By Kris James
With labor day approaching, I think this is the perfect time to address the elephant in the room. Why one can’t wear white after Labor Day and where this rule comes from. We all grow up hearing that white is not acceptable after the first Monday of September. For me, it wasn’t until I saw the 1994 Serial Mom, a punctilious psycho mom who murdered another character who white shoes to court. But I always wondered how this rule came to be. So why can’t we wear white after Labor Day?
For centuries wearing white was a simple way to stay cool in the summer. We have to remember that times were different. There was no air-conditioning and people didn’t wear t-shirts and halter tops. They wore what we would consider causal formal clothes. Society flocked from city townhouses to seaside cottages to flee from the heat. Leaving city clothes behind and trading them in for a much lighter and whiter choice. Beating the heat became fashionable in the early 20th century. In those hot summer months, fashion editors and tastemakers wore white clothing to keep cool. That sensibility was reflected in the pages of magazines like Vogue.
Labor Day is celebrated in the U.S. on the first Monday of September, which marks the traditional end of summer. Of course, for those living in the south, fall doesn’t start until mid-October. But for the vacationers located in northern climates that actually have seasons, they pack away their summer looks and bring out their heavier darker colored fall clothing. This would make logical sense, but when has fashion ever been logical.
While no one is completely sure where this rule originated from some suggest it was created to separate the old money elitists from the new money group. Some etiquette authorities like Judith Martin said, “There are always people who want to attribute everything in etiquette to snobbery. There were many little rules that people did dream up in order to annoy those from whom they wished to disassociate themselves. But I do not believe this to be one of them.”
Regardless to where the rule came from, it’s safe to say no one in 2019 should feel the need to follow it. So of course you can wear white after labor day. Especially in Louisiana where our September temperatures are hardly fall-like. It’s more about the fabric choices and not the color. I personally love a full white look in December.
Fashion is the only game you can win by breaking the rules.” -Sissy Gavrilaki