The Incredibly Shallow Reason for Not Wearing White After Labor Day
If there's one thing that my mom drilled into my head other than "sit up straight," "chew with your mouth closed," and "enunciate your words," is that a proper lady should never, ever wear white after Labor Day.
As the years have gone by, a lot of my mom's super strict rules have changed and she's actually relaxed on quite a few, but the no white after Labor Day rule is one that my mom still refuses to budge on.
Growing up, there were a lot of things I didn't understand about "mom's rules" (I know she's not the one who made the no white after Labor Day rule, but she made it a rule in our house) and the answer to my "why?" was always "because I'm the mom, that's why," but that answer was never enough for me and so, I decided to do a little digging. What I found out about not wearing white after Labor Day was actually more than I bargained for.
For thousands of years, people who live in the desert have been wearing white as a way to cool down. Even here in the United States, in the days before air conditioning, people wore white to stay cool in the hot months, however, once the weather cooled off, the white colored clothing was put away and heavier, darker colors were brought out.
Hot weather and staying cool seems like a completely logical reason to wear white, but I uncovered a bit of snobbery that appears to have really been the driving influence behind not wearing white after Labor Day. In a PCM Lifestyle article, it explains that In the 1800's when the rich weren't spending their time lounging around, practicing piano or "calling," they'd literally get together to make up ridiculous rules so that society would know who was and wasn't wealthy.
That's right - social shallowness really has been around forever.
After the civil war, more and more people fell into money and it grew increasingly difficult for crusty society members to tell the difference between which people came from old money and which came from new. So in the 1880’s, a bunch of snobby rich women decided to make up a new batch of completely ridiculous rules and insisted that anyone who was "someone" had to follow them to let others know they were more important because they came from "old money." One of those rules was to not wear anything white outside of the summer months. The women also decided that wearing white should only be allowed at weddings and at fancy vacation resorts.
Wearing white for a wedding makes traditional sense, but what's about resorts? Well, it used to be that only rich people wore white and they only wore it during the summer months. The rich would escape the oppressive heat of the city by visiting luxurious resorts while poor people couldn't afford to go to resorts, so they sulked around in dark clothes. Wearing white at a resort was considered a sign of wealth.
The "rule" of not wearing white after Labor Day might have started with a group of snobbish women but somehow it managed to stick and it trickled down through the years. By the 1950’s, it was pretty much a general rule followed by all, including my grandma, and eventually my mom.
So there you have it. Kind of makes you want to be a rebel and wear white after Labor Day, doesn't it? Me, too.