Fashion experts: Bend the rules of wearing white — but don’t break them

? White clothing is far more complicated than a simple T-shirt.

White garments have more “rules” attached to them than probably any other category of clothes; some of them can be tossed into the summer wind, but others shouldn’t be ignored.

“The rules have less to do with timing and more to do with flattery,” says Cindi Leive, editor in chief of Glamour. “The whole Memorial-Day-to-Labor-Day thing is dead. I’ve worn white in the dead of winter. But there are some smart rules when it comes to flattery.”

Leive’s top tip: Wear white where you want to show off your shape, not where you want to minimize figure flaws.

“White can be trickier than any other color out there. White calls attention to an area,” Leive explains. Her preferred white silhouettes include a sleek pantsuit; a fitted, feminine, button-down shirt; slim-cut jeans or a pencil skirt. She warns that white bottoms with Lycra in the fabric run the risk of looking too much like exercise clothes.

In the July issue of Glamour, an entire “Do’s and Don’ts” section is dedicated to white. The No. 1 don’t is wearing too-tight white pants.

Also, all whites are not created equal.

White on white (white top, white bottom) works as long as either the whites are the same shade or are different enough to indicate the wearer never intended them to match, Leive advises. White with cream also looks good together, she adds.

Like a blank canvas

Accessories designer Kate Spade prefers either a bright white or an eggshell color, but gray- or yellow-tinged whites are turnoffs.

A belt and shoes in a

A white background with a colored pattern is easier to pull off, she adds, but nothing gives off that “easy, breezy summer feeling” better than slim white pants, a crisp white shirt and strappy white sandals. In the fall, Spade says she’ll be wearing white suede loafers and maybe some white patent leather boots.

“If you’re thinking of a white pump, well, that probably says the wrong thing about white shoes,” she says. Delicate white sandals or even boots are more stylish choices.

If white shoes still are intimidating, just about any other shoe will do, suggests Rachel DiCarlo, style director for Gap.

“Almost anything goes with white (clothes). A black shoe is bold, metallic is dressy, and a pop of color is fun.”

Accessories do become more important if an outfit is all white — which is like a clean canvas.

When worn with a white tank top and white jeans, a silver chain belt becomes a piece of jewelry, DiCarlo says. Pair it with silver shoes, and you’ve got an evening ensemble.

But that top and bottom have a casual daytime look if they’re worn with flat leather flip-flops, a leather belt and a straw handbag, and the same pieces go to work with a tan belt, tan shoes and a brightly colored scarf.

Potential glitches

DiCarlo uses white capri pants as a substitute for shorts. They are appropriate for more occasions and settings, she says, and they do provide significantly more coverage while maintaining a summery style.

There are, though, two potential glitches with white.

White capris make a good substitute for shorts. Plus, they are more appropriate for more places and more occasions, says Gap style director Rachel DiCarlo.

First off, it gets dirty, and when it gets dirty, it shows. Second, there often is a see-through factor.

“You might not want to wear white pants in the rain. Dirt droplets on the back of your pants isn’t the most attractive thing,” DiCarlo says.

Spade keeps some of her prized white accessories in the closet until special occasions arise. White suede, for example, “is a treat to wear because you have to be super careful with it.”

Meanwhile, Leive advises giving white garments a careful test in the dressing room or in front of the mirror so the wearer will know exactly what the rest of the world will see. And, give more thought to undergarments, she says.

(When wearing white, choose nude-colored undergarments, according to Leive. White will show.)

“The dreaded fear is that a white swimsuit will turn see-through when it’s wet — and it might,” says Steven Balit, vice president of marketing and communications for Maillot Baltex.

An all-white swimsuit is for a sun goddess, not a swimmer, he says. Instead, consider suits with white trim or a white cover-up, which can be worn with any swimsuit, no matter what the color or pattern is.

“White does say purity, class and elegance — and make sure you have the body to wear it well,” says Balit.