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Jul 22, 2014

READER QUESTION: "How practical are white pants?"



On occasion an MPB reader will ask me for fashion or sewing advice.   It's flattering!

A few days ago, reader "Mouse" emailed me the following:

I recently purchased a quantity of white denim with the intention of making summer pants with it.  However, any time I bring it up my mother says "Really? Do you REALLY want to make white pants? White fabric? Are you sure?"

She seems to think that they are evil incarnate because they will show dirt and stain easily, but I don't have much trouble with white shirts, and I don't see how white pants could be all that bad. As far as practicality goes, what do you think of white pants? Could you perhaps consult your readers?

***
I love white pants, especially in the summer.  I've sewn my own white pants twice: first, in denim (above) three years ago as part of my jeans sew-along, and last year (below), in linen.



Both pairs have gotten a lot of use, though I no longer wear the denim pair often as there's too much lycra in the fabric for my taste.  I just wore the white linen pants to the beach (!) last Thursday, and again on my Sunday vlog.  They're lightweight, fit nicely, and are super-comfortable.



I was carrying a black waxed canvas bag the day I went to the beach and (not for the first time) they stained my pants a bit.  (The pants, in turn, left linen fuzz on the bag -- grrrr.)





One of my methods for removing stains from white fabric is to sprinkle baking soda on the stain, pour white vinegar on the baking soda (which results in a fizzy paste), work the area with an old toothbrush, and then launder as usual (generally without bleach; I hate bleach).  I learned about this online, and it's especially effective on light-colored or white shirt collars (as in, ring around the....).

Coincidentally, I laundered my linen pants this morning and the stains all came out.



But are white pants practical?  Well, not if by "practical" you mean something that you can wear day after day, toss in the laundry once a month, and not look like you spent the night in an alley.   But in my opinion, nothing looks as cool and summery and, yes, elegant.

In closing, readers, for Mouse's sake (and my own), what are your thoughts about white pants (and white clothes in general)?

Are they too impractical to bother with, especially if you're going to sew them yourself?

Any additional hints on keeping white clothes white -- or dealing with mothers who quash our enthusiasm?

Thanks!



42 comments:

  1. I love a white crisp shirt on my husband....and depending on how they are styled, I like white pants on other people. I have too much real estate if you know what I mean, to feel like they look good on me. When I wear white by my face, it washes me out. So, I'm not a fan of it on me, but you look GREAT in white...as do many others. And my take on the practicality of them...hey, just do it. Like the "good china"....forget the rule about only for special meals...use them as often as you like!

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  2. I've found myself dreaming of a floaty white linen shirtdress lately, and have been asking myself the same question - would it be practical? Would I stain it immediately (especially given the amount of black coffee that I drink)? This post may be the push I need to make it happen, instead of worrying about it!

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  3. They look classy!
    I would not go through the trouble though as we live on a boat so we need a little more hard wearing pants.
    But if it suits your fancy, go crazy!

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  4. love my white pants. to me they say SUMMER.

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  5. I often suggest to other people that something they have would look good paired with white jeans. I no longer have white jeans. I am too clumsy for them.

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  6. My son wears white pants all year round. Has has two pair. They stay nice. I haven't had to do anything drastic to get them clean but he doesn't see "not pratical" he just likes white pants! He's 14! Do you Mouse and don't listen to your mother - this one time. Peter your blog is ALL THAT!

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  7. I LOVE white right now, as evidenced in the inordinate amount of white makes I've made recently. If I want white, I'm just going to deal with some grime although I have to say, with three small kids in tow, I'm likely to avoid white wool for the time being. White cotton, linen and even silk CDC are super tough and can be washed hard or soaked to get the pristineness back. I find kid grub and day to day smear on white the least of my troubles though. It's sunscreen and makeup that is an absolute terror to wash out. The yellow stains are hard to remove even with soaking so anything white around the neckline, I try to avoid unless its bleachable.

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  8. I love white pants in the summer, but I know that I will wear them once, twice if I am really lucky! I have some white linen that is ready to make another pair of white pants. Thanks for the stain removal tip! This sounds like it would work on fabrics that can't take bleach.

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  9. Ugh, I hate white clothing since it is both a color that looks bad on me and I am clumsy and always spill on myself. I had one pair of white jeans that I didn't wear for two years, then I wore them out to dinner this spring in the city. After realizing I would need a hankie to sit on if I was even going to think about sitting on the subway and train ride in and out I gave them away.

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  10. Am I not the one and only 'Mouse'? There is another? (I didn't send the very good question to Peter but I'm enjoying my moment of mistaken identity (if indeed it is) . How...noir!

    But back to blanc, I completely agree that white is a great, great color. Imho, it's not all that neutral; I find it can be aggressive, especially if it's a reflecting true white rather than one that leans toward cream, grey, or pink. Whether it's practical depends upon what you're doing. Weddings, yes. Daycare, no unless you're a nurse with a portable closet. But as Peter's pictures demonstrate, white has a season, a purpose (keeps us cooler in the heat), and in the right fabric and balanced with another strong color such as the red he's wearing, is stylish and has a crisp look. (Must fashion be practical?)

    So, 'Mouse', if you see (or better yet want to make) a garment in a glaring white, YES!

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    Replies
    1. OMG, I have mice!

      This person was "Mouse B."

      Delete
    2. Nope, I think you are the only "Mouse". My internet name is "Mouse Borg", which is quite a bit different from a regular rodent without any cybernetic implants.
      But if anyone want to call me by my real name, it's Mira.

      Delete
  11. Yay! Thank you for answering my question Peter!
    I am definitely going to be making white pants, and white breeches too.
    Regarding laundry techniques, the very best stain remover I have ever used is called "Buncha Farmers"

    http://www.amazon.com/Stain-Remover-Stick-Buncha-Farmers/dp/B0032FCWEW

    It left absolutely no trace of the tomato sauce stain on my white shirt.
    I'm glad to see that most of the commenters are also in favor of white clothing. I already hand wash most of what I sew, so a bit of extra stain removing will be no trouble at all.

    http://mouseborgdesigns.blogspot.ca/

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  12. Peter...thank you for the baking soda/vinegar stain remover info! I'm going to try that on my white top this afternoon. Mouse...white is one of the easiest colors to clean, for some unknown reason. You want to make white denim pants...make them. Why let anyone, moms included, steel your joy?

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  13. I believe that gravity works differently when I'm wearing something white. Suddenly food falls sideways onto my white shirt/dress/skirt instead of vertically to the floor.

    Still, my white floor length skirt is the nicest thing to wear in summer, even if it turns a bit green and brown around the hem. Just go for it, if you find out you don't like it you can always give it away again and at least you've learned something. .

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  14. Well at the risk of being vulgar, white pants for a woman run the risk of Japanese Flag Syndrome. Not something you'd be bothered with, Peter!

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  15. As long as one is only wearing them from Decoration Day to Labor Day, absolutely!

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  16. I also have a (dearly loved) mother who points out all the possible disappointments and disasters on the horizons of plans I make. I think its part of the maternal worry syndrome and have started saying things like "yes, I LOVE white pants" and going ahead with my plan.

    Of course if one's plan is self destructive in some obvious way then the maternal worry should be heeded - no "I love biking without my helmet" plans need apply.

    Ceci

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  17. White almost always looks good on others... me... I'm a dork and can't wear it for more than 15 minutes before a spill of some kind appears.
    As for cleaning collar stains... pre-treat with shampoo for oily hair!

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  18. I recently made a pair of Louise Cutting "One Seam" pants in white linen/rayon - LOVE them and wear often. I just wait 'til the last minute to put them on as I have to make a "quick" get-a-way from the house with two black dogs trying to get "one last pat on the head."

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  19. My white pants story starts with not being able to find a pair of white Dockers style men's pants, you know, pants for guys with big butts. I saw lots of light tan, but no pure white; Ralph Lauren Polo has them, but I knew I could make my own, just had to find the white cotton twill in pants weight. Finally I made them, everything turned out great, even better than RTW, but the sad fact is I have worn them twice since I completed them 2 yrs ago. Practical ? Probably not, but cool? You bet!

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  20. Practical? Who cares? Wear 'em and wash'em.

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  21. Practical? Not really. But thats why I sew. If something won't come out, I can make another pair. Summer just cries out for white pants.

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  22. I've got a pair of nearly white muslin pants I made years ago as a test. They came out pretty nicely so I finished them up and trimmed them with black ribbon to make a wearable muslin. I like wearing them, but they are a highly effective testing device for detecting where I come into contact with dirt during the day.

    E.g. the other week I wore them to work, transported in a shopping bag for the bike ride, in an effort to keep them clean. At the end of the day I met my family for dinner a few km from work and thought "Oh why bother changing, I'll just be careful". Bet you can guess how that turned out. A few slight brushes against my pedals on the way got them dirty on the left cuff. My son got pizza sauce on them while he climbed on me. Got pushed off the picnic blanket onto grass and dirt, and my daughter spilled some ice cream on them later. A typical meal for me, but usually my clothes don't look so dirty afterwards. But they did get mostly clean in the wash!

    I feel like wearing clean white is a statement to the world:
    1) you don't come in contact with dirt
    2) you are really up on your laundry skill and schedule
    3) you can replace your clothes frequently

    I think you can tell #3 when the optic whiteners are still obviously in the fabric.

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  23. White pants look stunning on men with tans and sailors.
    it's very elegant and can be uber sexy (Jean Harlow & Marilyn Monroe. I hate it when it's not lined right and pockets show through, Whenever I wear it someone usually has just made spaghetti sauce or wants to go "muddin" or LA smog gets to it. You and Michael look like those hot men I referenced. All in all white is sexy and clean. You can't have too many white shirts.

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  24. I have white jeans, 2 pairs of cotton white pants, and white capris. I love them all because they go with ALL OF MY TOPS . Never made any. They are all RTW.

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  25. ;-) - Pure whites only and whatever - imho: not good for town living (usually getting too easily too dirty just by 'simple breathing' ;-)! ) and neither good for country-side (not practicall, since getting dirty every 'hands on' moment, which 'country' has plenty ;-) !)

    Yet - jokes off: Since he bought white denim, that's a different ball game, since I consider them 'wash and wear'
    Only problem with whites is - as Michael C. mentioned: the material is hopefully solid enough to prevent 'look through' or is lined = PLEASE.

    Btw. the two of you look great (aaaand cute ;-) - yet: as 'usuall' ;-) ;-) :-D )

    LG, Gerlinde

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  26. I love white clothes (blouses/shirts in particular) and I love bleach. If it is white in goes the bleach. Love to open washer door to sparkling clean whites.

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  27. Wear white! It's classy and fun wondering how long before they get something on them. As a matter of fact, take bets first thing in the morning and try to make some money. :)

    Years age I had a white midi skirt. But, it was bad luck. I stopped wearing it after changing the SECOND flat tire on the side of the highway... in the rain! (True story)

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  28. Nothing wrong with white clothing they just need a little more inspecting after your worn them to see if you can re-wear it or have to wash it first! Go for it, who cares!!

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  29. I love white pants and have at least one pair in my wardrobe come summer. You just need to take a little extra care to not sit on anything dirty! As for washing them buy a nappy soaking product for any stubborn stains..Oh and tell your mother (with respect) that she won't have to wash them!

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  30. I would take 'crisp white' over 'boring beige' any day ~ well worth the extra time spent in the laundry ... J

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  31. A half and half mixture of peroxide and Dawn dishwashing
    liquid is a great stain remover as well- my son wears white button down shirts to school every day and the underarms-oh my. This mixture did wonders, and I've used it on other things with great success.
    Life's too short to not wear white pants!!

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  32. I found some shirt weight cotton twill in white that was a steal and plan on making some "day pajamas" out of it to wear. The fabric can be washed as often as I please so thats a plus....I do find myself always looking around when I wear white pants and avoid eating out in white shirts. Nothing is more glamorous to me than a beautiful white shirt and a new pair of dark blue Levis in the summer! I would stay away from silk but cotton and linen wouldn't be a problem.

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  33. I love white pants - on others. I too get those stains and smudges the mysteriously appear only when wearing white. Also, I've noticed the washing machine seems to be leaving small brown rust(?) streaks on my clothes, it's not rusty water.

    Thanks for the stain remover ideas, there are some I haven't heard of before.

    JustGail

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  34. I have an issue with white fabric being see-through. You can't wear a slip with pants.

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  35. I particularly like white capris for summer as they just look uber-summery to me and go with lots of my tops. I just donated mine as they were too big, but plan to make another pair with some white denim from the stash. If I rode mass transit or had kids, things would probably be different, but as long as the fabric is washable, I haven't had a big issue with stains (frankly, the tits are a bigger target, if you get my meaning).

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  36. For the most part, white is too harsh a color near my face, but I love wearing white trousers and have sewn my own. True they need frequent laundering, but the are undeniably classy and chic during the dog days of summer.

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  37. I love the idea of floating white clothes in summer, but it never happens for me as I'm short, stocky+podgy, and look jaundiced in white.

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  38. I like to eat in my clothes and I eat things like salads with blueberry salad dressing, strawberry smoothies, green smoothies, and black coffee. I would personally be worried about my white pants being a smattering of rainbow colors at the end of the day. However, I'm excited to try your stain removal technique because I did get blueberry dressing on my shirt just yesterday! :) I'm probably just jealous of people who can pull them off.

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  39. I've just made white pants. I already had a pair of white pants that would have been my favourite summer pants if only they fit me better. So I made myself a better fitting pair. They definitely do end up dirty sometimes, but all clothes do. With white pants, the only difference is that you notice sooner!
    And yes, I managed to squirt cherry juice on my new pair right after I finished them. I applied lemon juice (lots, just to be sure), which is what I learned to do with blueberry stains and what apparently works on cherry stains just as well: no stains after the wash.

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