A Controversial Fashion Trend: White After Labor Day

Written by Maxine An

The color white has made a great impact on fashion for the past century. Countless celebrities have been seen rocking all-white ensembles for award shows or concert performances. Everyday, more and more fashion magazines write articles that continuously state the best ways you can wear white or what the best white outfits are for every occasion. For most people, the color white is a symbol of purity and elegance, as seen with wedding dresses and suits. There are so many ways that the color white can be interpreted and there is an important one that needs to be explained. 

“No white after Labor Day” has been an infamous saying for a long time.  The prominence behind this saying stirs up many questions regarding its history and how this rule is still present in our society today. Many of us probably do not know where this saying comes from and never took the time to find out. Now is the time to find out.

According to a Time article, in the early to mid-20th century, wearing white was a simple solution to staying cool during the hot summer days. Back when air-conditioning was not yet a luxury and T-shirts and shorts were simply not considered part of fashion, the color white helped deflect the beating sun rays and consequently kept a person cool in the midst of a hot day. Business Insider suggested that during the time periods when showing skin was considered taboo, both women and men had to depend on “lighter, less heat-absorbing clothing.” 

Another reason behind this edict was a way to differ between socio-economic classes. Business Insider claimed that those wearing white were able to separate and identify themselves as coming from an upper-class family when compared with working-class families. Upper-class individuals wanted to stand out from others and by wearing white, they were able to give themselves a new social identity. White, however, is considered an elegant and pure color today. Even restaurants who use white tablecloths and handkerchiefs create a sense of sophistication and power within the individuals in that environment. 

However, as the weather cooled down and summer became autumn, wearing white was no longer a fashion trend. According to a Time article, Labor Day marks the last day of summer, when school or work starts the next day for children, teens and adults, respectively, in the new season of autumn. Hues of red, orange and brown started to become popular in fashion to blend in with nature’s changing foliage. White-colored clothing during the autumn days contradicted with the coolness of the weather. 

While this rule may be important to some people because of its historical context, the fashion world today has viewed white as a stylish color of any season. In fact, white may become the new black. Harper’s Bazaar describes the elegance of white coats, shoes and pants during the winter season as “Winter White.” Now more than ever, it is chicer to dress in white ensembles in the midst of winter, leaving the “no white after Labor Day” rule in the shadows. Sweaters, boots and even jeans mark some of the best ways to make white look graceful in the midst of autumn, winter, spring, or summer. Whatever the occasion, white gives off confidence.

I personally love the color white. Years ago, I disliked white because of the imperfections they can show, and I always preferred darker colors since they can hide what I don’t want others to see. However, in recent years, I have found myself purchasing more and more white-colored clothing, shoes and accessories. Every time I look in the mirror with my white denim jacket and white Puma sneakers on, I feel stunning because of the way the color contrasts with the rest of my outfit. White sneakers are definitely my weakness since they become a statement piece once paired with darker-colored outfits. Even my prom dress was floral white and when I look back at that moment, I realized how much my fashion choices have evolved.

Growing up in the 21st century, I think that white has made its way back as a fashion trend because we live in a society where it’s common to listen to the people at the top, such as celebrities. Once they start wearing white after Labor Day or break other big rules, it becomes okay for the rest of us to follow that trend as well.  Although white was once considered “prohibited,” it has been brought back as a symbol of pose and finesse through the aid of celebrity influence. The world today changes with the amount of technology we are all used to and because of that, I believe that the transformation within fashion is a big part of why certain colors or styles come back and others stay hidden.

Hearing the old adage of “no white after Labor Day” today shows how far this historical slogan has taken root. Even though very few people follow this trend today, it makes us take a moment to reflect on the summer days when white-colored clothing was the solution to hot sunny days. Fashion, in the 21st century, is about expressing individuality and personality and an old saying especially cannot change that expression. The color white is an amazing one to have in your closet as it gives confidence to anyone who wears it. More importantly, wearing the color white during all times of the year will always be fashion forward, whether or not we decide to follow that old rule.

The Avenue Magazine