You’ve probably heard it’s a major social no-no—wearing white after Labor Day. It may be the result of how you were raised, or simply what you’ve come to learn as you’ve grown into your sense of fashion and style. But why not wear white after Labor Day? What’s the reasoning behind the old social norm, and should you break it in the name of looking tip-top?
Why is it bad to wear white after Labor Day?
So just where did the “No white after Labor Day” rule come from anyway? No one can truly pinpoint an origin, as it most likely was one of those, ‘everybody does it,’ unofficial rules. Fashion experts believe that the trend most likely began between the late 1800s and early 1900s. While white is obviously a color that makes sense to wear during summer because it would seem like the lighter the clothing, the less heat absorbed (though that’s debatable!), summer months aren’t the only months that swelter.
So what’s so special about Labor Day? Many believe the rule started as a way to discern between the haves and the have-nots. After the Civil War, particularly in the rebuilding south, elite socialites created unfounded ‘rules’ to weed through the ‘old money,’ and the ‘new money.’ White clothes were far more expensive to maintain and keep clean and gave the appearance of being leisurely without telling people you could afford to be so.
When Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, it’s thought this was the official unofficial cutoff for wearing the color of carefree summer days. Old money wouldn’t dream of wearing white after Labor Day, despite the temperature. They revelled in the honor and integrity that came with following such rules. For many who were fortunate enough to escape the tumultuous heat of the season, no longer wearing white meant that everyone was ready to revert back from vacation mode.
Can you wear white jeans after Labor Day?
Well, why don’t you ask celebs like Khloe Kardashian, Karlie Kloss and Reese Witherspoon? (They’ll tell you that you absolutely can!) In fact, not only are stars wearing white jeans after Labor Day, they’re setting an ‘All White’ example in growing numbers. Kanye West, Chrissy Teigen and even the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle sport white throughout the year, setting new patterns for the new rules of fashion.
Yes, today, a slim and stylish pair of white jeans looks as hot in the fall with a light knit, three-quarter-sleeve top and some sassy ankle boots as they do in the summer with some sexy sandals and a silky, strappy cami.
In fact, in many parts of the southeastern U.S. (as well as the coastal areas in California), wearing white jeans just about any time you want is a birthright. It is also a way to evolve from the old, stodgy southern rule. From Nashville, TN to Wilmington, NC (where ‘Wilmington White’ is totally a thing), people white jeans almost year-round. Besides, one can dress up or down as well as layered for cooler temperatures but a white-hot style.
Is it okay to wear white after Labor Day?
While some still hold to the rule of not wearing white before Memorial Day and certainly not past Labor Day (mostly deep south debutantes), the general rule of fashion thumb these days is that it most certainly is okay to wear white after Labor Day.
In fact, according to etiquette know-it-all Emily Post, wearing white after Labor Day is not just okay, but it makes common sense. In many areas of the country, the thermometer doesn’t drop just because it’s September. And in places like Southern Florida, it’s nothing for the temperature to be near 100 degrees on Christmas Day! Post suggests that a better way to interpret fashion rules is to wear what is appropriate for the occasion and the weather. In fact, in parts of New England, it’s very fashionable to pair white jeans with anything. This includes wools and cashmeres and cozy parkas during the winter months.
A Few Notables Who Love White
Coco Chanel made wearing white year-round a signature fashion move. And of late, Current-day mega-stars Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Jennifer Lawrence love sporting white year-round. They look great doing it, and are just a few of the many who’ve decided to buck the antiquated restrictions in the name of fashion.
And, when it comes to white shoes? That’s a whole different ball game. It’s still considered perfectly acceptable to wear white shoes after Labor Day. Many though find they’re leery because as the weather changes through the fall and winter, white shoes may find themselves getting dirtier than in the summer months. Still, if you love those strappy white heels or your white Converse high-tops, go for it!
When can you wear white after Labor Day again?
The short and easy answer is that you can wear white after Labor Day just about any time you want to. Whether you’re planning to vacation in October and are feeling tropical or just want to snuggle up in a pair of white jeans with a heavy cable-knit sweater by a roaring fire, you can wear white any day of the year. While you may still find those holding onto what their mama’s mama taught them about fashion rules and order, those who do so are fewer in numbers than they’ve ever been.
And because you can totally wear white after Labor Day, there’s no steadfast fashion faux pas if you should wear it before Memorial Day as well. Want to wear a lovely white ensemble and shoes for a spring event? It’s not a problem according to just about everyone, save deep south great-grandmas who will at minimum beg you to at least consider winter white if you must buck natural law.
So why not wear white after Labor Day? The Fashion Police won’t bat an eye if you do, and you’ll be opening yourself up to so many more fashion options throughout the year!