Let’s debunk this fashion myth once and for all. The answer to the question, “can you wear white after Labor Day?” is a resounding YES! If you’re looking to break out your whites but not sure if wearing white in the winter is a faux pas or not, I am here to give you all the encouragement and confidence to wear white any time of year.
In this article, we’ll look at where this fashion fable comes from and why it’s no longer relevant to modern fashion trends– and I’ll give you some tips and tricks on how to gorgeously adorn yourself in white for the fall and winter months.
Where did the rule “no white after Labor Day” come from?
There are a few theories as to where this rule came from, but a lot of fashion historians (like Amanda Hallay on the Ultimate Fashion History) believe it started as a battle of the classes in the late 19th century.
It was common around this time for upper-class, old money Americans to leave the big cities for the summers to vacation in the countryside or seaside. White was likely to get dirty and grimy in the big cities, but it was a safer bet in the cleanness of summer vacation. Only those people who were wealthy enough to have servants who could launder their garments wore white. White was (and still is) hard to keep clean, so only the richest could afford to wear and launder white regularly. So, people who lived in the city year-round had no white clothes, while those old-money elite who could afford to vacation out of the city were eager to show off their pristine whites.
Thus, white became a status symbol for the wealthy. It also became a symbol for summertime. White was considered vacation attire—and only those with money took those sorts of summer vacations. Once the elites had finished their vacations, they retired their white clothes and pulled out their darker colors (which better hide city dirt) to re-enter urban life.
Why doesn’t this rule apply anymore?
This is one of those societal rules that has much outlived its usefulness. There are two reasons we still hear “no white after Labor Day” so frequently.
First, this rule initially came as a way to mark the passing of the seasons. Lighter hues and whites signified spring and summer (on vacation), while darker tones meant autumn and winter (in the city). In decades past, having this kind of color transition was a fun way to spruce up your wardrobe. Now, though, this doesn’t really hold a lot of weight. We mark the passage of time through our clothing in other ways beyond just color, like fabrics, styles, materials, and accessories. Moreover, a lot of colors—particularly white and other neutrals—simply are no longer season-bound and have instead moved into the realm of timeless and seasonless.
Second, this fashion rule came out of a class-conscious American system. Unfortunately, Americans are generally still conscious of class today. We’ve been taught to think that wearing white after Labor Day is tasteless, because it leads back to this elitist idea from the late 1800s that only the wealthy could afford white. But we think it’s high time to retire a classist idea from over a century ago.
At Current Boutique, we work to make fashion accessible. Fashion is an art form, and art was made for everyone. The idea of gatekeeping fashion goes against what fashion should be: an expression of the self. One of our goals is to make high-end, designer fashion more approachable and affordable by selling preloved pieces at a lower price tag. Learn more about what consignment stores are contributing to the fashion world here.
Let’s start breaking these fashion “rules” together! Now that we’ve established that the question is no longer “can you wear white after Labor Day?” and instead “HOW can I wear white after Labor Day?” … here are some tips to successfully and gorgeously wear white after Labor Day.
Use white as a transition to cooler weather.
Maybe in the late 1800s, the crisp air was ushered in with Labor Day but certainly not anymore. We can still hit the 80s and 90s in late September, and higher temps call for lighter colors and fabrics. Since the change in weather doesn’t happen overnight (usually), white can be a useful color transition from summer to fall.
The easiest way to wear white is to pair it with darker hues, like black, brown, and navy or other fall essentialsfor an instantly chic look. Pair white pants with a cardigan or denim jacket on cooler days, or throw on a white tee with a high-waisted skirt for warmer ones. Mixing and matching your summer and autumn wardrobes is an easy way to widen your outfit possibilities, while also keeping you ready for whatever unexpected weather you might be facing that day.
Struggling to stay warm while also looking chic? We’ve got 15 must-have winter fashion hacks for the perfect cold-weather ensemble!
Embrace winter white.
There are different kinds of whites, and some are more fitting for winter than others. You probably subconsciously understand this difference if you’ve ever thought of one white blouse as “summery” and another as “wintery,” even if the two were similar in almost every way. In general, brighter and sheerer whites are considered summer white, while off-white and eggshell whites have a more wintery feel. That’s what people mean when they talk about “winter white”—it’s typically a deeper, heavier white than you might find in summer clothing. So, when shopping for winter clothes, look for these creamy whites that will go nicely with dark colors like black, navy, burgundy, and emerald.
Upgrade to heavier fabrics.
A shirt made of bright white linen will feel lighter and breezier than one made of creamy white wool. Let the transition of seasonal colors happen naturally through the transition of fabrics: wear lighter fabrics when it’s hot and start wearing heavier fabrics as the weather cools down. (It’s a good idea to have one or two light sweaters in your closet for those in-between days.) Following the weather will create a seamless changeover from summer white to winter white without any fashion faux pas.
Also, don’t be afraid to mix and match fabrics. You can pair a summery white linen tee with a darker-colored cashmere cardigan for a stunning, polished look that’s perfect for early October days.
Check out these 7 eco-friendly clothing materials to upgrade your wardrobe.
Play around with white accessories.
White accessories add a pop of brightness to otherwise dark winter clothing. Try out a white handbag with a black outfit for a polished statement, or pair white over-the-knee boots with jewel tones or maroon for a showstopping look. White shearling is also a popular accent for fall and winter outfits because it’s got that warm, cozy feel to it, so add a shearling purse or lined jacket for that winter white wonderland look.
We particularly love white gloves. You’ll see a lot of black and brown gloves on the market, but there’s something oh-so-stunning about white gloves. They give off that classic, vintage vibe that is super feminine and elegant.
Wear what makes you happy.
The rule “no white after Labor Day” came from a desire for socialists to feel accepted by their peers, looking for external approval of what is and isn’t appropriate. But that sentiment doesn’t ring true in fashion anymore (at least, it shouldn’t). Comfortable, creative outfits that make you feel good are way more important than fashion rules from a century ago.
When you learn to love yourself and experience fashion as self-care, you’ll receive all the internal validation you need to wear what you want, when you want, how you want. So, enjoy your closet in all its glory with a knitted midi sweaterdress, a crisp white button-down, a white skirt, or a white purse—or whatever makes your winter heart happy.
Winter white is always chic, clean, and polished. It’s no longer a question of “can you wear white after Labor Day?” Now the question has become, how are you going to make white after Labor Day your favorite style go-to?