White After Labor Day – Yea or Nay

September 6, 2018
white after labor day yea or nay

Labor Day has come and gone, and now all I’m seeing on social media is the “no white after Labor Day” discussion.  Personally, I think your stance on the subject is purely a personal one.  Growing up it was a guideline and I realize it may be an outdated norm today. Yet, I still embrace it.

Its history is rooted in some high society elitist old money ideology.  After the Civil War, the wives of the uber wealthy set the fashion rules more or less to be able to tell old moneyed people from new money. They came up with the directive not to wear white after Labor Day. If one was wearing white at an event after Labor Day, it was a tell-tale sign they weren’t of the right class. Silly as it seems, let’s just say the mean girls set the rules and to be accepted one had to follow their rules.  Sounds a bit like high school, doesn’t it?

Somewhere along the 1950’s mass produced fashion mags convinced the middle class to take out their whites at Memorial Day and put them away at Labor Day. Today, most people have opted to abandon the idea, especially here in Florida where summer temperatures linger until Halloween.

Growing up my summers were spent in an old moneyed enclave of Ocean Point on the coast of Maine. It was a neighborhood of summer cottages passed down from one generation to the next. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the summer community was bustling with tennis matches, lobster boils, boating and summer cocktail parties.  Most of the people I hung out with were upper middle class prep schoolers home for the summer.  To say the least, these people summered.  I wasn’t exactly one of them, but was drawn to the lifestyle and preppy fashion sense.  Polos, chinos, boat shoes and Tretorns were staples, with whites only donned for summer and especially for the club tennis tournament.

For me, it’s tradition. It reminds me a bit of my upbringing and perhaps my longing at the time to belong to something that wasn’t solidly middle class.  Unlike the mean girls, I don’t judge if one has abandoned the rule. As I said, it’s a personal choice.

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