As someone who went to a fashion school and spent a lot of time deep inside of fashion history text books, this question was something that was posed almost every year. The thing is, within fashion, trends come and go. Style norms change decade after decade as demands grow for new things. But this one idea - perhaps fashion's oldest (and most outdated) myth, has somehow managed to prevail through countless centuries and cultural shifts (furthermore, it is still one of the most Googled style questions to this day)! So where did this myth come from? And is there truly an answer? Well good news is, you've come to the right place!
Where Did This Idea Come From?
According to an article published in Harper's Bazaar, the answer as to how this myth came to be is still, well, unclear. However, they do speculate that it had originated within the 19th Century. Amanda Hallay, the fashion historian behind The Ultimate Fashion History YouTube series, discussed that it was a snobbish way for the upper echelons to distinguish themselves from the burgeoning nouveau riche within America.
Furthermore, as with most fashion trends, this myth had continued to flourish into the 20th Century because of the wealthy. Hallay reveals that the rule really has more to do with wearing white before Labor Day than not wearing it after. "By the end of the 19th Century, upper class Americans escaped the summer heat of the city by retreating to the countryside or seaside, where white clothing remained free of the inevitable grime of the increasingly industrialized urban centers. This was a sartorially social divide—only those who could afford to wear white could wear white. Not only did the wealthy summer in the far cleaner countryside, but should their beautiful white dresses get dirty, they had servants to launder them."
What Is The Answer?
So, can you wear white after Labor Day, or not?
The short answer? Absolutely.
The medium answer? Of course you can wear white after Labor Day, and it makes perfect sense to do so in climates where September’s temperatures are hardly fall-like. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter about the color. It’s more about fabric choice. Even in the dead of winter in northern New England, the fashionable wear white wools, cashmeres, jeans, and down-filled parkas. If you really want to consider the rule, wear what’s appropriate, whether it will be for the weather, the season, or the occasion.
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