White after Labor Day? : It's So You!

White after Labor Day?

by Mary Sheehan Warren on 09/01/13

If you've scrolled down this far, you are one of two kinds of readers:

1. The Eye Roller

2. The Fashion Police

Okay, maybe you're from a third category, but let's keep it simple for now. The fact that I even need to blog on this topic is testament to the fact that there has indeed been a rule on what to wear for what season, and the Labor Day Controversy seems particularly relevant because, well, it's Labor Day.

So, traditionally (as in our Grandmothers knew the rule), if you lived somewhere in the North, especially the Northeast, you would NEVER wear white shoes (and by the 1950s white anything) or linen anytime between Labor Day and Memorial Day. The Mid Atlantic states and the South set the starting point at Easter because they are slightly less somber people to begin with.

Now, notice that the rule is what we don't do between Labor Day and one of two various holidays of spring. Actually, we should be looking at what was done the other way around: Spring to Fall.

Traditionally, white shoes, white trousers, and anything linen was worn in the summer. If you go back far enough, to the days of the well-heeled escaping the heat of the city to cool off at a country house, white became a status symbol for three reasons:

1. You didn't have to worry about the grime of the city (soot, muddy streets, horse stuff, etc.) getting all over your white ensemble and Panama hat. After all, you sat on the veranda of your country house, sipping something with ice, and pitying the poor slobs back in the city.

2. You had someone doing your laundry for you anyway. So, if you got horse stuff on the hem of your lovely white lace ensemble, Old Flo could spend the afternoon scrubbing it out.

3. You might have been dismayed to find that the upwardly mobile back in the city were wearing white because they wanted you and everyone else to believe that they sip iced drinks on verandas too. Well, okay, fine for them. So let's slip in the arbitrary rule that it all comes to a screeching halt on Labor Day. Anyone wearing white past that date is obviously not a real veranda-sitting-iced drink-sipping - Panama hat-wearing person.

Now, that might sound kind of evil, but think about the up side to this rule:

1. Your veranda-sitting-iced drink-sipping - Panama hat-wearing person is relieved to shed the white stuff because golly, he's sure sick of white.

2. Old Flo says, "Thank you Jesus for Labor Day! I'm all scrubbed down to the bones."

3. And the upwardly mobile poor slobs back in the city are exhausted with keeping the soot and mud and horse stuff off of this high maintenance cursed color. It's time to get back to normal.

But now, much to the dismay of both the Eye Rollers and Fashion Police, we have the resulting dilemmas:

1. May one wear those crisp white trousers next weekend to the block party even though it is September 7, a date which is clearly long after labor day?

2. Might one wear white pumps to the art show on September 21?

3. And would one make an embarrassing spectacle of herself if she wore a linen skirt to a September 28th wedding?

Well, here are the answers:

1. Yes, wear the white trousers or dress or skirt well into September. Even here in Wisconsin it is still warm enough to not require the warming properties of darker colors. (Yes, that is slightly tongue-in-cheek.)

True, white does symbolize warm weather, although in the North Woods of Wisconsin where the temperature can get past 85 degrees (or so I'm told) very few people go around in white. It's just not practical and might explain why many Upper Midwesterners do not fall into either of the categories "Eye Roller" or "Fashion Police." They are just a little more concerned about how good the food will taste and if the mosquitoes are swarming.

Once the weather cools off significantly, one might wish to store away those white trousers because, well, mud, road salt, and dismal winter gray don't really work well with white hemlines. White tops and coats get the green light because it's just so much nicer to look at than black or gray when you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

2. No, don't wear white pumps on September 21 - or any other day unless you are a bride or you live in Singapore. Off-white, two tone, or white anything else is okay.

But here's an idea for a modern Labor Day rule: Just as your pedicure is aging not so gracefully, store the sandals away. Please.

3. Finally, yes, wear linen into September but not too far into it. It is a truly light-weight fabric that will not keep you warm when it cools off significantly.

And now, in honor of all those I will anger with this blog, I post THIS.






Comments (1)

1. Arline Hernandez said on 9/10/13 - 08:15AM
Thanks, Mary, I did hear about that rule on TV, so the explanation is very welcome. A bit of history usually puts everything in perspective. Funny how our customs evolve through the years. On a related topic, I also believe church attire has its own protocol and guidelines everyone must accept and respect, even tourists. Regards from the Philippines!

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