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Football games and tailgating are in full swing, but it’s still in the 90s in Houston, which means I wrestle with a dilemma: is it okay to wear white after Labor Day? Growing up, the mantra “don’t wear white after Labor Day or before Easter” was as influential on my wardrobe choices as The Preppy Handbook.
After Labor Day, my white shoes, pants, skirts, and dresses were relegated to the deepest recesses of the closet until the morning after the Easter Bunny hid the eggs. Even now, despite the blessings of fashion designers and magazine editors, it feels wrong to wear white in September.
How did “No White After Labor Day” become a fashion rule we are loathe to break? One explanation is that white clothing is hard to keep clean, and only wealthy people could afford to wear it in the early 1900s. Picture New Yorkers, summering in The Hamptons, playing croquet in their lawn-whites and enjoying red-white-and-blue sailing parties – white was the summer uniform of the leisure class. When everyone went back to the city after Labor Day, they put away their summer clothes for more formal attire.
Another explanation is that white clothes are cooler and easier to wear, and in the days before air conditioning, people dressed for comfort, returning to warmer clothes in the fall when the temperature cooled. Whatever the reasons, it is now okay to wear white anywhere, anytime!
While Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, temperatures remain warm in September and even October for much of the country. If you live in a warm climate like south Texas, Florida, or southern California, you can wear your summer whites year round. If you live in a colder climate like New England or the Pacific Northwest, you can transition your whites into fall with a few simple changes:
- Wear white pants, dresses, and tops in year-round fabrics like cotton and denim. A crisp, white button-down shirt looks great with blue, black, or colored jeans.
- Pair white jeans with with a fall print like plaid or a cashmere sweater.
- Off-white pants, tops, and jackets make your outfit look more like fall or winter than pure white.
- Introduce fall colors to a simple white jeans and t-shirt outfit through accessories like bags, jewelry, and scarves.
- Transition a white dress by layering a sweater or jacket over it.
Here are six ideas for how to wear white after Labor Day:
1. Pair distressed white jeans with a plaid button-down shirt; add some brown booties for a classic fall look.
2. Save the pure-white look for summer and bring out winter whites – ivory, cream, and vanilla – instead.
3. Get cozy in a white sweater and blue skinny jeans.
4. Wear white booties with your white jeans for a sleek look.
5. Pair white jeans with a soft neutral sweater like blush, camel, or grey.
6. You can even wear a white dress after Labor Day – just add a cardigan, jacket, or vest.
What do you think of the “no white after Labor Day” rule? Do you adhere to the tradition, or are you a rule breaker? Whatever your choice, I hope you enjoy the long weekend!