Carrying a purse is second nature to many women, who need to keep certain essentials close at hand all the time. Even if you don’t carry a purse, you probably have a wallet with you all the time. And since this is essentially a tiny purse with all the extra space stripped away, the same style rules still apply if you plan on carrying a wallet with you while you’re out and about. Can you use a white purse in winter? Doesn’t this break a cardinal style rule…or can you possibly get away with it and still look highly fashionable and totally chic? Is it trendy or just tacky? Find out all the rules of wearing white and carrying a white purse in winter to make sure that your seasonable style is totally on point.
If you’re going to go and break the rules of fashion, make sure you do it by looking totally fabulous.
Historically, white has been the color (or lack of color) of the summer. It reflects the sunlight, after all, and it looks amazing in lightweight cotton and silk garments that are perfect in the summer heat. It looks beautiful against tan skin and doesn’t make pale skin look too pale, so it’s a great go-to in the summer for all skin tones.
But in the winter? There are certain rules about when you can wear white and which white fashion items you’re actually allowed to wear. How strict are those rules and do you have to follow them? Why are they in place? When something is a rule in fashion, maybe it’s good advice to follow.
Maybe it’s not. Where do the rules of wearing white come from and why should anyone still follow them?
What About Labor Day?
Fashion purists who are strict about seasonal “rules” will say that you can’t wear white after Labor Day. By the rules of fashion, you can’t wear white again until after Memorial Day. This is a seriously small window in which you’re supposed to squeeze all your white clothing, white shoes and white accessories. Throughout most of the year, white is off-limits if you follow this rule. But in late spring, summer and early fall, you can wear as much white as you like. That includes your purse and shoes that match it.
It seems like an awfully strange rule. So we decided to find out where this comes from and why it exists at all. It’s hard to pin down the exact origins of this rule or why some think it must be strictly followed. But like most things in fashion, this rule once had a practical purpose.
Where Does This Come From?
The “rule” of not wearing white after Labor Day is a pretty old one. In fact, it pre-dates air conditioning (invented in the late 1800s). White clothing was typically made in light, breezy fabrics that were cooler to wear in the summer heat. Since no one had air conditioning, it made a lot of sense to wear lightweight, white clothing that didn’t hold in heat or soak up the sunlight.
By the time Labor Day came around, the weather was starting to turn cool again. This meant it was time to put away all those white, lightweight summer clothes and get out the heavier, darker fabrics worn to stay warm during winter.
Fashion historians believe that it was mostly wealthy people who wore white clothing while enjoying summer fun, because they were the only people who could wear white and get away with it. People who had to work to earn money, those who labored in fields, for example, wouldn’t wear white because it was too hard to keep white clothing clean.
Only those who could afford to lounge around could wear a lot of white clothing. This is why the rule of not wearing white after Labor Day continued to be observed well into the 1900s but mostly by the “upper crust,” or the wealthy, of society. Anyone who has ever worn designer clothing knows that fashion costs! So of course, it was the wealthy who could afford to make up and then follow their own fashion rules. Wealthier people got into the habit of associating white clothing with summer weather and the association stuck, even long after it stopped being necessary to wear white thanks to the marvels of modern air conditioning.
Breaking the Law
But aren’t the rules made to be broken? There are many who would say yes. Many celebrities and style leaders have broken fashion rules and ended up pioneering trends as a result. After all, once it was fashionable for women to wear huge bell skirts with wire cages underneath. Someone finally said that enough is enough and started wearing slimmer skirt designs. Other women saw it, agreed that this looked much better, and now those big bell skirts aren’t seen anymore. Sometimes, fashion needs to evolve. After all, we have moved past the days of wearing powdered wigs.
Is fashion ready to evolve past the rules of wearing white and carrying white accessories? Is it a bold fashion-forward choice to carry a white purse in the winter months…or is this still a style taboo that only the hopelessly tacky would ever dare to break? Don’t just look at what style leaders say about wearing white. See what they do when it comes to white clothing and accessories in the winter.
Winter white is definitely a very fashionable and trendy look. Style magazines have featured numerous spreads of high fashion outfits built around white clothing in winter. And in many cases, those white outfits are paired with dazzling, stunning white purses. White boots and purses actually look amazing for many a fall and winter ensemble. White trenchcoats, knit dresses and bright white pants have all been featured in street style photo spreads that showcase the most fashionable and trendy looks.
If it appears in style magazines, it’s definitely something that is being worn and seen in the big cities. But throughout history, it is often not the celebrities or the famous people who truly set the style trends. It’s not always the designers or the very wealthy. Most fashion, both ancient and modern, is often made popular by one particular group of people: royals.
Items like the modern necktie, the white wedding gown and even certain styles of shoes can be linked directly to the royal person who wore it first…or at least, wore it first quite publicly. In other words, it’s not even fashion until a royal decides that it’s fashion. So when it comes to the white purse in winter, where do the royals of the world stand?
Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, who is definitely heralded as one of the most fashionable royals even when she’s technically not a royal, has stepped out carrying a white knit purse paired with a cream blazer, black pants and a white silk blouse. It’s a super chic winter outfit, even if you aren’t married to a royal prince. The combination of white and black work extremely well in winter, which is a time for wearing more neutral colors and more muted fashion looks. The high contrast of white and black keeps things visually interesting without relying on a lot of color to create a stunning, head-turning look.
Kate Middleton, the future Queen of England, often wears shades of cream. She doesn’t shy away from wearing the shade even in winter, a season during which she has been seen dressed entirely in a soft, cream-colored shade of white right down to her fashionable high heels and matching purse. When worn alone as a single monochrome outfit, white is absolutely dazzling in every shade, from bright white to soft cream.
None other than Queen Elizabeth II herself, who has never worn anything but the latest fashions, has been seen traveling from her winter palace back to London wearing a classic white hat with white heels and, naturally, a matching white purse. Her Royal Majesty is famous for her purses, some styles of which are custom-made for her by a London designer. And if it’s good enough for the Queen of England, then it’s definitely okay to wear white in winter and carry a white purse. Elizabeth has been wearing the latest looks and trendiest fashions since the 1940s and her looks never miss.
However, if you do want a stamp of approval from a true fashion icon and someone associated with the style world, just look to Coco Chanel. She was known to wear white all year long, even during the winter. Since she is personally responsible for such fashion staples as the little black dress and many other items that women still wear today, she is certainly an authority on what is stylish and what is not. Coco Chanel is certainly fashion royalty, though not an actual royal.
Winter Purse Styles That Work
Now that carrying a white purse in winter has the royal stamp of approval, you can feel free to start having fun playing around with winter white and fall white styles yourself. However, there’s a pretty wide world of purse styles out there. It’s hard to know where to begin. Start with traditional winter style choices that pair well with winter clothing looks.
There are some styles of purses that work a lot better with winter fashion than others. You’re going to be wearing layers, closed-toe shoes, possibly a scarf or gloves or other accessories during winter. You need a purse that matches the textures and materials you will commonly be wearing in your cold weather wardrobe.
Backpack purse styles are just perfect for fall and winter fashion. It’s a practical accessory because you have room to store your winter accessories when you aren’t wearing them, such as your gloves and hat, and it’s also a great-looking outfit addition. Backpack purses are also easy to carry, which is always nice. Leather backpack purses pair beautifully with winter and fall fashion, which has heavier textures than spring and summer clothing. Many, many fashion labels offer plant-based and artificial leathers that are totally free of all animal products, for those who don’t want to carry genuine leather. On the other hand, there are plenty of retailers who offer fashion in genuine leather as well. Backpack purses are worn with casual looks.
Clutches are great purses for any semi-formal or formal look you happen to be wearing, no matter the season. They are elegant and streamlined and they look fantastic with many kinds of dressier outfits. Clutches are great in white and you can find all sorts of white clutch styles out there when you’re ready to start shopping. White clutches are a great companion for white winter coats, which are stunning as evening wear.
Hobo bags are a great winter fashion option. These purses are somewhat large in size with an unstructured design and a medium-length carrying handle. They’re made to look vintage and classic in style. This is a popular purse for bohemian looks and it works well for winter fashion, too. Hobo bags are a good casual outfit accessory. You can also commonly find these styles in knit designs that work beautifully with winter clothing.
Saddle purses are named for their distinct shape. They are rounded on the bottom to form a semicircle shape and usually have a short carrying strap handle. The saddle purse is usually made with a long flap that comes down over the front of the purse and secures with a buckle. This creates a distinct look and profile for the purse that truly does resemble a saddle. These styles are also often made with leather or faux leather to further echo the look of a saddle. It’s a fashionable style to carry around in the winter, with enough texture and personality to fit right in with the fashion of the season. Depending on the design, saddle purses can be worn with casual to semi-formal to even formal outfits.
Slouch styles have an unstructured look that creates a great casual style. These bags have medium carry handles and sometimes have long shoulder straps as well. These purses are often made in medium to large styles that can hold a lot of items. Because of this, they’re typically made in heavier materials, such as denim, leather and textured fabrics. The name of this purse style says it all. Slouch purses are sort of baggy slouchy and they’re perfect for carrying with casual fashion looks.
Totes are always a great choice no matter the season. This purse style can be used to carry a lot of items and it’s made in a huge variety of materials and designs. You can find it in any shade of white you want. Totes are one of the most popular purse styles and they’re made in a huge variety of materials, from leather to faux fur to plastic to heavy fabric. That means you can find many tote styles that will work well with any winter fashion you want to wear.
What to Look For in Winter Purses
Winter looks can be a little busy because you need so many elements just to stay warm and protected against the weather. There are different layers and textures and often, extra items you won’t see in the summer. So the purse you carry is an important component. You want the purse to be noticed as a great accessory but it also has to fit in with the rest of the outfit.
When in doubt, opt for more simple designs over the super embellished ones. This will help you create an elegant look that isn’t too over-done or cluttered. The exception to this would be an outfit that you’re styling intentionally so that the purse really pops and become a focal point of your overall look. In this case, choose a purse that is embellished and ornate and designed to really catch and hold the eye.
Quilted and textured purses are exactly what you should look for when it comes to styling winter fashion. Snakeskin and animal print designs, quilted purses and purses featuring fur or faux fur were made for winter weather. These heavier textures pair beautifully with winter clothing. Play around with texture in your winter fashion to create truly memorable looks that are seasonal, well-matched and stylish.
It feels like a lot to think about and really, you do have to put a lot of thought into which purse you’re going to carry when you’re trying to style a well put-togeher outfit. But if it helps, people have been worrying about which purse to carry and what they need to carry in that purse for a really long, long, long time.
Why Do We Carry Purses, Anyway?
The purse is one of those ubiquitous fashion accessories that everyone is familiar with. It’s also one of the oldest pieces of fashion…like, ever. One of the earliest purses ever found is more than 5,000 years old. It was discovered on an ancient mummy. This ancient person was carrying a small pouch that was attached to a belt. Inside the pouch was flint, an ancient type of needle known as an awl, a drill used for making holes in bone, and a type of dried fungus.
What kind of stuff do you have in your purse? What items might survive for thousands of years and what do you suppose future historians might make of those items? Imagine if one day centuries and centuries from now, something from your purse ends up on display at a museum!
Purses were a common accessory in ancient Egypt. People carried small bags made of linen and papyrus here. Ancient Greeks carried small coin purses on their belts. Ancient purses have been discovered all over the world, showing that this item spanned cultures and continents and millennia.
For as long as people have existed, they’ve had to carry stuff around with them. Coin purses were carried through antiquity and the Middle Ages by both men and women, because money is a universal need. Women also started carrying bags that were large enough to hold items like hand fans, handkerchiefs and various cosmetics.
These days, you probably have a cell phone, maybe a small bottle of hand sanitizer and lots of odds and ends in your purse. They’re things you might need or definitely need that you want to keep with you whenever you aren’t at home, just in case.
Ancient people were no different. They also needed to keep certain items close at hand. They also decorated their purses. Some designs were simple, others ornate and elaborate. Some purses may have been dyed to look colorful, or woven with special patterns. Others were made with simple leather or fur. They were decorated with feathers, beads and later gems and elaborate embroidery. Lace, ribbon and other fabric embellishments were added later.
It’s really not all that different from modern fashion. Coin purses, handbags and all sorts of other purse styles evolved and changed with fashion over the years. Today, there’s a huge variety of styles out there and a lot of decisions to be made when it comes to putting together great-looking outfits. But just like those ancient ancestors, you’re looking for a bag that’s easy to carry that will hold your essentials, look good when you’re carrying it and be durable enough to handle your daily routine. Luckily, you no longer have to hunt the animals or gather the materials needed to make your own purse! That makes it much easier to have a lot of options for purses in your wardrobe.
The Right Way to Carry White
No matter what season or what outfit or where you happen to be going at that time of day, you need your white bag to be clean. If the bag is a bright white, make sure it pops and dazzles. It must be completely clean. Any dirt on the purse could just ruin the whole outfit, truly. White that looks dull or discolored will also fall flat as a fashion accessory.
If your white purse has dulled or become discolored, don’t panic. You can always find a way to clean the white to get it looking much better. Check the label of the purse, which should be somewhere inside, to see what the outer shell of the purse is made of. This could be leather, fabric, plastic or any number of materials. Once you know this, you can look up the best ways to clean a white purse made with this material online. The label you locate may also contain instructions for cleaning. A simple cleaning is usually all that’s needed to brighten white that has lost its dazzle. However, it can be hard to keep white looking bright even after it’s been cleaned up.
If you have trouble keeping white bright, you can sort of cheat a little. Your purse doesn’t have to be perfectly bright white. Off-white is a perfectly viable and cute option when you’re looking for a winter accessory to carry. Shades of cream and off-white add a little warmth to your outfit while still creating that winter white look.
Make sure your white matches something. One way to ruin your winter outfit is by carrying a white purse that doesn’t match anything else you happen to be wearing. No matter what, make sure you have on at least one other white item. This could be a smartwatch, a pair of earrings, a hat, gloves, boots, pants, your overcoat, literally anything you’re wearing, no matter how big or small. But make sure it’s something and make sure it can be seen when you’re carrying your purse. Otherwise, you just will not be pulling off a white purse look in winter. You’ll just look like your outfit was thrown together.
One standard fashion tip to follow is to always match your purse to your shoes. While this isn’t strictly necessary, it is a good way to ensure that you’re creating an outfit with items that look matched and look like they belong together.
Using a White Purse in Winter
Can you use a white purse in winter? Absolutely! In fact, sometimes this is absolutely the most stylish choice. It looks great when it’s styled well and when you choose the right bag, this is a look that just can’t be beat. A white purse in winter can really make your style pop and put the perfect finishing touch on any winter outfit. So stock up on some white purses and get ready to show off your winter style this year. Because when it comes to fashion, there’s only one rule: have fun and love what you’re wearing.
Bellatory – Fashion History: Purses and Handbags
Chicago Tribune – Are white bags OK for any season?
Farmer’s Almanac – No White After Labor Day? But Why?
Harper’s Bazaar – It’s Officially Winter White Season
Love to Know – Winter Handbag Styles
The Mom Edit – How To Wear A White (Or Light) Bag This Fall And Winter
Purse Blog – Why White Bags are Perfect for Winter