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Dressing Up in White After Memorial Day

I always remember that Memorial Day weekend officially kicked off the start of summer. As a kid growing up in Rockaway Park,  just blocks from the Atlantic Ocean in Queens, the holiday signaled the start of the highly anticipated beach season.

That meant sun, surf and fun! Best of all, it meant that dressing up after Memorial Day you could wear white dresses, white shoes and white purses. I never saw it in writing. But there was no question that a well-respected rule meant clothing and accessories in white didn't debut until after Memorial Day.  And white went right back in your closet after Labor Day.

I never understand the hard-line rule on when to wear white. Yes, I realize that wearing white reflects a practical purpose by keeping you cooler than dark color in the summer heat. Some fashionistas trace the moratorium on white to around the turn of the 19th century.

That's when the ultra wealthy women determined white would be worn only in summer. Women who failed to follow that silly rule were considered among the country's nouveau rich. And as such, the wealthy establishment snubbed them based on their ignorance of what to wear - and what not to wear.

Over the centuries, as Labor Day became a federal holiday, the practice of when to wear white based on the season that began with the snobby rich ladies became a fashion standard for the masses.

So by the time I was growing up in the 1950s, white clothing emerged from fashion hibernation on Memorial Day and went back into hiding after Labor Day. Of course, some fearless fashion leaders, defied the "rule" by wearing white anytime they wanted. Among the most vocal: French fashion legend Coco Chanel.

Wearing White Before Memorial Day and After Labor Day Today, I don't wait for the calendar to tell me when to wear white. It's a color I work into my wardrobe year-round.  I love a white with a hint of cream for winter for a holiday party dress in December and January when everyone else with curves shows up in plus size Little Black Dresses.

But I still cling to the past. I wait for Memorial Day to break out white shoes. And I pack up white purses after Labor Day. Some habits just won't fade or go away! Professionally, I always search for fabrics with white when I design Sydney's Closet closet of plus size cocktail dresses.

I just found a fabulous metallic animal print in bronze and ivory that will be a frock you can wear year-round to make a fashion splash at any party. My late father, Sidney M. Brasch, also taught us the serious side of long holiday weekend that he called Decoration Day.

My sister, brother and I learned that this was a somber time to remember those who died serving our country. My Dad would let us help him take the cloth American flag from its storage space in the basement upstairs and outside. Just to the side of the front stoop, my Dad had crafted a bracket to hold the flag's pole. "Be sure you don't let the flag touch the ground," he warned us.

Together we make it a ritual to post the flag pole into the bracket at an angle. If the wind caught it just right, the fabric unfurled like magic. At dusk, we returned to the front yard to take the flag down. (We also learned it never stays out overnight!).

My father, who had served in the U.S. Coast Guard knew the military procedure for folding the flag into corners. To a child, it seemed to be almost magical as the layers of fabric formed a triangle.

We weren't alone in putting out the flag. House after house on our block followed the same ritual creating a spectacular splash of red, white and blue.  The Good Humor ice cream truck arrived that weekend bringing curbside treats to celebrate the warm weather.

At night, you could see the women dressing up in white wearing dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, shorts and pedal pushers (capri pants today!) And of course, white sandals perfect for a midnight stroll on the beach.