With August just around the corner, women everywhere are becoming wary of the rule that you simply cannot wear white after Labor Day. I’ve seen more white in the last few weeks than all summer and I can only imagine that women are getting their wears in before retiring their wardrobe. All those beautiful pieces of clothing, banished to the back of our closets until Memorial Day rolls around again. Well, I’m here to tell you that this rule we’ve been following so strictly for years is nothing but a myth!
There are two sides to the story of how this little gem of fashion knowledge came to be…
Story A) I found this guidance from Mental Floss –
“While no one is completely sure exactly when or why this fashion rule came into effect, our best guess is that it had to do with snobbery in the late 1800s.
The wives of the super-rich ruled high society with an iron fist after the Civil War. As more and more people became millionaires, though, it was difficult to tell the difference between old money, respectable families, and those who only had vulgar new money. By the 1880s, in order to tell who was acceptable and who wasn’t, the women who were already “in” felt it necessary to create dozens of fashion rules that everyone in the know had to follow. That way, if a woman showed up at the opera in a dress that cost more than most Americans made in a year, but it had the wrong sleeve length, other women would know not to give her the time of day.
Not wearing white outside the summer months was another one of these silly rules. White was for weddings and resort wear, not dinner parties in the fall. Of course it could get extremely hot in September, and wearing white might make the most sense, but if you wanted to be appropriately attired you just did not do it. Once Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, society adopted it as the natural endpoint for summer fashion.
Not everyone followed this rule. Even some socialites continued to buck the trend, most famously Coco Chanel, who wore white year-round. But even though the rule was originally enforced by only a few hundred women, over the decades it trickled down to everyone else. By the 1950s, women’s magazines made it clear to middle class America: white clothing came out on Memorial Day and went away on Labor Day.”
And Story B) TIME magazine tells us another side of the tale –
“For centuries, wearing white in the summer was simply a way to stay cool — like changing your dinner menu or putting slipcovers on the furniture. “Not only was there no air-conditioning, but people did not go around in T shirts and halter tops. They wore what we would now consider fairly formal clothes,” says Judith Martin, better known as etiquette columnist Miss Manners. “And white is of a lighter weight.”
But beating the heat became fashionable in the early to mid-20th century, says Charlie Scheips, author of American Fashion. “All the magazines and tastemakers were centered in big cities, usually in northern climates that had seasons,” he notes. In the hot summer months, white clothing kept New York fashion editors cool. But facing, say, heavy fall rain, they might not have been inclined to risk sullying white ensembles with mud — and that sensibility was reflected in the glossy pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, which set the tone for the country.”
Well, I don’t know about you but a few silly rumors are not a reason enough for me to stop wearing something I love! If you still feel obliged to follow in tradition, try switching up some pieces in your collection of sparkly whites to more of a winter white.
Either way, you’ll definitely catch me wearing white year round… Coco Chanel did it, why can’t I?
xo – blondie