This Monday is Labor Day, and while half of our friends are donning sparkly costumes in the desert for Burning Man, the Fueled editorial team is relaxing just steps from the beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
As we tuck into oysters and sip our vodka cranberry cocktails, taking great care not to dirty our white pants and embroidered sundresses, we are reminded of the post–Labor Day moratorium on white clothing and accessories that has long been a topic of debate even for the greatest of fashionistas.
So, why aren’t we supposed to wear white after Labor Day? History points to a mix of class snobbery, practicalities of available clothing materials and a country vs. city mentality. Wanting to shed light on this modern day conundrum, we turned to the founders of our favorite fashion startups (and our own founder of Fueled) to get their shining perspective on what has become an increasingly grey area in fashion etiquette…
“White is a basic. Everyones wears it throughout the year. The real question is ‘When can you wear a statement piece like white pants or a suit that is white?’ and the answer is there are many appropriate times and places to sport white and it should always be situation-based (just like everything else in your wardrobe) and not calendar-based.”
“White goes with everything, why would I give up some of my favorite pieces, just because I turn a page in my calendar?”
-Maxine Bédat, Co-Founder of Zady
“White is one of my favourite colours, so I definitely break this rule. Above is a shot of me at our first year anniversary party in September of 2011, I love a strong crisp winter white or soft ivory- nothing is more chic!”
“I’m all about winter whites. The only stressful part of wearing white is that I’m a messy eater and always get stained, not some silly rule about what you can and can’t wear after Labor Day.”
Sari Bibliowicz, Co-founder, Bib + Tuck
“The first time I heard about the “no white after labor day rule” was in that scene in Never Been Kissed when Drew Barrymore, wearing an all white ensemble, accessorised with a feather boa, spills chocolate milk on herself and says ‘That’ll teach me to wear white jeans after Labor Day,’ and one of the popular girls quips, ‘I don’t think you’re supposed to wear white jeans after 1983.’
The idea that white is a colour only appropriate for summer is something that’s being challenged by designers like Derek Lam, Proenza Schouler and Tommy Hilfiger as they lead the charge for the “Winter White” trend. And they’re certainly not in uncharted territory. Michelle Obama wore a floor length Jason Wu white gown at her first inaugural ball in 2009. Coco Chanel, whilst she was the toast of the New York fashion scene and loved by US editors at Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, was well known for wearing white all year round.
Bucking traditions is something fashion designers revel in. Subverting cultural traditions and changing things up keeps things interesting. Good news for “Josie Grosie” then.”
“Style is a personal choice. If you can pull it off be unique and go for it! I’m not that stylish so I usually stick to the rules… but I’m working on being cooler.”
“Last year, I bought a pair of white (well, cream, really) jeans in October and they were my favorite thing to wear all throughout winter. Cream sweaters are also the coziest looking thing. All of which is to say: I think white after Labor Day is a big YES. Meanwhile, my co-founder Erica (pictured left, above) is getting married on Friday and I’m pretty sure that’s the first and last time I’ll see her wear white since her uniform is all black (like a true New Yorker!).”
“I don’t buy into any of the colour rules. Fashion is about self-expression, and it shouldn’t be constrained by arbitrary dates. Also, as a Brit, I don’t know much about Labor Day, so I’d like to take the time to point out this quote from Serial Mom.”
Nearly 120 years after the first federally observed “Labor Day”, the holiday that once celebrated the unionized working class is now more about beach time BBQs and enjoying the last days of summer holiday before all the kids go back to school. And just as the holiday has changed, so too has the age-old understanding that wearing white after labor day is a fashion faux pas. As these digital fashionistas eschew old-time etiquette for more flexible fashion rules, it appears that wearing white after labor day is no longer a grey area.