White after Labor Day – Yes or No

About the same time Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, the fashion world declared the first Monday in September should also signal the end of wearing white garments.

Today’s fashion world is much more relaxed about what colors to wear and when to wear certain styles. You are free to wear white clothing year round, if you choose.

Still, in the coming days and weeks, if you do don a white garment, someone will remind you of the age-old fashion directive.

Caroline Clemmons, a Facebook friend and fellow author, posted this cartoon. It was too perfect for today’s blog not to share.

So where did this crazy mandate come from? Three things contributed to its origin.

1. Climate

Before the days of central air conditioning, about the only way to stay cool during the dog days of summer was to wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. It made sense to wear white between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

2. Classism and Snobbery

Historians suggest the rule rose from affluent New Englanders who leftthe soot-covered, industrial cities to head to the beaches or mountains for the summer months. Resorts of the 1920s and 30s overflowed with patrons in white linen suits and Panama hats.

White came to symbolize wealth, but after the Civil War, distinguishing between who came from old money and who came from new money became increasing difficult. Establishing fashion rules like no white after Labor Day offered a means to weed out those who didn’t belong.

A desire for upward mobility meant adhering to the no-whites dictum and perpetuated the silly rule. Even into the twentieth century, many wouldn’t risk challenging the tradition by wearing summer white in fall or winter.

3. Fashion Marketing

Early on fashion designers and manufacturers recognized a lucrative market for white garments during the summer months and switching to dark colors for fall. Popular magazines began promoting garment color according to the seasons.

Whatever the reasons for the original fashion rule, rest assured leading fashion designers have declared the end of the dictum. Here’s what Michael Kors said in a 2013 Tweet:So the answer to my question about wearing white after Labor Day is YES wear white year round. You want to be glamorous, don’t you?

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2 Comments on “White after Labor Day – Yes or No

  1. It’s a crazy “rule”, particularly in S Texas where we really don’t have a winter severe enough to wear dark wools. However, and I know it’s ridiculous, but I still put up my whites on Labor Day.

    • Yep it is a crazy fashion world. In northern Colorado where I just spent a week, you find white ski outfits all the time. Guess it’s a combination of where you live and how willing you are to breakout of the old habits. LOL

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