She dared to wear white after Labor Day
Credit: Microsoft Office Images

Fashions come and go. In 1922, Emily Post's Etiquette listed many rules[1] unheard of today. Men were expected to keep it simple and only allowed to flex their creative dressing muscles when in the countryside and even this was to be reflected solely in their socks and neckties. Elderly women were warned away from wearing true greens and deep blues and if any woman was even slightly "plump" well then, black from neck to toe was the only acceptable way to go. No one is expected to adhere to these stodgy standards anymore and even Ms. Post's books themselves have changed a great deal, but there's still one fashion rule that just won’t die: Don’t wear white after Labor Day. Much like the Lernean Hydra, every time this rule is cut off at the head, another one spouts back and takes it place. The time has come to grab a firebrand and put an end to the rule for good.

To start, many ask the question, where did it all begin? Why can't one wear white after Labor Day? There are at least three running theories as the origin for this rule.

1. White is designed to keep one cooler in the summer[2] (especially before the days of cut-off shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops) and wearing it in the winter is foolish.

2. "Old Money" folk purposely[3] made ridiculous rules to set themselves apart from the "New Money" poseurs. That way, even if someone breezed into the club wearing clothes that cost as much as an entire years salary for the average American, if the outfit was white and it was after Labor Day, they outed themselves as "New Money" scum to be excommunicated from the snootier-than-thou cool kids club.

3. Because the upper class were able to indulge in long vacations over the summer months, (The Hamptons or Martha's Vineyard anyone?) they would shun their sophisticated city clothes and embrace lighter colors and white clothes. Something the working class would rarely do due to the cost[4] of laundering whites. Translating to "Look at me! I can afford to keep this clean!" Wearing their darker clothes again after Labor Day showed they were back in the city again, ready to make more mountains of cash.

Each theory's proponents will swear up and down that theirs is the one true one, but there is no solid evidence for one over the other. It could be as simple as a fashion columnist, short on a piece one day, deciding to set it in writing based on experience or preference. Urban legends have been started on less. Regardless, what can be asked is whether there is any benefit to keeping this rule alive. If elitism or propriety are the responses, then the answer, clearly no. There is no reason not to wear the colors you want to wear, when you want to wear them. As Coco Chanel--the style icon who wore her much-adored white suit year round--once said, "The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud."

Coco Chanel
Credit: Prepared image quote, Photo of Coco Chanel, Public Domain, 1920