Family & Friends · Fashion & Beauty

The World According to Weber: How the Crazy Summer Dress Code Saved my Psyche

In 1954, the last Monday in May fell on the thirty-first, the impossibly far-off very end of the month. Sultry weather said summer was here. Hadn’t my mother insisted on iced coffee at the Birdcage?  When the waitress said it wasn’t yet in season, Caroline replied (how my brother loves this story): “Do you have coffee? Do you have ice?  Then there’s iced coffee.”

“No pastels until Memorial Day. That’s the rule.” My mother spoke in the imperious voice my brother can imitate perfectly. Maternal terrorism, you might say.  In that instance, put to brilliant purpose.

For the next two weeks, I could wear my Capezios only in my bedroom, with the door closed. I won’t claim that sweet agony cured me of my Cold War dreads. But I’d taken part in a conversation in which “Memorial Day” was uttered and I hadn’t freaked out. Only now, time-traveling, do I get it.

You can Google up a lot of blah blah about why we mustn’t wear this or that now or then.  One theory holds that summer white marked the end of the coal-dust season, which would begin again on Labor Day, when furnaces went back on. (That was before global warming). Or summer white was evil social engineering, devised to show off one’s wealth. Or it was a fashion industry ploy—thou shalt buy more clothes.

My mother knew better. Such rules exist to distract us from us from our deeper fears, whatever they are at the moment. Way easier on my psyche now to suffer seasonal wardrobe angst than worry about ISIS.  The environment. Carbs. Money.

As for everyone’s favorite fret at the moment, the presidential election, I can just hear my mother. “Don’t worry. We’re a smart country. In the end, people will choose the candidate who knows how to keep us safe from white before Memorial Day and straw hats in November. Nancy, put away those boots. Let’s go buy you some summer shoes.”

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  • Amy Hughes June 1, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Terrific, enjoyable essay!

  • Andrea May 27, 2016 at 8:25 am

    I have the fondest memories of the “no white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day” rule- and also how pretty my Mom looked in her seersucker outfits – officially signaling the start of summer. Thanks Nancy for the lovely stroll down memory lane.