Monday, Sep. 05, 2011

The Rule 'No White After Labor Day' Has Historical Roots

One of the most time-honored fashion traditions is to retire your white clothes after Labor Day. Historians think this maxim stems from class divisions at the turn of the century when lightweight clothes were a symbol of the leisure classes. Back then, Labor Day marked the time the affluent returned from vacation, packed away the summer clothes and went back to school and work. While there's a practical reason for the rule — white clothes dirty easily thus making them ill-suited for heavy autumn rains and winter slush — those who carried the rule through the decades had a less than practical reason for doing so. Indeed, as the years went by, traditionalists and nouveau riche alike continued to eschew winter whites throughout the 20th century in order to remain acceptable in high society. But where there's a rule, there is always a rule breaker: Coco Chanel flouted the custom as early as the 1920s, and today many people have moved toward a seasonless wardrobe, wearing white in all seasons — tradition be damned.