Do Something Radical: Wear White After Labor Day

Dress: Urban Outfitters; Clutch: vintage; Shoes: Mix No. 6

Dress: Urban Outfitters; Clutch: vintage; Shoes: Mix No. 6

Wearing white after Labor Day isn't a sign of surrender; it's resistance to classist ideals and outdated rules. 

We live in some pretty radical times: open protests against a presidential administration, the pervasive threat of nuclear war, the whole "Postmates" concept...what a time to be alive, right?

And yet today's privileges still cannot set us free from the grips of a post Civil War-era fashion decree: one cannot wear white after Labor Day.

That's right. In the rise of the post-Reconstruction American economy of the 1880s, women in high society decided to play Fashion Police (RIP to my homegirl Joan Rivers) and impose several fashion-related rules in order to distinguish old money from the nouveau riche. This included the prohibition of wearing white during fall, winter, and early spring (before Memorial Day and after Labor Day). Why? One word: classism. If the lower classes were acquiring the means to dress in the finest duds, the elite had to stay one step ahead with ever-changing rules.

So yeah, there's really zero basis for this ridiculous claim.

But try telling that to my mom. A Civil War of our own nearly breaks out every time I mention the idea of wearing white after Labor Day. I'll never forget what it was like growing up with a mother and her friends who obeyed this rule religiously; at least one group text or phone call occurred each year on September 1 that included the phrase "Don't forget! It's the last weekend to wear white!" I'm pretty sure I grew up thinking public flogging or Godly smiting would befall those who broke this sacred sartorial canon.

Alas, in my research for this piece, I found no such evidence in fashion history. At least, nothing as Old Testament-y as I had previously imagined: rule-breakers were mostly met with a side-eye and a Southern bless her heart (but let's be real, that's still pretty brutal.)

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Breaking the rules even briefly became the norm in the early twentieth century. As women began trading in their petticoats for pants, Coco Chanel—one of fashion's most iconoclastic figures—was seen wearing white year-round.

In more recent years, high fashion houses such as Dior and Alexander Wang began bucking tradition and debuting a few all-white looks in their AW collections. Even Selena Gomez and Victoria Beckham have pulled off the ensemble. But the idea of white after Labor Day has never fully been embraced by the broader fashion community.

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So in a time when everyone has a cause worth fighting for (and relentless emails from Change.org in their spam folders), I say we add one more to the list: wearing white whenever we want. If you got an INCREDIBLE little white dress on sale this weekend, wear it! If you worked hard to lose weight and you just now fit into those white jeans, shimmy on into them! Be the change you wish to see in the world, right? (I'm not a big Gandhi fan but that dude could rock some white clothing any time of the year.)

When it comes to wearing white after Labor Day, I'll never be as chic as Olivia Pope or as laid back as an Eileen Fisher model. But I promise that I will no longer stand in the way of wearing what I want; after all, making bold choices is what My Pink Docs is all about! 

I just have to remember the (white) golden rule: do not eat anything that you would not want to possibly see spilled on your white pants.

So, what do you say? Are you standing in the way of what you really want? Are you ready to rock the boat and rock some white after Labor Day? Let me know what you think in the comments below! 

MPD