Thank goodness that Emily Post’s Etiquette, 17th Edition finally gives the thumbs up for wearing white after Labor Day. This rule is absurd for people in warm weather climates like La Jolla, where the average temperature is 70 degrees and sometimes we have heat waves in the fall. I’d love to hear what you all think about white after Labor Day.
A few theories surrounding the rule’s origin:
- Before air conditioning and other modern cooling conveniences, wearing white was simply a way to stay cool in hot summer months. People wore heavier, formal clothing year round. A big, long-sleeved dress in a New York City August is certainly not ideal. If I had to wear one, you bet it would be white.
- Then, later in the mid/early century, most of the high fashion magazines and socialites were located in New York where weather is seasonal, requiring a complete change of wardrobe from summer to winter months. They were out with white, in with other colors and vice versa.
- Around the same time in history, wealthy people tried to distinguish themselves by adhering to etiquette rules, such as this one.
- Bright white after Labor Day applied to everything, not just pants and shoes as you hear it re-told now.
Along Came Winter White
Really, this is a warmer color white which later became an OK color to wear between Labor Day and Memorial Day. It sure is OK. A pretty winter white dress at a holiday party is stunning when everyone else is probably wearing black.
Modern Day Application Of White After Labor Day
The one thing I still can not bring myself to do is wear a pair of bright white flip flops or a bright white dress after Labor Day, unless we’re having a heat wave. It’s just not a go-to color when the weather gets cooler. Currently, a quick search for “white shoes” at Neiman Marcus suggests that most people don’t think about it either as fall rolls around. My search popped up mostly wedding shoes and a handful of winter white sandals. Likewise, at Nordstrom search results show athletic shoes.
In winter, you’ll see me in plenty of bright white long sleeved T-shirts and jeans (my staple), however. In fact, that’s what I’m wearing as I type this.
Photo credit: istockphoto/rarpia