History of the No-White-After-Labor-Day Rules Everyone Should Know

Why not wear white after Labor Day?

For many women, Labor Day isn't only about saying goodbye to summer but an entire section of our wardrobes.

For generations, we've subscribed to the adage that wearing white after Labor Day is a fashion faux pas—similar to wearing socks with sandals. But why? And more importantly, does it still apply?

After Labor Day, the rule to stop wearing white clothing has continued through generations of tradition. The reasons to stop wearing white after some logical explanations, but the practice to continue wearing white after Labor Day provide a modern interpretation of fashion and this old-time rule. Here are some etiquette tips and new advice to consider the next time this "end of season" event occurs.

Woman Wearing All White
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Wearing White After Labor Day Etiquette

Following the Rule: It Was a Cooler Option

There are a few theories about the origin of this strange rule. A Time article suggests that it might have been born out of function. Before the days of air conditioning, white attire was lighter to wear on the dog days of summer because it reflected the sun.

Following the Rule: It Was a Change From City Attire

And then there's the idea that it arose out of pure snobbery. In the early 20th century, Americans who set the fashion trends were the same ones who could afford to depart the cities for the summer months. Safe in the country, far away from the urban grime, they wore white simply because they could. Remember that nobody in their right mind wore white in the city back then—it was far too dirty. "If you look at any photograph of any city in America in the 1930s, you'll see people in dark clothes," Charlie Scheips, author of American Fashion, told Time. White clothes, on the other hand, were "a look of leisure."

Labor Day traditionally marks the end of the summer, which, for the well-heeled, meant returning to the city and forgoing their white country clothes.

Following the Rule: It Was Audacious

Even the Farmers' Almanac has weighed in on the wearing white about Labor Day debate. As previously mentioned, white linens and lighter fabrics were associated with the wealthy society's summertime excursions to seaside locations. So, continuing to wear white after returning from vacation was considered rude or a way to "show off."

Breaking the Rule: It's Fashionable

By the 1950s, this thinking had trickled down to the middle class, and with help from women's magazines, not wearing white after Labor Day wasn't accepted or considered appropriate. But that's not to say that everyone agreed. Coco Chanel, for example, famously wore white year-round.

Fortunately, fashion rules have become considerably more relaxed, and these days, plenty of Southern tastemakers agree that you should wear white every day of the year if you want to.

Breaking the Rule: It's About Fabric

Etiquette expert Emily Post agrees that you can wear white every day of the year. The decision is "more about the fabric choice today than color." This rule is evident when thinking about white wool or cable-knit sweaters. Post says to "wear what's appropriate—for the weather, the season, or the occasion."

So, there you have it. Consider the ban on white after Labor Day officially ended!

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