links on the psychology of white.

Ann2015Blue

If you enjoyed this week’s feature
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or leave a comment/question below.
Thank you.
Ann Reinten AICI CIP
Author


10 Comments

  • Sandy says:

    Ann, thank you for this fabulous informative article on wearing white. I love white and wear it often, which is easy to do living in the SW Florida tropics. I am a cool aka Summer skin type and naturally lean toward semi cool whites, but yellow whites really wash me out. Thank you for the many generous options on how to brighten up my work and day wear.

  • Cathy says:

    Living here in South Florida, white is great neutral color for pants., whatever one’s shape. I have noticed that whit pants with a black elbow length top looks slimming on nearly everyone.

    I am in my 50′s and not too slim. Whenever I wear all white, I look like a matronly nurse who misplaced her cap. Any suggestions? I currently stick to white with shades of beige for my lightest color look. I am a soft Autumn in coloring .

    • pretastyler says:

      Hi Cathy,
      All white can be tricky to pull-off if you are wearing it as separates – as a dress it’s much easier.
      For separates no one will mistake you for a matron (love that :)), if you add some cool and colorful accessories and your garments are a little interesting.

  • Mel says:

    I guess I’m not meant to wear white. With my cool Summer complexion it doesn’t look great next to my face, and with my very pear shaped body it doesn’t look good on my bottom half either. It’s a shame because it looks so summery and I live in a hot climate.

    • pretastyler says:

      No, No, Mel – you can wear white.
      Next to your face just add an accessory that adds some color and for your lower half (I’m a triangle too), just ensure your top covers the worst of your butt.

  • Pat says:

    Thank you for this very through article, Ann, and so timely as well. Stores are filled with every variation of white possible. I highly respect your opinion and have a question for you. If all over warm sandstone or rich cream color is too much would you advise using a color accessory to enhance the appearance or do you advise using a neutral , such as a warm brown linen scarf or muted tone scarf? I have a concern about adding brighter accessories to what should be a very chic ensemble.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and life’s work so generously.
    A faithful fan,
    Pat

    • pretastyler says:

      Hi Pat,
      The choice between a colored accessory or a neutral one is purely a personal style decision.
      If you want an chic/elegant look go for the neutral tones and lower contrast between the colors. Another thing to do instead of adding color is to select items that have some texture as this too will add interest.
      You may be interested in my feature on How to Look Sophisticated. https://pretastyler.com/blog/how-to-look-sophisticated/

  • Pat says:

    Thank you, Ann, for confirming my inner style voice to keep a low contrast, hence chic and elegant. I think pure white opens up more accessory opportunities, but if it’s not your color, it’s not your color.
    Your the best!
    A faithful fan,
    Pat
    Thanks for the previous link, I’ll re-read for more confirmation.

    • pretastyler says:

      Glad I could help.
      I still believe that if you add a color near your face that suits you i.e. a statement necklace or scarf you could wear white just fine.
      That’s my experience but we each have to go with what feels right for us.

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