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Wearing White After Labor Day: Acceptable or Punishable?


If there’s one thing my Mom drilled into my head other than “sit up straight” and “chew with your mouth shut” it’s that I should never, ever wear white after Labor Day.

And I’ll tell you what- even though I’m a grown adult and even though the world tells me that it’s completely okay to wear white after Labor Day, I’m scared of breaking my Mom’s rule.  Doesn’t matter that I’m in my 30’s.  When Mom makes a rule, you obey. At least that’s how it goes in my house.

As the years go by, a lot of Mom’s rules have changed and she’s started to go lax on a few things, but the no white after Labor Day is one she won’t budge on. I’m feeling a little adventurous, so maybe I might dip my toe in the water and see if it burns.  I might actually wear white on Tuesday when I stop by my Mom’s house and see how much trouble I get into.

There are a lot of things I didn’t understand about Mom’s rules (I know she didn’t make this rule, but she made it a rule in my house) and the answer to my “why?” was always “because I’m the Mom, that’s why.”  Not good enough for me anymore.  Not knowing why I can’t wear white after Labor Day and not understanding how it came about has been eating at me, so I decided to find out.

For thousands of years people who live in the desert have been smart enough to wear white as a way to cool down. And even here, back in the days before air conditioning, people wore white to stay cool. Once the weather cooled off, the white colored clothing was put away and heavier, darker colors were brought out.

But while that seems like the most logical reason to wear white, I uncovered a bit of snobbery that appears to have really been the driving influence behind not wearing white after Labor Day. You see, in the 1800’s when women had nothing better to do than lounge all day and maybe practice piano or maybe go “calling” they’d sit around and make up ridiculous rules so that society would know who was and who wasn’t wealthy.

After the civil war, more and more people became millionaires and it was difficult for society to tell the difference between which people came from old money and which came from new.  So by the 1880’s it appears that a bunch of ladies whose corsets were tied a little too tight sat down and made up a bunch of completely ridiculous rules that everyone who was anyone had to follow.  One of those rules was not wearing white outside of the summer months. The ladies decided that wearing white should be allowed at weddings and at resorts. Wait, what’s this about resorts?

It used to be that only rich people wore white and they only wore it during the summer months as their “uniform,” if you will. The rich would escape from the oppression of the city to the luxury of resorts. Poor people couldn’t afford to go to resorts, so they sulked around in dark clothes. God forbid a poor person don white clothing and act like they were rich and at a resort.  Gasp!

This stupid rule of not wearing white after Labor Day started with this little group of snobbish women, but somehow managed to trickle down through the years so that by the 1950’s, it was pretty much a general rule.

So there you have it.  Makes you want to be a rebel and wear white after Labor Day, doesn’t it?  Yeah, me too.

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