Can a guest wear white?

Q. As a female that has grown up in the South, it has been ingrained that you never, ever, under any circumstance wear white to a wedding unless you are the bride. Recently, I’ve seen many guests wearing cream or (gasp) white. What is the style protocol? Erin Sagester, Charlotte

A. Oh, Erin. We are far too smart to pick up such a potential grenade. Not when the word “white” doesn’t even appear in the oh-so-specific “Guest Attire” section of the Emily Post Institute guidelines, and despite the fact that Vogue declared wearing white was OK for non-brides way back in May.

Instead, we’ll turn to experts: Betty Ziegler Mims, who ran Brides’ House of Originals in Plaza Midwood for 50 years before closing the store – but who still works as a consultant – and Jodene Pooler, one-half of the Ladies of Lineage, a bridal shop in Dilworth (Natasha Duff-Cole is the other half).

You might think you know what Mims, 80, will say.

You don’t.

“Everyone (says) ‘Don’t wear the white,’ and also black and red – and they’ve said it for years. But the only people I remember when I leave a room are those in black or white. It’s the best-looking colors for everyone,” she declares.

“What’s so funny about the whole thing is they tell mothers to wear ivory. You know the joke: Wear beige and keep your mouth shut. But if they have gray hair, no color could look worse on them than beige! And it photographs like white! ... That’s kind of defeating the purpose of ‘Don’t wear white.’ I always ask the mothers: ‘Doesn’t your daughter want you to look great?’ ”

So we ask: Is the South more bound by the rules of tradition? “Probably so,” says Mims. “Yet the prettiest wedding I think I ever did, the bridesmaids all had on very simple white dresses.”

Didn’t that take away from the bride? “I think nothing takes away from the bride. No one looks like the bride. I think it’s kind of silly.”

All that said, though, here’s Mims’ bottom line on guests wearing white: “I’d prefer they didn’t.” Not because she thinks it’s wrong. “Because there will be comments.”

As for Ladies of Lineage, who styled their models at September’s Style Night Out small-boutique runway show in blond-bob wigs and gradient-blue makeup “masks” (and had one drop her large swirling skirt to reveal a slinky dress for dancing):

You might think you know what Pooler will say.

You don’t.

“Oh, boy. That’s a loaded question. Ah. Well, I’m 50-50 on it.”

That’s because she’s seeing “really great wedding parties right now where the bride is taking a nontraditional route and wearing a colored gown ... If that’s the case, then 100 percent yes, guests can wear white.”

But if you expect you’re headed to a more traditional wedding? “Absolutely not.”

“And if you don’t know your bride well enough to know (whether) she’s wearing a hot pink fuschia gown, you should absolutely not wear white,” Pooler insists.

“When in doubt, an LBD is the route to go.”

Pooler, who grew up in Chicago and has been in Charlotte for 11 years, agrees the South has something to do with this.

“If you grew up in the South (and you’re going to a wedding here), I’m going to say ‘Don’t do it.’ Charlotte is just starting to see that outside of the bridal ‘box’ – but the bridal box is bursting open. And when it opens, all those old-school caveat rules change with it.”

Ladies of Lineage, 1419 East Blvd.; Mims works by appointment; 704-333-1073 .