Why We Don’t Wear White on Labor Day

By: Malena Esposito

You know the rule – “don’t wear white after Labor Day!” But why? I mean, it makes sense to wear lighter colors during the summer, but why make a huge deal out of it? Come on, how many times have you heard about this strange American admittance? Surely there ought to be a reason. Turns out, there is, and it dates all the way back to the over a hundred years ago.

As reforms were made to women’s rights during in the twentieth century, the gap between the rich and the penniless also increased. This disparity became wider and wider, especially in terms of clothing. With the growth of industrial businesses, more families because fabulously wealthy, though it was hard to tell who had been in the game for generations and who had just stepped up to the plate. Wives of authoritative, long-established, high society millionaires wanted to distinguish between the two, and subsequently formed a list of rules to abide by. Essentially, it wouldn’t matter if you bought a dress that was worth more than Eleanor Roosevelt herself if it wasn’t the right length.

The “no white after Labor Day” rule was initiated in the early 1900s, when following trends and seasonal clothing rules dictated how society treated you. From Memorial Day to Labor Day were exclusively you were allowed to wear white simply because of the heat. During this time period, developments of air conditioning and washing machines were in their infancies, and that meant pit stains. If you wore white, it meant that you had enough money to replace the white article of clothing in case it got ruined by the hot weather.

And while the fashion standards of the 20th century may not be as strict as today, many still keep it in mind. So the next time you hear someone complain about not wearing white after Labor Day, tell them they can thank snobby millionaires from a hundred years ago.


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