Labor Day was early this year, falling on September 2nd. On that day, no one in Savannah, Georgia, where I live, was talking about the usual holiday celebrations like barbeques and picnics. The topic of the day was Hurricane Dorian. The question of the day was “Are you going to evacuate?” Now that Dorian is history and has passed safely off the coast of Georgia, mercifully sparing those of us in the Coastal Empire, the question of the day has become “Can I wear white after Labor Day?
The simple answer to that query is “Yes, you can.” In spite of what your mother and grandmother told you, it is perfectly acceptable to do so in 2019. Like so many other aspects of modern manners, the rules have changed. There is no need to rush to your closet and put away all things white until Memorial Day.
The old rule was never white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. So where did that directive originate? Who said we couldn’t show up wearing white after Labor Day? The answer seems to be shrouded in mystery.
Before you let those who are adamant about the rule intimidate you, you should learn why “don’t wear white after Labor Day” became one of the fashion commandments in the first place—and why it might no longer make sense to follow the rule. It had to do with the rich and famous or, at least, the wealthy urbanites of the Northeast in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s who abandoned their homes in the city and took to the comfort of their summer dwellings. At that time white signified a casual and cooler life. After Labor Day the elites returned to the city and donned their darker more business-like attire, signifying that summer was over and it was time to get back to work.
A second and more practical reason for wearing white in the summer months is that it is cooler. It has nothing to do with affluence or class. In the era before air conditioning, people would wear white or light-colored clothing to prevent heat stroke. Sounds reasonable to me and still works.
Here are a few incentives, or maybe permissions, for wearing white after Labor Day.
- White is a great neutral. It gives you countless outfit opportunities since it goes with practically everything.
- It makes for an easier transition to the fall season if you don’t have to put up all of your summer pieces.
- White is a classic in the fashion world. Coco Chanel is said to have worn white all year. You might say that it was part of her signature.
- No one is actually going to judge you or we certainly hope not. Who knows, you might even inspire someone else.
Aren’t we just beyond the whole idea that there are hard and fast rules that you are not allowed to break even when it comes to etiquette and manners? Common sense, good judgment and universal courtesy should be your guide. Plus, September in the South is really hot, and why should white jeans be allowed on August 31 but not allowed on September 1st? We’re smarter than that.
Finally consider this—in the South, the season doesn’t actually change after Labor Day. It simply becomes summer with pumpkins.
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com. Find out how her presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.