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It seems like a no-brainer that white would be the color of choice when it comes to winter fashion, but fashion lore insists that wearing white into the winter months is big style no-no. If you have the perfect white sweater dress for this year's holiday party, do you really need to swap it out for something darker to please the fashion gods? Not so fast. When it comes to winter white, the rules are a-changin'.
Why White Dresses Got the Winter Boot
The "no white after Labor Day" standard implies that white is a strictly summer color and should be reserved only for the warmest weather, but there are a few other origins that explain why white dresses populate racks in June instead of January. Judith Martin, AKA Miss Manners, suggests that the rule is about practicality -- white fabrics reflect light and keep you cool, which is why summery cotton sun dresses in crisp white are a wardrobe standard. Another theory for the rule is that the rainy, muddy and soggy fall and winter are no place for delicate white dress hems that could easily be muddied. But fashion icons like Coco Chanel have been breaking the No-White-Winter-Dress rule for decades, and with great style success. If you can manage the practical hang-ups, you can rock a white-hot winter look in your sexiest little white dress.
The Many Shades of White
One of the fashion mishaps you'll have to navigate to pull off a white dress in winter is the potential for wash out. White is a summer staple because you naturally build up a sun-kissed glow in the sunny weather, but winter skin tends to err on the side of pale for ladies who aren't blessed with naturally dark skin. Combine a white dress, white skin and the overabundance of nature's white stuff that shows up in most wintery climates and you've got white overload. Short of spending your winter lying in a tanning bed, you can trick the eyes of your admirers by skipping the pure white dresses and instead going for off white or creamy white colored dresses. The subtle inclusion of warmer hues will keep you from looking overwhelmed with white.
When you're wearing a white dress in winter, don't try to make your cotton or linen dress work double duty. Winter dresses should be weather and season appropriate, so those gauzy eyelet dresses you rocked on the beach boardwalk aren't going to cut it. Opt for winter-friendly fabrics in your favorite shades of white to keep your look seasonal and sleek. Cable knit dresses, heavy wools, thick woven cottons and luxurious cashmere are all winter-weather fabrics that look divine in shades of creamy white. Keep your body in mind, though. Those thicker fabrics can mask your shape if you aren't careful, so make sure the fit of your dress highlights your slim waist so you don't look wider than you are.
White Hot Accessories
Accessorizing your white winter dress is about more than just keeping your look fresh -- lots of stylish winter accessories are practical ways to keep you protected from harsher weather. Head-to-toe white is a tough look for anyone to pull off, no matter what the season, so break up your dress with a thin belt or colored leggings to match. Black is a classic option, but you can go try out maroon, gray or brown, too. If you're worried that your dress is looking a little summery, slap on some heavy knit tights and a pair of slouchy leather boots. White dresses also lend themselves particularly well to shimmer accessories -- think subtly sparkly nylons, silver shoes and gem-encrusted bangles that combine to make you look like a snow goddess.