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The Penny Loafer: Dressed in White

New Canaan Patch's preppy fashionista says the old-fashioned 'Memorial Day to Labor Day' decree is far too black and white for this gray issue.

The longer days and milder temps of springtime make me fling open my closet doors, grabbing for my whites.

The old-school view would give me pause. Traditionally, whites have been out of style from Labor Day to Memorial Day—no white shoes, no white pants, and no white handbags allowed until the last Monday in May.

But that's too rigid for this white jeans-loving blogger, and luckily the rules have relaxed.

White has slowly crept into the shoulder seasons here in the Northeast. On Easter morning I spotted a woman in church wearing an off-white suit; a week later, I saw a man wearing a white dinner jacket at a black tie party, without any pointing or whispering from the peanut gallery. The folks dressed well in white simply blended in.

But last February I did draw some puzzled stares, and even the offer of a sweater from a fellow passenger, when I showed up at JFK's baggage claim carousel dressed head to toe in white—long white skirt, linen tunic, canvas sun hat—after a Jamaican holiday. Next time I'll be sure to swap the beachy get-up for some dark denim on my travel day.

That doesn't mean that whites are barred in cold weather, but the tone should match the climate and the latitude.

In the snowy season, a "winter white" wool overcoat is now a chic choice. An off-white pair of cords is a stylish neutral for late spring or early fall. 

Skip the white shoes—it's tough for anyone other than nurses and brides to pull off such pale footwear—but other than that a few subtle white pieces that transition from season to season can be a welcome addition to your year-round wardrobe.

The rule of thumb: wear your off-whites in winter, a touch of white in spring and fall, and your whitest whites in summer.

Feeling bold, I recently ordered a pair of bright white Ray-Ban Wayfarers. They'll be my perfect '80s-inspired accessory this summer, or I'll look like I'm wearing a giant pair of welding goggles, but I'll be smiling either way as I recapture a bit of my youth.

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Melissa C. Morris writes about preppy style for New Canaan Patch. She also has her own blog, www.melissacmorris.com.

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