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Emily Post Says We Can Wear White After Labor Day

You Can Wear White After Labor Day

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 the sun is shining well into the fall. I’d love to hear what you all think about wearing 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

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

Quick searches on department store websites yield plenty of white and winter white options in clothing and shoes, even now.  In winter, you’ll see me in plenty of bright white long-sleeved T-shirts and jeans (my staple). In fact, that’s what I’m wearing as I type this.

Photo credit: istockphoto/rarpia

12 Comments
  • Angela - November 9, 2011

    Thank you for the history of “No White After Labor Day”. I truly thought it was a traditon started in the South.

  • Adrienne - September 23, 2011

    This is nice to hear! I live in South Louisiana where its very hot and sometimes we wear shorts during Christmas time…so it’s nice to hear about white pants…because I own a few!!!

  • misspetie - September 15, 2011

    going into NYC this weekend. no time to shop and it is going to be chilly. I have a pair of skinny white jeans from tommy that fit me fabulously and thought I could maybe pair them up with a pair of camel riding boots and a chunky brown sweater and be comfortable for the matinee show and going out later. what do you think?

    • La Jolla Mom - September 15, 2011

      I’m not a fashionista, but I would do it. I read another article this month that says these days it’s more about how you pair the “white” and they did cite boots and appropriate winter tops. Sounds like yours qualifies!

  • Laura - September 5, 2011

    Hi All! These boots are so hot, so sexy and just the right color, I’m going for it if I can find a size 11m. I just recently shed 30 pounds, from 178 to 148 and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than wearing winter white ’cause I want to, and those awesome boots. This is my very 1st time leaving my name and a commet so this is new territory for me but after reading all the great comments gave me that extra boost and confidence to join you all. I’m just Peachy in Peachtree City, GA! Winter White rules here!

  • Grace - September 8, 2010

    Personally I think it is a conspiracy!!! An out right fashion conspiracy!!!! No really —- who the hell cares? I don’t wear white anytime as a general rule. The first reason being that I am fat and fat chicks ALWAYS drop something on their boobs. Secondly, I have two boys, four dogs, and five cats — would that make me a horder? Anyway I always end up with snot, slobber, or someone elses prints on me somewhere.

    • La Jolla Mom - September 8, 2010

      Grace, you are awesome. I mean how true is that? I wore white pants the other day that I wrecked by rubbing them up against my car as I was strapping the kid in her car seat. No choice but to rock out on the town, was in a hurrry!

  • Sharlene - September 8, 2010

    I have never really been concerned with that rule. I wear whatever color suits my mood that day, regardless of season. But I do find myself wearing alot more fall colors in autumn. I guess I take my cues from nature. :)

    • La Jolla Mom - September 8, 2010

      And the mall! I was at the mall today and everything is sweaters, boots and warmer clothing than we need here in So Cal. And it’s only Sept!

  • Rona - September 7, 2010

    I love this! After moving to Las Vegas it’s just too hot to be concerned about not wearing my white sandals after Labor Day!

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I'm Katie Dillon, a freelance luxury travel writer who lives in seaside La Jolla, CA. This is where I document my recent trips around the world, the latest San Diego happenings and other fun lifestyle topics. Thanks for stopping by!

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