Why We Can't Wear White Before Memorial Day & After Labor Day

With Memorial Day here it has me thinking about the dictum that you should not wear white clothes and accessories before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.   I have followed this directive for as long as I can remember, but really never knew why this rule existed -- so I did some digging.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer and with it comes changing up our wardrobes. Pastels, colors, and white seem refreshing, but wearing light colors and white in particular originally was for practical purposes --  to stay cool.  Wearing white after Memorial Day has been one of etiquette's most sacred rules since the early to mid-20th century when beating the heat became fashionable.  In Charlie Schieps' American Fashion, he wrote that "all the magazines and tastemakers were centered in big cities, usually in Northern climates that had seasons," he also noted that in the hot summer months, white clothing kept New York fashion editors cool. But facing heavy fall rain they might not have been inclined to risk tainting white ensembles with mud -- and that sensibility was reflected throughout the pages of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, which set the style tone for the country.

Source: The Vintage Dancer
Another thought for the rule, is that in the early 20th century, white was the color of choice for Americans well-enough-to-do to get away from their city homes to warmer climates for months at a time and light summer clothing provided a wonderful contrast to their muted city life.  White linen suits and Panama hats were a look of leisure.  Some historians also say the-no-white dictum was  a way for the old money elite, in the 1950's, to wall themselves off from the growing middle class who may not be savvy enough to know the etiquette rules of the upper class.

You will not be killed, punished, or shamed in any way if you do wear white before Memorial Day and after Labor Day, so do as you wish! The great thing about style is you can make it your own.

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