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Why Can't You Wear White After Labor Day? Here's the Scoop

Women in white tees and blue jeans standing against a white background
Bright colors and white clothes are common during summer months, but Labor Day marks the unofficial end of the lighter shades as fashionable folks shift to earth tones and darker hues. Why is that? Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

In the John Waters movie "Serial Mom," a murderous mom (Kathleen Turner) attacks a woman for wearing white at the wrong time of year.

"You can't wear white shoes after Labor Day," Beverly, aka Serial Mom, says.

"That's not true anymore," the woman responds.

"Yes, it is. Didn't your mother ever tell you?" Mom says before striking the woman. "Now you know."

"No, please," the woman pleads, as blood trickles down her forehead. "Fashion has changed."

But it's no use. Mom claims her next victim.

So why can't you wear white after Labor Day? Where did the rule originate? Read on to learn how it became a fashion faux pas to wear white year-round and whether the rule is still relevant today.

Origins of the 'No White After Labor Day' Rule

There is more than one theory about how this fashion don't started.

It may have originated for practical reasons. With summer bringing about hot weather, people might have gravitated toward lighter fabrics, like breathable white linen suits, to stay cool. Once the seasons changed and temperatures dropped, they might have opted to wear heavier fabrics in darker hues.

Relatedly, New York fashion editors who set the fashion rules might have played a role in discouraging people from wearing white after the federal holiday. They might have worn white clothes during summers to keep cool, but as the weather shifted, they went for darker colors that wouldn't get dirty as easily.

Projecting Status

But Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, argues that the rule, as with many other fashion rules, likely didn't derive out of functionality. "Very rarely is there actually a functional reason for a fashion rule,” Steele tells Time.

Instead, some experts say that the rule started because wealthy families stopped wearing white after Labor Day, aka the end of the summer holiday, to distinguish themselves from the working class.

“There used to be a much clearer sense of reentry,” Steele says. “You’re back in the city, back at school, back doing whatever you’re doing in the fall — and so you have a new wardrobe.”

Should I Wear White Clothing After Labor Day?

This is absolutely up to you. While some find the rule outdated, others prefer to wear white, off-white and other neutral tones during the summer.

If you want to wear a fully white ensemble in the middle of winter, that's your prerogative. Just don't let Serial Mom catch you in those white sneakers after early September.

Original article: Why Can't You Wear White After Labor Day? Here's the Scoop

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