Some Rules Are Made To Be Broken
By Laura Lee Rogers / Red Dirt Couture
The weekend before last, on Labor Day itself, I chuckled when I heard someone comment to her friend in at the grocery store check-out line, “Well, I guess I’d better enjoy wearing these white pants today since I won’t see them until next summer!”
Boy, people sure love to hold on to silly fashion rules- especially in East Texas! Honestly, I was kind of proud that they even cared about their attire….that is not a common trait in these parts. Though there is no definitive answer as to the origin of the “no wearing white after Labor Day” rule, luckily it is a figment of fashion’s past!
Though evidence for this tradition seems slightly unproven, even I remember my grandmother, Nana (the same woman who wore a moo-moo daily), chiding me for donning white past that holiday cut-off date. Her reasoning? “You just don’t.”
In 2009, Time published an article titled, “Why We Can’t Wear White After Labor Day.” It delineated some of the possible reasons this urban legend was created.
One explanation is seemingly very practical. For many centuries people wore what we would consider very formal attire. White was a much lighter weight, and therefore cooler option when there was not air- conditioning, T shirts, or halter tops.
By the early to mid-20th century, staying cool during those hot summers became a fashion statement. All of the magazines and tastemakers were located in big cities at that point- usually in those northern climates that actually HAD seasons. The white clothing that kept the New York fashion editors cool in the hot summer months might risk being sullied with mud in the heavy fall rain. The glossy pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue seemed to reflect that sensibility during that era, which in turn, set the tone for the country.
Other historians speculate that the origin of the no-white-after-Labor Day rule is actually symbolic. In the early 20th century, white was the choice of the wealthy. Those who left their normal, every-day abodes to soak up the sun in their more tropical summer homes clung to the light, airy clothing as a way to contrast their drab suburban lives. White linen suits and Panama hats were a “look of leisure”, and could be seen at a multitude of snooty resorts. Since Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September marking the traditional end of summer, the well to do vacationers would exchange their summer duds for the heavier (and darker) fall clothing.
By the 1950’s the middle class had expanded and it seems that the custom had become a “written in stone” rule. Some scholar’s think that this was the transition point where a practical rule became a bulwark against the lower classes in America. Those savvy enough to learn all of the rules increased their chances of being accepted into “polite” society.
Much to the chagrin of sartorial purists, the Labor Day rule has always met with resistance form high-fashion quarters. As early as the 1920’s Coco Chanel made white a year round staple in her wardrobe. From Marion Cotillard to Michelle Obama, the trend is embraced by today’s fashion elites, as well.
I unknowingly accepted and obeyed this rule for years, in fear of being considered a rogue fashionista. However, it seems like FINALLY this rule has been sufficiently broken down, and is now translated from the runway to celebrity style to everyday life.
White can actually look really fresh when people aren’t expecting it. And according to Elle Magazine, there is more bright white than ever before this fall season. In fact, standard rules normally reserved for the summer months are being broken in nearly all the September issue fashion editorial spreads this year. Maybe, just maybe, if the jewel tones seen from Gucci this year are truly in for fall, then maybe there aren’t really any “rules” at all!
Let’s face it people: Some rules- especially bad fashion rules- are meant to be broken.
Here are 5 “Post- Labor Day rules to follow when wearing white.