The rule is outdated and, well, classist.
Plenty of fashion “rules” have circulated over the years — most of which don't hold any merit. Fashion should be fun and expressive, not restrictive and forbidding. Thankfully, as the years have gone by, we're starting to question some of these rules, and of course, break them.
So if you're wondering, “Why can’t you wear white after Labor Day?” The simple answer is, of course, you can. But how did this line become so commonly repeated in the first place? Ahead, we break down the rule's origins, and share outfits that show how the color works in every season.
Where Did the Rule of Not Wearing White After Labor Day Originate?
According to The Farmer’s Almanac, wearing white after Labor Day was less of a fashion faux pas and more of a symbol of a person’s social class. See, back in the early 1900s — before air conditioning was a common utility (the first modern air conditioning system wasn’t invented until 1902) — fashion came second to functionality. As a result, bright colors, like white, and lighter fabrics were worn in the summer, while darker hues and heavier fabrics were exclusive to fall and winter. Except if you were wealthy.
Labor Day marked the unofficial end of summer, but upper-class families often took vacations after Labor Day to extend the season. Those who stayed in the city to work would transition to darker colors. In other words, wearing white after Labor Day was a sign that you could afford to do so. Another common theory is that those in the working class wore darker colors to camouflage dirt from their workdays — something the wealthy were unconcerned with.
Today, however, the rule became more synonymous with the concept that white was, in fact, a summer color. Plus, there are still the elements to consider: Fashion stylist Naina Singla tells InStyle that things like fallen leaves, mud, and snow make it “difficult to keep the color white clean.” But luckily, laundry formulas have come a long way in the last century, too.
Meet Our Expert
Naina Singla is a fashion expert and stylist based in Washington, DC.
Do People Still Avoid Wearing White After Labor Day?
The idea that you can’t wear white after Labor Day is taken far less seriously than it once was. Now, Singla says if a person doesn’t wear white after Labor Day, “the decision is typically motivated by someone's personal and individual style.” Put another way: If you don’t want to wear white after Labor Day, don’t — but not because you feel like you shouldn’t or can’t.
6 Ways to Wear White After Labor Day
If you tend to steer clear of white in fall and winter for no reason other than you simply don’t know how to go about styling the color among all of the moody hues hanging in your closet, keep reading. Ahead, Singla breaks down six ways to wear white after Labor Day, because contrary to popular belief, it’s absolutely appropriate to rock the color year-round.
Try Classic Black and White
Wearing white and black can feel more practical, and the color pairing is one of Singla's favorites. “It's a timeless clean and minimalistic look to wear crisp whites with black accessories,” she says. To make it more fitting for sweater weather, the stylist recommends reaching for a white cashmere knit or turtleneck sweater and pairing the cozy top with black jeans, black kitten mules, and black sunglasses.
Complement White with Accessories in Neutral Tones
If white’s vibrance is what deters you from wearing it in the fall and winter, Singla says an easy way to tone it down is by integrating earth tones into your ensemble. “One way to style this color blend would be to wear a white midi knit dress with a camel-colored long trend overtop, a pair of dark brown boots, and a brown top-handle satchel,” Singla instructs. “This approach adds a pop of color and depth to your outfit while keeping it seasonally appropriate.”
Not only can you wear white after Labor Day, you can wear an outfit comprised of all white. For a more monochromatic look, Singla says that the key is to be bold and go all-white-everything in fall-ready separates. “To do this, pair a white midi skirt with an oversized cozy sweater and boots,” the stylist recommends. “This is a great way to vary textures and interest to your look, while a two-piece suit would be a great go-to option for a chic power look at work.”
Play with Different Shades
If being too matchy-matchy isn’t your style, Singla recommends layering different shades of white, off-white, and ivory for added dimension. The look pictured above is a great example, or try Singla's suggestion of “a white satin dress with an off-white blazer, and white heels." The final look will be “sophisticated and elegant," according to the stylist.
Opt for White Accessories
Test the waters of wearing white into the fall by integrating the shade into your wardrobe through your accessories collection. “You don't need to save your white slouchy circular bag for summer,” Singla assures us. “Instead, pair it up with darker hues for a more of a statement and contrast.”
Be Mindful of Textures and Fabrics
When choosing white pieces for fall and winter dressing, Singla says to keep an eye out for clothing in heavier textures, such as cable knit sweaters and tweed blazers, white denim, and cozy fabrics like wool and cashmere. “These not only add warmth but also provide a cozy aesthetic," she says.
The Bottom Line
In 2023, there's no reason not to wear white any time of year. Just stick to the styles and silhouettes you love — and remember to always keep a good stain remover on hand.
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Read the original article on InStyle.