Growing up in the South, my mother absolutely followed the rule of not wearing white after Labor Day (nor before Memorial Day). How gauche! She would pack up my little white shoes and pull out the black patents after the holiday.
It is fascinating to read where the tradition of no white after Labor Day may have come. A Time article from several years ago offered the most popular theories.
“But beating the heat became fashionable in the early to mid-20th century, says Charlie Scheips, author of American Fashion. “All the magazines and tastemakers were centered in big cities, usually in northern climates that had seasons,” he notes. In the hot summer months, white clothing kept New York fashion editors cool. But facing, say, heavy fall rain, they might not have been inclined to risk sullying white ensembles with mud — and that sensibility was reflected in the glossy pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, which set the tone for the country.”
“This is all sound logic, to be sure — but that’s exactly why it may be wrong. ‘Very rarely is there actually a functional reason for a fashion rule,’ notes Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. True enough: it’s hard to think of a workaday downside to pairing your black shoes with a brown belt.”
“Instead, other historians speculate, the origin of the no-white-after–Labor Day rule may be symbolic. In the early 20th century, white was the uniform of choice for Americans well-to-do enough to decamp from their city digs to warmer climes for months at a time: light summer clothing provided a pleasing contrast to drabber urban life. ‘If you look at any photograph of any city in America in the 1930s, you’ll see people in dark clothes,” says Scheips, many scurrying to their jobs. By contrast, he adds, the white linen suits and Panama hats at snooty resorts were “a look of leisure.’ “
I definitely followed the rule into my 20s but now as I am getting close to 40 I am thinking screw it! Who cares? It’s hot out, and I have some good-looking white pants that I am wearing for church and work on into October.
(On a side note, when I first started working every woman wore panty hose and now it seems like no one does. However, I read an article this summer about how Kate Middleton always wears nudish/tan colored panty hose and a lot of the young ladies in London are picking up the trend. This is also seem contrary to hot weather but I guess London is never that hot. I won’t be wearing panty hose ever again!)
So what about you? Will you follow the no-white rule after Labor Day? What white articles are you willing to wear? Will you jump back on the pantyhose train?