Sunday, September 2, 2012

Day Two Hundred Forty Six 2012

I’ve heard it all my life—don’t wear white after Labor Day (especially dress shoes) (and not before Easter). So today I will enjoy lounging around in my comfy white capris while it’s still acceptable to do so, although I doubt in my neck of the woods there will be any fashion police to arrest me if I decide to wear them again on Tuesday. And maybe I just will. I found the little essay below on this subject because I never really knew why we honor this silly dress code, so I thought I’d share it with you, in case you were wondering……
Wearing white in the summer makes sense. Desert peoples have known for thousands of years that white clothing seems to keep you a little bit cooler than other colors. But wearing white only during the summer? While no one is completely sure exactly when or why this fashion rule came into effect, our best guess is that it had to do with snobbery in the late 1800s.

The wives of the super-rich ruled high society with an iron fist after the Civil War. As more and more people became millionaires, though, it was difficult to tell the difference between old money, respectable families, and those who only had vulgar new money. By the 1880s, in order to tell who was acceptable and who wasn’t, the women who were already “in” felt it necessary to create dozens of fashion rules that everyone in the know had to follow. That way, if a woman showed up at the opera in a dress that cost more than most Americans made in a year, but it had the wrong sleeve length, other women would know not to give her the time of day.

Not wearing white outside the summer months was another one of these silly rules. White was for weddings and resort wear, not dinner parties in the fall. Of course it could get extremely hot in September, and wearing white might make the most sense, but if you wanted to be appropriately attired you just did not do it. Once Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, society adopted it as the natural endpoint for summer fashion.

Not everyone followed this rule. Even some socialites continued to buck the trend, most famously Coco Chanel, who wore white year-round. But even though the rule was originally enforced by only a few hundred women, over the decades it trickled down to everyone else. By the 1950s, women’s magazines made it clear to middle class America: white clothing came out on Memorial Day and went away on Labor Day.

These days the fashion world is much more relaxed about what colors to wear and when, but every year you will still hear people say that white after Labor Day is unacceptable, all thanks to some snobby millionaires over 100 years ago.

Read the full text here:
--brought to you by mental_floss!


Jane said...

Thank you, snobby rich ladies! I always feel awkward if I want to wear white after Labor Day. It's kind of silly, isn't it? :)

kayranft said...

It is silly. If there's going to be a rule about it, then at least let the first day of fall be the last day to wear white. Makes more sense to me.

Ann S. said...

Interesting! I always had a thing about wearing white after Labor Day too, but not anymore.