There’s a good chance you’ve been hearing people say the ultimate fall fashion rule: no white after Labor Day. Once the first Monday of September has passed, you have to retire white from your wardrobe until the next year. It’s not until the warmer months return that the color becomes acceptable again. Have you ever wondered where this crazy rule came from?
It’s pretty clear that white is a summer-friendly color (or, rather, lack of color). It’s fresh and loose white clothes will probably make you feel like you’re walking on a cloud. Still, some people wear black all summer and nobody’s forbidding them from doing so. Well, we’re giving them some side eye, but that’s not the same, is it?
A Form of Social Control
The call to retire white in September is an old one, from the late 19th century or early 20th. The details have been lost in time, but our favorite theory points to snobby rich people starting the trend!
According to Mental Floss, the tradition might have been born in the years after the Civil War. Then, the country’s socioeconomic landscape was changing: people outside traditional riches were making lots of money. And, as you’ll know from watching every period film ever, traditional families were not okay with that. Obviously feeling lots of disdain for “new money,” high-society women took action. Traditionally rich ladies made up insane fashion rules to continually shame women who didn’t come from money.
And so the “no white after Labor Day” rule was born, as a way to humiliate people of humble origins. Straight out of a Mexican telenovela, huh?
A Simpler Theory
Back in 2009, Time Magazine posed another theory on the no white after Labor Day rule. Back in the late 19th century, people wore lots of layers of clothing all the time, even in the summer. This was a time before air conditioning; really, it was a time before electricity was everywhere. So it made sense to wear white and other lighter tones, as some comfort to the insane amounts of clothes.
Wearing shorts and crop tops wasn’t exactly an option for 19th-century women unless they were prostitutes. Plus, the main fashion cities in America were all up north, where winters were harsh. In places like New York, Chicago, and Boston, the difference between seasons is abysmal. Every little thing people wore made a difference in their comfort. So it made sense to do away with white clothes when it became cold again!
So, Should You Wear White After Labor Day?
You should wear whatever you please, okay. Get those cute white pants and strut around town. Become a snow queen and wear all white during a storm. You do you! Don’t let a bunch of 19th-century snobs get you down, they’re all dead from preventable diseases anyway.
In any case, Coco Chanel wore her white suits year-round. The woman practically invented fashion as we know it now, so Coco knows best.