Style & Fashion

All white

The right way to wear white this summer

The Daily Beast

July 10, 2016

Written with Lizzie Crocker

The pictures of celebrities tell one story about the challenge of wearing white–the story typically where there is a happy ending, and the challenge is won.

While the media world raged around the authorship of a Vanity Fair profile of Margot Robbie, the actress herself sallied forth into a BBC interview in London in an all-white Calvin Klein ensemble: a cream-colored peacoat over a white knit top and sleek white pants, paired with lucite sandals.

White may be the stipulated color for players’ outfits at Wimbledon (which ends today, Sunday, with the centerpiece Men’s Final), and reigning women’s champion Serena Williams and men’s star Roger Federerboth wear it brilliantly. On Saturday at the women’s final, Beyoncé, in a lace dress with high Victorian-style neck, and Jay Z both wore white to cheer Williams on to victory–and her record-tying 22nd grand slam title.

Ellie Goulding also wore white to the tennis championships earlier this week. Kendall Jenner dressed down in a white jumpsuit in Los Angeles over the July 4th weekend. Gwyneth Paltrow traveled in white jeans, sneakers, and tank top several weeks ago.

Kanye West recently stepped out in a baggy white sweater, white jeans, and white sneakers, while Jude Law hit Wimbledon in an all white, double-breasted suit that was very ‘Our Man in SW19.’

No longer strictly reserved for warm weather, weddings, and religious missionaries, head-to-toe white is the celebrity uniform of the season.

But every ordinary woman, or man, who has tried to emulate the all-white look knows that the photos are–to put it kindly–only telling part of the truth: wearing white may look glamorous, but it’s also a sartorial and practical nightmare.

As ever, the stars are apparently immune to sweltering temperatures, clumsiness, and everything else that makes wearing white a more perilous affair for us mere mortals. All-white hides no sins.

How, then, do the sweaty, subway-riding, coffee-spilling masses wear this summer’s look–or any white at all, for that matter?

“Stylistically speaking, the biggest trick to making all-white ensembles work is to wear something casual on the bottom, whether it’s a pair of sneakers or an open-toed sandal,” said celebrity stylist Jeanne Yang, whose clients include George Clooney, Alexander Skarsgård, and Robert Downey Jr.

But Yang says the juxtaposition rule applies to both genders. “White generally looks more formal no matter what you wear, so you have to dress it down in some way to make it look more fun and whimsical,” she said.

Yang recommends tackling spilled wine and other fresh stains with a hydrogen peroxide-soaked Q-tip or baby wipes, though stresses the importance of “dabbing” rather than wiping with the latter. (Tide pens are ineffective and will make you look like a suburban housewife.)

For Leandra Medine, founder of lifestyle blog Man Repeller, the trick to pulling off head-to-toe white is to wear different shades of it, as Margot Robbie did in London.

“People often advise against pairing ivory with white or eggshell with ivory, but I’m a big proponent of white linen pants with an ivory silk caftan,” she said, adding that mixing fabrics also makes white more wearable.

Crisp or creamy white peasant dresses are particularly popular this summer and “a very elegant way to wear all white,” said Will Kahn, fashion director at Town & Country magazine, citing designer Vita Kin as a favorite. Tennis whites have made a comeback off the court among the preppy-chic set, Kahn said, largely thanks to Tory Burch’s Sport collection.

Beware white jeans: they can be extremely unforgiving on both men and women (a bronzed leg in too-tight white denim invariably looks like a stuffed sausage). Men in particular tend to shy way from white jeans, according to Kahn.

“The look can seem scary, but if men treat them like normal jeans then they make an outfit appropriately summery,” he said.

There are plenty of more flattering white options to choose from, like this cotton tunic from Bird, a Brooklyn-based boutique owned by Jennifer Mankins. It’s one of several pieces, including an airy linen dress and blinding white Birkenstocks, that she keeps in constant rotation.

There are many ways, then, to enjoy your summer whites and their pristine, prestige shimmer. But, just like your fellow fashion angels, know to keep your dry cleaner’s number close.