An elegant couple wearing white back in the day and white outfits from Sita Murt and Dior Spring/Summer 2014, All Over Press.
A whiter shade of summer
This summer, Mattie Kahn has decided to defy threats of ketchup and French fries. It is time to enter sartorial adulthood.
A year ago, I found an old picture of my grandparents in the back of a forgotten photo album. There’s no date on the back. But I know that it must have been snapped after Memorial Day, because in it both Opa and Nana are decked out in their finest summer whites. The image shows the two of them standing on a neat lawn in front of a big, leafy tree. My grandmother’s hair is wrapped up in a cream-coloured turban. My grandfather is wearing a pair of square-framed sunglasses and an impish grin. His arm is snaked around her waist. They look impossibly glamorous. They look impeccable.
My grandparents were young and beautiful and alarmingly photogenic. It wouldn’t be fair to give the clothing all the credit for their charm. But let’s be honest: the outfits don’t hurt.
All-white ensembles are timeless and chic. They are deeply, fabulously impractical. This summer, they are also the only ones I want to wear.
This may not sound like a very risky stunt to you. But as someone with poor hand-eye coordination and a wardrobe that is approximately 94% black, this comes as close to sartorial skydiving as my style is capable of. An awful lot can go wrong in white. I should know. I once attempted it in elementary school. But then I ate French fries and ketchup at lunch. It wasn’t pretty.
“All-white ensembles are timeless and chic. They are deeply, fabulously impractical. This summer, they are also the only ones I want to wear.”
– Mattie Kahn
As with so many of my obsessions, this craving for all things cream- coloured is not so much realistic as it is aspirational. I am not the kind of girl who is supposed to dress in head-to-toe ivory. I am not getting married or refining my tennis serve. I am not a lady who lunches. In fact, I barely have time for breakfast. Still, I wouldn’t mind pretending. At least for a little while.
Black is sophisticated and grey is elusive. Purple is regal. Orange always reminds me of late-September sunsets. But no other colour spells “adulthood” quite like white does. Rendered in cotton or silk or linen, it suggests maturity and taste. It offers just a whiff of sex appeal. It also proclaims: “I managed not to spill coffee all over myself this morning!”
Unlike the preferred uniform of models and nuns and my fellow New Yorkers, white is both dreamy and demanding. It is everything I imagined grown-up life would be. The superlative white shirt gives me hope that I might one day look as good as Lauren Hutton. As far as I am concerned, that possibility alone is worth a significant investment. And so I’ve stocked up on blindingly white denim and crisp tanks and a bikini that would make James Bond stop dead in his tracks.
I’ll admit it. These are high-maintenance acquisitions. But I like how they remind me to take care of my clothing and use a napkin. I like that they encourage me to sit down lest my lunch splatter all over the brand-new button-down I scored in the boy’s department at Bloomingdales. Most of all, I like the way they make me look.
Still, I am under no illusions. I know myself. Not even beautiful ivory separates and delicate eggshell frocks will stop me from eating French fries this summer.
Which is why when I found a pair of perfect white denim shorts at H&M a few weeks ago, I bought three pairs.
Just in case.
Mattie Kahn is a writer based in New York City. Her work has appeared on VanityFair.com, Refinery29, and the Man Repeller, among other platforms. She hopes this will be the year she cements a signature drink, resuscitates the semi-colon, and masters liquid eyeliner once and for all.