Why can’t you wear white after Labor Day? Fashion’s perennial rule, explained.

·2 min read

Chances are you have heard either in conversation or online that you should not wear white after Labor Day. It’s so widespread some consider it settled law in the world of fashion. Sure, wear those white jeans to the barbeque, but as soon as the September weekend has passed, you better retire them, the dogma instructs.

As Labor Day weekend 2022 approaches, we’re exploring how hard and fast the 'no white after Labor Day' rule actually is, and where it came from.

We’ll unpack why wearing white after Labor Day is taboo, and let you in on what the fashion industry is saying now.

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Where did the rule of not wearing white after Labor Day come from?

This fashion rule can be traced all the way back to the turn of the century, Marie Claire reports. The unspoken rule, now very much spoken, was created by the old money elite, hoping to elevate themselves above the nouveau riche, or newly wealthy.

Those with enough capital to travel during winter and fall wore white as vacation attire, meant to signal an air of leisure. But those who stayed in city centers generally remained in dark clothing for the seasons after summer, Better Homes & Gardens reports.

Another theory casts class separation aside and sticks more to the basics. Once Labor Day became a federal holiday, it started to signal the end of summer in the popular imagination, reminding people to switch out their light summer linens with darker tones and thicker fabrics.

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How serious is this rule?

Not serious at all. Fashion is a form of self-expression and, as such, many rules are arbitrary. You can certainly don a white 'fit' after Labor Day if it strikes your fancy.

It is not a sign of disrespect, as people sometimes fear.

Even Vogue, considered by some a tome of fashion wisdom, advises that white can always be in style, even putting forth a guide to seasonally appropriate pieces in ivory and cream.

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How long after Labor Day can you wear white?

The rule states that after Labor Day, white should be retired from your wardrobe. Then once Memorial Day rolls around in May, the gates are re-opened.

The interval is, like the rule it stems from, not too serious though, and fashionistas should feel free to cast it aside for their favorite white pieces year-round (as long as they're weather appropriate).

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why can't you wear white after Labor Day? The history behind the rule.