Thank goodness that Emily Post’s Etiquette finally gives the thumbs up for wearing white after Labor Day.

No one knows precisely how this old-fashioned rule came to be. Banning white is absurd for people in warm weather climates like La Jolla where the year-round temperature averages 70 degrees and the sun shines well into the fall.

A few theories surround the rule’s origin. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

History of White After Labor Day

Labor Day started marking the end of summer when it was declared a federal holiday in 1894.

Before air conditioning and other modern cooling conveniences, wearing white was merely a way to stay cool in hot summer months. People back then wore heavier, formal clothing year-round. A big, long-sleeved dress in a New York City August is indeed not ideal. If I had to wear one, you bet it would be white.

In the early to mid 20th century, most of the high fashion magazines and socialites were located in New York where the weather is seasonal, requiring a complete change of wardrobe from summer to winter months. Here, white was associated with resort wear and worn by those fortunate enough to summer near the beach (translation: the wealthy). White transitioned out around Labor Day as darker colors rotated back into cold weather wardrobes.

Wealthy people tried to distinguish themselves by adhering to etiquette rules, such as this one. People could tell who was in-the-know or not what they wore in addition to things like whether their place settings involved multiple forks, spoons, and knives created explicitly for various dishes. Around the 1950s, fashion magazines carried rules like this into print and influenced the middle class also to conform.

The not wearing white after Labor Day rule initially applied to all clothing and shoes, not just pants and shoes as you hear it re-told now. Seersucker for men was also on the post-Labor Day no-no list.

Along Came Winter White

This warmer color of white later became an acceptable color to wear between Labor Day and Memorial Day. There’s no doubt that 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. Heck, Coco Chanel wore white year-round. In a nutshell, practicality is why there’s no need to pack away white clothes come September.

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.

How this outdated rule came to be and why you CAN wear white after Labor Day.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. 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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  3. 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. 🙂

    1. 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!

  4. 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.

    1. 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!

  5. 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!

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  7. 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?

    1. 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!

  8. 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!!!

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

  10. I live in south GA where today, our feels like temps were 103. Im so thankful that no one will be concerned with my white shoes, pants, and dresses after labor day anymore. This is a rule i reluctantly obeyed. 🙂 This post made my day!

  11. I’ve never heeded Emily Post advice. I used to make my own wardrobe, so I pretty much designed and wore what I liked – in style and color. I’ve been reminded by friends time and again what month it was and what the rule of Emily Post was, to which I responded , “Emily who?” I can still remember my mother telling me that it was after Labor Day, and I was still wearing white. LOL. Glad that it is official for those who have followed the rule all these years.

  12. I am glad the rule has changed, but for me, I changed my white purse this morning and put it in the closet. My mama is in my head, and mostly I am glad. : )

  13. What does August in New York have to do with Labor Day. In America it’s in September every where,and your not Emily Post

  14. Beverly,
    Thanks for the change in the ruling, Emily Post, because my friend Is hosting an all white party in December for her daughter’s birthday. I wear white anytime of the year especially when the day is bright and sunny which is most days in Las Vegas where I live. That old myth needs to be put to bed. White for different occasions looks stunning. no matter what time of year.