Livin' La Vida Lucia

Why You Should Wear White After Labor Day

By Lucia Rossi

Some fashion rules are just meant to be broken, especially this one.

 

In the film Never Been Kissed, Drew Barrymore’s character spills chocolate milk on her white jeans and says, “That’ll teach me to wear white after Labor Day.” But is it really so bad? Maybe for her it was, but is this a rule we should follow?

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The rule of not wearing white after Labor Day came to be during the late 1800’s early 1900’s. After the Civil War, families in high society had to deal with more people becoming millionaires. The already rich families were considered respectable and “old money”, while new rich people were considered to be vulgar and called “new money.” Ridiculous fashion rules were created by rich, snobby wives who wanted to distinguish the “old money” from the new. Wearing white after Labor Day was one of their rules. If somebody broke the rule they would be ignored and wouldn’t fit in, in their arrogant and supercilious society.

Wearing white during that time was mostly meant for the summer months because it kept you cooler. White was appropriate for going to resorts, but not fancy fall parties.

 

In 1894, Labor Day became a federal holiday which society used as a defining point for the end of summer fashion. Even though the trend started with a couple of hundred women, it spread, and lasted through the years into the present.

There are other theories as to how this fashion rule came about. Wearing white became a tool of segregation for the rich and the poor, not just the rich and the rich. During the Gilded Age, Long Island became The Hamptons and women on yachts and lawn parties wore white. In The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann, there is a description of the wealthy’s obsession with the color.

This idea associating the color with the wealthy was pushed by media in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Laborers couldn’t afford to wear white. However, this stopped once the middle class grew in the 1950’s. Then, everyone could wear white for the summer.

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As I said, Labor Day became the dividing point for summer and fall. Sure, it can get really hot in September too, but that didn’t matter if it meant breaking the rule and making yourself an outsider. People expected fall weather to be rainy, snowy, and generally dirty so wearing white was just asking for trouble. At any time of year, anyone shouldn’t wear white if they can’t keep it clean.

It’s strange how during the fall everyone associated dark colors with heavy clothing. White clothes tended to be thin and dark clothes tended to be thick. I mean, pea coats probably look better in a darker shade but stop living in the past, warm clothes can be white too! It was like whenever warm clothes were in style the color white just disappeared. Yet in winter, the color white is constantly shoved in our faces with snow, snowflakes, hail, sleet, and Christmas décor. White is the most common and beautiful thing in winter and society was telling us not to wear it? How does that make sense?

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Alright, they may have had a point back then, but certainly not now. During the Gilded Age, people didn’t have heaters, they got warmth from burning coal. Men shoveled coal to heat the buildings and wore white suits that got covered in soot and would have to be changed around Labor Day since it got cooler out. People also thought the air was dirty because of the coal dust and didn’t want to wear white. That kind of makes sense.

Some people never gave a shit about the rule and we admire their bravery. I’m talking about Queen Victoria and CoCo Chanel.

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Queen Victoria shocked the fashion world by wearing a white wedding dress to her nuptials to Prince Albert in 1840. White at that time was a sign of mourning.

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In the 1920’s, CoCo Chanel wore white year-round. CoCo also launched other huge fashion trends that are still popular today such as, having suntanned skin, wearing female trousers, the women’s business suit, wearing large costume jewelry, and the little black dress. Clearly, her opinion can be trusted.

 

I think it’s safe to say that it’s okay to wear white after Labor Day. Even in Emily Post’s book Etiquette, recognizes that this rule has come to an end.

Do people still think it’s wrong to wear white after Labor Day? Sure. But who cares!

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You do you and wear what you want. Do not let society dictate what is fashionable and what is not. Don’t play it safe and don’t look how you think people want you to look. On Wednesdays you don’t have to wear pink either.

Throw the rule book out the window and be proud.

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