Can You Wear White After Labor Day?

by The Cowl Editor on September 16, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

Can You Wear White After Labor Day?

A Closer Look at the Unofficial Fashion Rule

Olivia Riportella ’25

Year after year, we continue to hear the phrase, “you can’t wear white after Labor Day.” But have we ever questioned this? Who decided that a simple color would be taboo after this specific holiday? 

Some account for this ideology by claiming that it signifies the transitioning of seasons: after Labor Day, we must pack up our white sun hats, sundresses, and sandals to make room for our fall couture. While it may make sense to let go of these summer items for the fall, why should we have to abandon an entire hue in the process?

More historical sources date this tradition back to the 19th century. During this time, only the wealthiest class could afford to leave the city to vacation in the colder months spanning Labor Day to Memorial Day. Therefore, wearing white after Labor Day became an indicator of status. Those who could not afford to exhibit a fresh tan against a white dress during this time were advised to just keep the color out of their wardrobes.

The notion that only the upper class had the finances to afford wearing a color that could so easily get dirty also cultivated the idea that wearing white year-round was a symbol of status. It would be highly impractical for the working class to wear white during their much more hands-on daily routine. 

So, are we really still following the precedent set by 19th-century elites that wanted to distinguish themselves from those they deemed less than themselves? Unfortunately this seems to be the case, as this fashion myth has still not faded away. 

Despite the ongoing tradition of white being forbidden after Labor Day, the color has been more chic than ever in recent fashion trends. Next time you are in a room full of people, look around and take notice of how many of them are sporting a pair of white shoes. Chances are, it will be the majority of the group. From sandals to sneakers to platform boots, it is one of the most on-trend tints for footwear right now. 

Footwear is not the only place where we see white dominating these days. The hue is being incorporated into almost every trend, whether it’s white pants, a blazer, a headscarf, or a tennis skirt—it seems to be popping up all over the place. So, is there really any reason to discard the color as soon as the weather begins to change?

The short answer is no. 

Unless you have a strong personal distaste for the hue, white can, and should, be kept in your year-round array of couture. Wearing what you feel comfortable in is better than any rule that can be drawn up to stay in “good fashion standings.” Being truly fashionable is all about having confidence. There can be no “rules” that limit you from donning attire that you feel best in. So next time you are debating throwing that white blazer over your dress in November, trust your own fashion instincts and rock white year-round.