Why You Can Totally Wear White After Labor Day

In fact, white can be a major part of your winter wardrobe! Get the details on why (and how) to wear white after Labor Day.

Updated August 16, 2023
Woman wearing white sweater

The "no white after Labor Day" fashion rule may be well known, but is it really all that bad to wear your favorite white jeans in late September? Aren't fashion rules made to be broken? This one definitely is.

The origins of this fashion faux pas are rooted in a very different time, when clothing was more formal in most situations and everyone knew that there were strict guidelines regarding what to wear. Wearing white after Labor Day at that time could make you the talk of the town, and not in a good way. Today, it's totally fine.

How the Rule Got Started

In the early 1900s, the rule about only wearing white between Memorial Day and Labor Day was started according to the vacationing schedule of the elite. This was a time when there was a dress code for basically everything (think "Downton Abbey" and how they dressed for dinner on the show).

1900s Ladies wearing white

In the early part of the 20th century, anyone who could afford it would leave their homes behind and spend months at the sea or in the mountains. There, they had a completely different type of wardrobe, including the light, bright white pieces most associated with the summer months. When those fun-loving summer days were over, the white clothes were packed away. People went back to their regular lives, having escaped the oppressive heat between the end of May and early September.

Need to Know

If you've ever wondered why you can't wear white after Labor Day according to the traditional dress code, it's more about the formality of the clothing than the color. White was considered a casual summer color and not a formal winter one. Those white clothes that symbolized summer fun had no place in "real life" wardrobes, so the cutoff for white clothing became Labor Day.

Does the No White After Labor Day Rule Still Apply?

Although you may still run across a few friends, family members, and acquaintances who would never dream of wearing white after Labor Day (and may give you the side eye or a lecture if you do it), the fashion rules have shifted over time and become much more relaxed.

Even the Emily Post Institute, the epitome of etiquette advice (and a family business spanning five generations), says wearing white is no longer a faux pas. Instead, you should concentrate more on the fabrics you're wearing than the color. Instead of white linen, try white cashmere. White works all year as pants, accessories, coats, shirts, and skirts (and maybe even shoes, if you dare).

woman looking at white dress

Breaking the Fashion Rules About White

Modern times have thrown old fashion rules right out the window, and there's no reason to put all your white clothes away just because of a simple square on the calendar. You may want to alter the way you wear white though, so while white isn't out, you'll want to look to more "serious" fabrics and cuts to keep the color going into your fall fashion and through rest of the year.

Shoot for edgy, fashion-forward styles (perhaps with interesting plays on texture, layering, and cuts or cut-outs) instead of the easy, breezy summer ones you've been living in since May or June (like those white cut-offs and slip dresses).

Happy woman wearing white

Try the Winter White Alternative

Some stylists say to retire the bright, true white shades of summer for a more toned down winter white. If that's your preference (and if winter white complements your complexion) then by all means, make the switch to the slightly darker, warmer tone which is close to beige or cream. Just don't feel like you're obligated to just because Labor Day has arrived.

Quick Tip

White shoes are a bit of a gray area, so to speak. You may still want to retire your white shoes even if you're not ready to give up the white pants, shorts, skirts, or dresses. The decision is yours to make now, especially if you live somewhere that stays hot well after Labor Day.

Bring on the Texture and Layers

The old rule about wearing white is out the window. Wear white all you want after Labor Day, especially if you play into the texture and layers.

woman having fun in snow

Wear it as jeans, as a sweater, or even as a dress of heavier material. Wear it with faux fur, leather (pants, boots, or jackets), suede, silk, or wool to add weight (not to your body, but to the feel of your outfit, which will be more winter-appropriate and keep you warm). Add lots of texture to your overall look. Put a white scarf on with your fall or winter outfit and watch your makeup colors pop.

Wear White Whenever You Like

Now that you know you're not obligated to stop wearing white, have fun with it in your fall and winter wardrobe too. With a little layering and amping up of texture, you can make this color work for you all year long.

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Why You Can Totally Wear White After Labor Day