The History Behind the 'No White After Labor Day' Rule

And why you shouldn't follow it anymore.

I've been living in light-colored sundresses and rompers all summer long, but with Labor Day approaching, I've been thinking about packing away my white attire. I've always heard that you should not wear white after Labor Day but I've never heard a convincing explanation for the rule. So ahead of the late summer holiday, I did some digging—and decided my white clothes and shoes will be staying in my closet year-round.

person in white dress and shoes walking on wooden dock near ocean
Peera_Sathawirawong/Getty Images

The tradition began back in the 1800s, and its origins are a little cringe-worthy. As Marie Claire reports, the rule was invented in the nineteenth century by an elite group as a way to use fashion to separate those with money from those without. When the summer months were over, affluent residents would leave the city for warmer vacation spots. Wearing white represented that you could afford to get out of the city and vacation elsewhere when summer ended.

Since Labor Day typically represents the end of summer, a 'rule' was established that you shouldn't wear white after Labor Day if you didn't have the money to take fall and winter vacations.

It was also used as a way to identify those who needed to work and those who didn't. Those who didn't have to work could wear white because it wouldn't get dirty, while those working would wear dark clothing to hide the dirt they'd pick up working or walking through the city.

So while you may have grown up hearing about this outdated tradition, there's really no reason you shouldn't wear whatever you please before and after Labor Day.

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