Can You Wear White After Labor Day? | Labor Day Fashion Rule

Before you know it, you’ll be packing away your sundresses and summer sandals to make room for chunky sweaters and over-the-knee boots. But do you need to ship your cream-colored skirts and ivory pants off to storage? Yes, we’re referring to the age-old question, “Can I wear white after Labor Day?” The short answer: Yes! In fact, the story behind this arbitrary dress code is…unconvincing, not to mention classist.

The History of Not Wearing White After Labor Day

In the late 19th century—long before you could wear jeans to a Michelin-starred restaurant—the society ladies were engaged in an invisible battle with the nouveau riche, one that could only be won by the subtle manipulation of fashion. The “you can’t wear white after Labor Day,” rule was created to separate the old money elitists from the new money group.

“It [was] insiders trying to keep other people out,” according to Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in an interview with Time, “and outsiders trying to climb in by proving they know the rules.”

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French fashion designer Coco Chanel wearing her gown

Coco Chanel in 1969, sticking it to those 19th-century mean girls.

(Image credit: Roland Schoor)

For those who had money and could leave the city during warmer months, white was considered vacation attire. “If you look at any photograph of any city in America in the 1930s, you’ll see people in dark clothes,” Charlie Scheips, author of American Fashion, has said. Meanwhile, white linen suits and Panama hats were considered the “look of leisure.”

The Other Theory About the “No White After Labor Day” Rule

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