According to traditional fashion rules, following this coming Monday, one must pack up their white jeans and linens, put them in storage, and keep them dormant for roughly eight months until summer. The unofficial dictum of retiring one’s white clothing and accessories after Labor Day is possibly the most notable and long-standing style customs that has ever existed. For instance, John Waters’ 1994 black comedy Serial Mom famously witnessed Kathleen Turner’s decorum-obsessed serial-killer persona murder a woman for sporting white shoes after the September holiday. But, why do we feel the need to relegate all of our lightly-colored garments and accessories to the back of our closets during the autumn and winter months? More specifically, where did this enduring rule come from? And are we better-off doing away with it?
A 2009 article from Time presents several historical theories in an attempt to determine when and how the rule originated. The first and most common explanation is purely practical. Long before the days of air conditioning, wearing white in the summer was simply a way to stay cool. And, since it was considered inappropriate to don skin-bearing garments, they had to rely on lighter, less heat-attracting clothing.
Other historians speculate that the origin of this fashion norm was symbolic. In the early 20th century, Americans wealthy enough to escape the city for the summer to warmer climates almost exclusively sported white in their travels. Lightly-colored summer clothing provided a nice contrast to the drabber, darker garments that they wore in their urban environment. Then, when summer unofficially ended on the first Monday of September, these well-to-do travelers would return to the city from their adventures, put their warm-weather garments into storage, and resume wearing their darker-colored clothing for the colder months.
Finally, in the 1950s, the custom became a set rule. As the middle class expanded, the ban of whites during the autumn and winter provided old money elites with a means to weed out and discriminate against the upwardly mobile. Simply put, those who didn’t adhere to it could be easily identified as outsiders. The aspirants eventually uncovered this secret rule, and began following it in order to gain entry into the highest echelons of society. Thus, this dictum became engrained in our fashion customs and has persisted into the present-day.
However, in recent years, celebrities and style icons alike have been chipping away at this stuffy rule one fabulous, white winter outfit at a time. For example, Jennifer Lawrence gave us one of the most legendary red carpet looks of all time when she donned a white drop-waist Dior Haute Couture gown at the 2013 Oscars, which were held in February that year.
Likewise, in at the 2018 Grammys, Cardi B stunned in an angelic white, structured dress by the Beirut-based label Ashi Studio.
Celebs have even been challenging the post-Labor Day moratorium of white off of the red carpet. Beloved supermodel and style icon in-the-making Bella Hadid has made it blatantly clear that she has no intention of following the rule. This can be seen in several of her Instagram posts, which feature her wearing white jeans year-round. There is probably no better example of this than a post from December 2020, in which Bella is photographed doing snow angels in a pair of white, high-waist Chrome Hearts jeans, with several yellow patches reading “Sex” stitched onto the legs.
Perhaps the biggest culprit in ignoring this rule is none other than the fearless style, music, and makeup icon, Rihanna. On countless occasions, Rihanna has cast fashion tradition aside and donned head-to-toe white looks in the forbidden months. For example, in October 2017, at JFK airport in New York, she stepped out in white Palace sweats and white Off-White boots. Then, in October 2019, she was photographed in yet another all-white outfit while arriving to a Fabergé event in London, which featured a white pullover by The Frankie Shop, leather skirt by Fenty, lace-up pumps, sunglasses, and croc clutch.
Needless to say, these celebrities and style mavens are constantly proving that such restrictive and antiquated mandates are irrelevant in the present fashion landscape. Instead, by disregarding previously established norms like not wearing white after Labor Day, they are exposing their outdated nature and classist origins. Simply put, they are demonstrating that rules and regulations have no place in the world of fashion, as they only serve to hinder and disrupt its creative character.
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createdAt:Tue, 31 Aug 2021 21:22:20 +0000
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