Besides being a holiday held to celebrate the lives of working people, Labor Day is also deemed as the (unofficial) end of summer—and the halt to wearing white clothing, at least until May Day. At some point, we’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t wear white after Labor Day.” This year, instead of accepting this fashion decree as is, we’ve decided to delve deeper into the roots of its history. As it turns out, no one’s entirely sure how the color white was originally banned from fall and winter wardrobes, but there are plenty of speculations.
One popular theory dates back to the early 1900s. Many progressive changes were occurring for American women, like the election of the first woman to Congress and the passing of the 19th amendment. Despite these advances, social acceptance for wealthy women was based very much on what you wore—and when you wore it. If you were “on-trend,” you only wore white during the warmer months, since you could probably afford to wear leisurely lightweight clothing—and afford to buy new clothes if you sweat through them. By the 1950s, women’s magazines started making this “no white after Labor Day” ordinance a little more public, basically making the proclamation official. Wearing white only between Memorial Day and Labor Day now signified being part of some kind of wealthy club.
Another theory? White is harder to keep clean in the fall and winter. This theory stems from the fact that most fashion designers resided in the north, specifically New York City, where all four seasons affect wardrobe choices. And since designers reigned in the fashion world, what they said went (even if you lived in a hot climate year-round, apparently). (Find out the 51 fashion secrets stylists won’t tell you for free.)
There were always trend-breakers, though. The most famous one being Coco Chanel, who insisted on sporting her bright, white outfits year-round. Feeling rebellious? Here are some other fashion rules you should totally feel free to break. Then, check out these 15 surprising facts about Labor Day.