Dear Shopping Savage,
I have a pretty straightforward question: why are there so many conflicting opinions on whether you can wear white clothing and shoes after Labor Day? Can you explain to me why I can or can't?
Labor Day Great White Debate
According to fashion etiquette, white clothing, shoes and accessories should only be worn between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The origin of the rule was based on the class system of the early 1900's. As more families improved their financial standing in the country, they also wanted to improve their social standing. Lacking the social graces of families who had inherited wealth for generations, the nouveau riche, as they were called, turned to these established families for advice.
Many of these wealthy families lived in major northern cities and would retreat to summer homes during the warm months. Today, what they considered resort wear would be more or less something we'd envision from the Victorian era. As it was learned, white clothing deflected heat and therefore became a summer wardrobe staple. Labor Day came to be seen as the last day of summer and this is when most families would head back to the hustle and bustle of the city, leaving their delicate whites in their summer homes until they returned around Memorial Day. After sharing this practice with their new money doppelgangers, word quickly spread amongst the growing middle class.
This ideology quickly became a steadfast rule of fashion etiquette amongst the 'haves' while the 'have not's', who could not afford the luxury of summer homes and separate wardrobes, were made out to be of a lower class. However, once the country entered the '50s era, many things began to change: women's liberation, the civil right's movement and several wars not only reshaped our countries views, but also the way we dressed.
Ever since then, this debate has raged on. You have those who believe in upholding the rules of fashion however they may have come to be, and then you have those who are hellbent on bending them. Personally, I like reserving white clothing and accessories for summer just because it gives me something to look forward to. Regionally, I could understand how some would want to be excused from the rule but as far as I'm concerned, come hell or hellish temperatures, I still adhere to the old fashion rule. Ultimately, its a personal choice and whether you decide to break with tradition or keep it alive is completely up to you.
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