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Who knew Easter finery could be so controversial

POSTED: April 12, 2009 1:00 a.m.

I love going to church on Easter for several reasons.

First, you get to see people that you won't see for the rest of the year.

Second, it is one big fashion show.

Ladies sport their finest millinery. I've seen ladies wear everything from a little pillbox made famous by Jackie Kennedy to some things that rival the headgear worn by Aretha Franklin at the most recent presidential inauguration. The Queen of Soul had a hat that was so big that the postmaster assigned it a ZIP code.

Easter is also the day we decide if it's OK to wear white.

We, of the South, decided long ago that Easter was the day that one could dust off your white shoes.

I had a pair of white buck shoes until last year. They were a casualty in the fire that destroyed our house. I saw them in the rubble. They were dirty gray and I didn't try to rescue them.

I used to wear them on Easter with my blue and white seersucker suit. One of our daughters thinks that it is the most hideous outfit that has ever existed on the planet. For the past couple of years I've just left it in the closet.

For the first years of my life, no self-respecting man or woman would be seen in white before Easter.

Now, I'm told that those rules have gone out the window.

I spoke this week with Lizzie Post, the great-granddaughter of famed etiquette expert Emily Post. These are the folks who literally wrote the book on what's proper and what's not.

"Our great gigantic country has regions that are different, weather wise," Lizzie said. "The old rule was that you wore your summer whites from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Now, if you want to wear white beyond that, it's fine to do so."

So, if you want to dust off your whites and wear them in February, have at it.

I once had a pair of white, patent-leather shoes with a little brass thing across the instep. They were supposed to be a knock-off of the more expensive ones. They looked quite good with a leisure suit, especially in powder blue or that melon color.

There are a lot of reasons I would like to lose weight, but being able to fit in my old leisure suits is not one of them.

During the bicentennial celebration, I had a pair of wing tips that were red, white and blue. I thought they were quite snazzy at the time. Looking back, they made me look like an escapee from a circus.

I say all of that to suggest that the whole thing about when to wear white was really much ado about nothing.

I know some very proper ladies who will not break the old rules, and that's fine. But don't go condemning those who do.

The world has adopted a bizarre fashion sense that still mystifies me. I don't understand why men want to wear their shirts untucked and women want to wear their lingerie exposed.

I've just reached the point that I'm not going to change it, so I commend them on their individuality, like a guy who would wear patriotic wing tips.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.



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