Do ladies still follow the no white after Labor Day rule?

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.

From Time magazine:

“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?

52 comments Add your comment

motherjanegoose

September 6th, 2011
6:52 am

I never wear white shoes nor white underwear…no matter what the season. I rarely wear white at all. I do wear hose when I need to. Not yet, it’s too hot! I find it more common for women to wear pants everywhere. I am one of the few women wearing a dress or skirt,at schools and meetings. Have a great day!

Jeff

September 6th, 2011
7:18 am

Given they way some of them don’t wear much at all, is not wearing white after labor day really such a sin? I mean that in the best possible way because, well, it benefits me. :)

RJ

September 6th, 2011
8:12 am

I don’t even own a pair of white pants, but I certainly do remember that rule. If I did own a pair, I’d probably wear them due to the heat. @Theresa, you say you wear pants to church? That was definitely a no-no in my household. You wore your best Sunday morning. Of course today I see people wearing pants all the time, but I just can’t. I just think of my grandma turning over in her grave seeing me with pants on at church:)!

JJ

September 6th, 2011
8:13 am

No, I don’t follow that rule. Here in the south, it’s still hot until October, and I’m not putting away my sandals, flip flops, or capri’s just yet……

Techmom

September 6th, 2011
8:25 am

Abd no way to hose. Occasionally in the winter I’ll wear tights but there’s no way I’m wearing pantyhose when it’s warm- that’s what tanned legs are for!

JJ

September 6th, 2011
8:35 am

I don’t own ANY pantyhose. HATE, HATE HATE those things….

I’m a casual dresser. I work in warehouse conditions, and I used to wear the skirts, suits, hose, heels, etc. But no more….it’s jeans, tennis shoes and shirts around here, and I love it.

ABC

September 6th, 2011
8:42 am

No white in my wardrobe and no hose either. Tights are good in the winter as someone else said, but I think the days of hose with a dress/skirt in the summer are long gone!

Razz

September 6th, 2011
8:54 am

I asked this question a while ago on FB and got very mixed opinions. I refuse to wear white pants/shoes after Labor Day, just doesn’t feel right…Though I have no idea why I feel that way, I think my mom mentioned it once when I was growing up and it just stuck. My husband did ask why I can’t wear white pants but it was okay to wear a white top? Wasn’t sure how to respond to that! And just bought my first pair of pantyhose in probably ten years for a job interview, could not wait to get those suckers off!!

JOD

September 6th, 2011
8:58 am

I have always used the Labor Day yardstick, but honestly that doesn’t apply much since I don’t wear white pants or dress shoes. JJ – I guess I can put away my white flip flops, but how hard is that? I have 4 other pairs :o)

Where I have really seen this applied is you didn’t wear pure white in winter, ‘ladies’ wear ‘winter white’, which is an off-white.

Pantyhose still have a place, but only for certain occasions and NEVER with open-toed shoes :o)

I don’t know what the ‘Fashion Museum’ lady is smoking, but the NO black and brown together rule is alive and well in our house…one of my pet peeves.

Becky

September 6th, 2011
9:21 am

Like others, I really don’t have that much white..Don’t think that I have ever had a pair of white pants..I only wear white tennis shoes, so yes I wear white all yer long..

@Techmom..I agree 110% on the hose thing..I don’t wear them at all..Even with a dress..I pretty much wear shorts and sandals all year..No where that I ever have to go requires panty hose..

@RJ..I feel the same way about my Mom..If she knew that I wore pants to church, she would be rolling over in her grave..I have only worn them about 3 times and each time I felt guilty..I see quiet a few of the older (70-80 yr olds) wear pant suits in our church, so that makes me feel a tad better about wearing them..

Tom

September 6th, 2011
9:22 am

Off-topic, but Boortz is absolutely RAILING against all the sick “pageant moms” out there! GO NEAL!!

Lady Strange

September 6th, 2011
9:28 am

I don’t wear white, I’ve always thought the no white after Labor Day was silly. I dress casual except for at work or when otherwise needed. I’ll wear my sandals until about January too!

JATL

September 6th, 2011
9:33 am

No way am I wearing my white pants after Labor Day! The fashion mavens can say what they want, but to me it still screams of tackiness and not being “raised right.” I’m not the only one either! In Arizona you can probably pass it off, but if anyone thinks it no longer matters in the southeast -you’re wrong! As far as linen, shorts, capris, flip flops and sandals -those are fine as long as it’s warm and they’re not white or some super light pastel.

As far as panty hose -NO! Never again! To me that’s like asking women to go back to wearing girdles or corsets. I DESPISE panty hose! I do love tights in fall and winter, but they fit and feel so differently than hose. I have a feeling young Kate has been coached by royal advisors about how different shots and camera angles can look with bare skin( and how at least with hose on there won’t be a fully thonged or nude crotch shot as she’s exiting an automobile) – plus, the weather there is far cooler and she could have hose that fit perfectly and feel fantastic specially made for her if she wants without ever worrying about snags and runs and them costing $7-$15 a pair!

JOD

September 6th, 2011
9:46 am

@JATL – My mom always has the nice, soft pantyhose that cost $$$. I always put holes in mine, so I just keep a pair of the super-cheap L’eggs on hand. In college we always made the ones with holes into hairbands – guess that dates me… My office has a strict dress code, so I have some Grandma Moses knee highs, too, for the rare occasion I go downtown.

Here’s a fashion faux pas – anyone else work from home and attend video conferences from time to time? I fix my hair and makeup, put on a dress shirt, but still have the shorts and flip flops on underneath…

jarvis

September 6th, 2011
9:50 am

I wear searsucker in February. It keeps them guessing.

Razz

September 6th, 2011
9:57 am

@JOD- one of my biggest pet peeves is people who wear panyhose with open toe shoes…what is up with that?!

Denise

September 6th, 2011
10:04 am

I don’t wear them, but I always think of the “rule” as more for white shoes after Labor Day and before Easter. I guess white pants should be “counted” too. I don’t own any of those either but I guess I wouldn’t wear them since I’d probably be called out. I think linen is included in the rule too. I don’t wear much linen because it wrinkles too easily so I don’t have to worry about it. Come to think of it, I don’t really have much to worry about when it comes to this rule. As for pantyhose, I will wear them if I need the support/shaping under my clothes but they will come off as soon as possible. I generally wear clothes that don’t require any extra “foundation garments” so I don’t have that to worry about 99% of the time.

jarvis

September 6th, 2011
10:14 am

I also wear bow ties.

JOD

September 6th, 2011
10:20 am

@jarvis – Matlock, is that you?

jarvis

September 6th, 2011
10:29 am

Ha ha. I don’t actually own either.
I think searsucker and bow ties make men look silly….like they are wearing a costume instead of a suit.

RJ

September 6th, 2011
10:57 am

I must say that I do wear pantyhose in the winter. I wear tights also, but I would never go without something on my legs in the winter regardless of how old school they may look.

Denise

September 6th, 2011
11:17 am

@Jarvis, I LOVE bowties on a man. I don’t know why but it turns my head every time. But then again, I love glasses on a man. Seersucker on the other hand is a no. :-)

catlady

September 6th, 2011
11:34 am

I wore pants to church once, December of 1983 (maybe 1984) I think, when it was horribly cold. How cold was it? The heating oil became so thick it would not flow downhill into the furnace! My husband built a fire under the fuel line! I wore wool pants under my wool dress!

White shoes after Labor Day? No way, unless they are tennis shoes. And I grew up in the deepest of South.

GoldenLocks

September 6th, 2011
11:49 am

From looking at todays type of ‘fashion’ and ’style’, I think lots could benefit by following some fashion/style rules. The type of dress is so casual now, it’s horrid.

I wonder if the ‘casual’ manners of today (ie. lack of manners) partially stems from the very casual dressing.

I once read, if a woman is over a size 8, she should not wear white pants. If the weather is very hot, I could see wearing white until the start of Autumn….but def not after Autumn starts.

The only white shoes I own are tennis shoes and are used for work-outs only. I also do not wear t-shirts (I don’t even own one), I have yet to see anyone who looks decent or good in a t-shirt.

Unless you have great legs, wear hose or tights. Quality hose can enhance your legs and give a more polished look.

Jessica

September 6th, 2011
12:00 pm

With two young children, I pretty much never wear white anyway. Every time I try, I end up with grubby little handprints, peanut butter, crayon, or something else on my clothes five minutes after I put them on.

‘No white after labor day’ seems like a great rule — for NEW YORK. Here in the South, we still have a month of summer left! It seems silly to change up our wardrobes at this point. Why not wait until the weather actually starts to change?

Jesse's Girl

September 6th, 2011
12:04 pm

Dear sweet 8 lb baby Jesus…have you ever hit a hot button with me. Under no circumstances it is EVER appropriate for anyone over the age of 5…unless a bride or nurse…to wear white shoes. Never. Ever. And white flip flops are just as tacky in my opinion. It has nothing to do with seasonal fashion boundaries….but everything to do with the fact that it is simply icky looking. And don’t even get me started on the dark pany hose and white pumps. Dear Lord…..As far as the pantyhose debate goes….panty hose…almost never. But stockings….now thats a different story. Love me some stockings:) If you legs need to coverage that pantyhose once provided….get your butt to the drug store and buy hose in a can. Its a spray. It looks exactly like you have nude colored hose on. But please….I bessech you….look around! Not even the nastiest drag queens wear white heels. Just don’t do it.

oneofeach4me

September 6th, 2011
12:19 pm

I wear what I want when I want. That is just me and my rebellious nature, not necessarily in a bad way, I just don’t tend to care what people think. And here is a kicker… one of my MOST favorite pair of winter boots are my knee high winter white boots that I pair with my light grey pea-coat with white trim. In my opinion, to each their own. But PLEASE if you are gonna wear white pants… or shirts.. make sure the undies remain UNseen!

Yes to tights in winter, no to pantyhose at any time.

JJ

September 6th, 2011
12:27 pm

Just give me a pair of denim jeans and I’m a happy girl……

GoldenLocks

September 6th, 2011
12:27 pm

I wear what I want as well. However, my ‘most’ casual type of clothes would be ‘dressy casual’. I would rather be over-dressed than under-dressed.

Also, I think bowties look great on a man. Dress hats on men are great, I wish it was more popular.

jarvis

September 6th, 2011
12:57 pm

Uncle Remus, Orville Reddenbocker and followers of Elijah Muhammad are the only people that have ever looked normal in bow ties. Everyone else looks like a fool unless it is ensemble with the rest of the tux.

Denise

September 6th, 2011
1:14 pm

@GoldenLocks – I love dress hats too! Especially when paired with a suit and a long winter coat. So sharp. Just had a flashback of when I was little and used to get my grandfather and Tom Landry confused. Both wore the dress hats! (My grandfather was light enough to pass for White with people who didn’t know any better so that is how I got a White man and a Black man confused.) I couldn’t understand how Papa could be in the living room and at the football game on TV at the same time. LOL!

JJ

September 6th, 2011
1:57 pm

I love a nice Fedora….and a good looking man under one……

GoldenLocks

September 6th, 2011
2:03 pm

@ jarvis….I did not know you have seen ‘everyone’ in a bowtie.
So much for making a blanket statement.

Bowties can look great, it depends on who is wearing them.

I once commented to a man who was wearing a dress hat, he said women make positive comments to him everytime he wears it. He said if more men knew how many times he was approached by women regarding his hat….more men would wear them.

Whether you wish to acknowledge it or not, you are judged by your looks…including your clothing choices.

Emily Stapler

September 6th, 2011
2:04 pm

I’m 14 and I maybe young but i don’t that fashion rule. I personally think that it is retarded. Today I wore the cutest white shirt and shoes. Nobody said anything about me wearing white until 2 period in gym. I asked people to see why girls weren’t supposed to wear white and nobody knew. So I looked it up and found this website and it still doesn’t tell me anything but I’ll just look around at more websites. Oh I almost forgot!!!! I was looking around school and I found quite a few people wearing white. lol :P

Emily

September 6th, 2011
2:10 pm

why is it that people say don’t wear white on certain days

RJ

September 6th, 2011
2:19 pm

“I once read, if a woman is over a size 8, she should not wear white pants”

I’m sorry but is that a joke ROFLMBO!

GoldenLocks

September 6th, 2011
3:13 pm

@ RJ, not a joke. It came from Oprah.
White can makes things appear ‘larger’, you know.

jarvis

September 6th, 2011
3:23 pm

For the record, I dig dress hats.

motherjanegoose

September 6th, 2011
3:51 pm

FYI…I walked out the door today and realized I do wear white…I have on my pearls and earrings…really. It made me laugh. I like to dress up and dress down. My neighbors can tell right away, if I am working or not. Dress up for work and dress down if not.

HB

September 6th, 2011
4:33 pm

SUEtheTrex (the Field Museum’s T.rex) tweeted this a little while ago: “Now that it’s after Labor Day, I can devour anyone who comes into the museum wearing white. Mu-HAHAHAHAHA!”

DrBaumgartner

September 6th, 2011
5:59 pm

The no white rule after Labor Day no longer applies. In the world of fashion, anything goes! The color is not as important as the weight of the fabric. You can certainly wear a white (a.k.a. winter white) pant if in a mid to heavy weight fabric (think wool, tweed, cashmere) as the days get shorter. If you wear it in linen, you are totally off the mark. As for pantyhose, most of the ones I have seen can be mistaken for therapeutic socks. I would recommend tights over hose, and if you must wear hose pick something fashion forward such as fishnets, and please stay away from the thick shimmery nude numbers!

Dr Baumgartner is a psychologist who analyses the meaning of our clothing choices. To learn more, read her blog on Psychology Today, The Psychology of Dress and her book, You Are What You Wear.

45 and some change

September 6th, 2011
6:57 pm

As long as it is over 80 degrees and Sunny, I will wear white after Labor Day (and before Easter). When I was younger and and better looking feet, I would wear white open toed heels. I just don’t see many decent looking white shoes unless they are designer and $$$. You would definitely have to have the haute dress or ensemble to carry the shoes though!

I worked for Rich’s when we actually had a hosiery department. I had to laugh a couple of years back when I was in there before they became Macy’s, and there was literally a small stand that had a very limited selection of hosiery. We had major hosiery sales back in those days and as an employee we had to wear hosiery. I cannot live without my Spanx now though, sue to being 45 and some change! :) That was about the only reason I would ever wear hosiery now though. Hosiery like most other textiles have left the US to be manufactured. I am sure Hanes/Leggs still make a good bit for those that wear them. Have not cought hosiery in a long time, even in the Winter!

Someone mentioned how our society’s attitude has changed for the worse over the years and related it to casual dress. I would totally agree with that scenario. I think that is why Mad Men has become one of my favorite shows. There is also a BBC show that features these type fashions as well.

Oh, my! I just had a flashback of wearing white hosiery! :0 I hope I can get that horrible image out of my brain, might cause nighmares at bedtime!

tracey

September 6th, 2011
8:51 pm

well, i have big feet, so unless they are tennis shoes, i’m not ever wearing white shoes. and i wear pants, so i don’t have to worry about hose.

TAMMY

September 6th, 2011
9:02 pm

I am from New York and I wear my white dress,skirts,mid-high heel sandals, flip-flops and any other short sexy sundress from mid April up to mid to late October. I love wearing my summer clothes as long as I can. Winter in New York comes quick. There is no fall or spring here. There is only winter or summer here. I could care less about winter fashion. All I wear in the winter is Jeans, long sleeve shirts, jackets and sneakers. I do have one pair of closed toe heels and closed toe ankle bootie for special occasions in winter. For me Uggs, Maxi Dresses, are ugly. Sneakers here in winter is needed because you run everywhere to keep warm. Winter here is cover up time and Summer here is show off time. This rule of not wearing white before Memorial Day and After Labor Day is nonsense.

motherjanegoose

September 6th, 2011
9:51 pm

LOL…white hose! Yes, I do remember wearing those and I was never a nurse…hahaha!

Jacqueline Jonée

September 6th, 2011
10:54 pm

I always follow the no white rule after Labour Day or before Memorial Day and I love wearing panty hose. Many of us have not changed. You will see, woman will go back to following tradition.

GoldenLocks

September 6th, 2011
11:22 pm

Women need to go back at least to ’some’ tradition.
A guy recently told me, “Women look good in dresses, skirts, heels. Do women really have to wear jeans, capris and flip-flops all the time? Wear a dress or skirt sometimes”.

I prefer a polished look…for men and women.

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RJ

September 7th, 2011
8:01 am

@Golden, so if Oprah says it then it must be true lol! My best friend is 5′10″ and wears a size 10. She is slim. So she shouldn’t wear white? Sorry, but I won’t buy into you’re plus sized if you’re over a size 6 theory. Doesn’t work for me.

TAMMY

September 7th, 2011
2:43 pm

To Jacqueline Jonee. One the only time I wear panty hose/closed toe heels/dress is for a winter wedding or formal dinner. In that case I probably would rather wear a maxi dress. Two I wear White After Labor Day as the weather permits. Labor Day does not change what I wear. Winter weather does. I only care about summer fashion. Winter fashion to me is keeping warm. Labor day is not the end of summer. Just like Memorial Day is not the beginning of summer. I have my sexy little white dress and 6 inch red high heel sandals ready for the next dry day in New York. With this outfit My girlfriend and boyfriend won’t be able to resist keeping their hands off me. Summer will be over soon. Enjoy what is left.