Style SOS: Wearing White After Labor Day

Wearing white after Labor day

[All items: Zara]

Today is Labor Day in the United States, so we figured it was the perfect time to re-visit the old “Never wear white after Labor day” fashion “rule”. This one may have died out a little amongst younger generations, but we’re still surprised by how often we see it quoted in fashion magazines and on blogs, so we thought we’d take a closer look and try to decide if it’s a rule that’s really worth observing.

Now, if you’re not in the US, you may be a little bit confused by this one. We don’t observe Labor Day here in the UK, for instance, and we don’t really have any seasonal “rules” about colour, either. For the uninitiated, then, Labor Day basically marks the end of summer, so what this “rule” is telling us is really just that we shouldn’t wear white in the Autumn or Winter, and should reserve this particular colour for the warmer months only.

But… why?

Why shouldn’t you wear white after Labor day?

 The rule originally came about for vaguely-practical reasons. White is traditionally seen as a “cool” colour: it’s worn in summer to keep the heat at bay, and while there’s a fair amount of debate about whether white clothes actually are any cooler than darker colours (There’s a lot of evidence that this is one of those myths that have become ingrained over time), switching to a darker palette in the colder months is something many of us do naturally.

Then there’s the issue of keeping clothes clean. We can argue all day about whether white is or isn’t cooler to wear than any other shade, but most of us would probably agree that it’s definitely higher maintenance. Imagine splashing through muddy puddles or navigating snowy streets in a pair of pristine white jeans, for example. No, we don’t fancy it much either…

So, those are a couple of reasons why you might want to avoid white after Labor day (or in the winter), but do they mean you absolutely CAN’T wear it?

Can you wear white after Labor Day?

[Dresses by  Milly & Victoria’s Secret]

Can you wear white after Labor Day?

Short answer: YES! Of course you can. As we’re always pointing out, we’re not real. The Fashion Police won’t actually come after you for breaking some so-called fashion “rule”. And as it happens, we think this one (practicalities aside) is pretty silly, anyway. Why base your wardrobe around some arbitrary date? What if September is the hottest on record? What if you live in Florida, say, or somewhere else free of snow, and other white-ruining weather? What if you just LIKE white, and want to wear it regardless?

Well, you can. We think it makes much more sense to dress for the weather, and for your lifestyle than it does for the calendar, or to appease the almighty Gods of Fashion. There are plenty of times after Labor Day when it’s completely appropriate to wear white, and there are plenty of ways to make the colour work at any time of the year.

So, how do you do it?

White after Labor Day

How to wear white after Labor Day

As above, dress for the weather and the occasion rather than for the fashion rule-book. So don’t wear long white trousers for a walk in the woods on a muddy January day, say, and maybe keep the white cotton sundreses for that winter-sun holiday – or for next summer. Most of this is pretty self-explanatory, but if you’re stuck, here are some easy ways to wear white in winter:

White coats and jackets

A white wool coat is a winter classic: it goes with everything, keeps you warm, and won’t look even slightly out of place on even the coldest of days.

White wool/jersey dresses and skirts

A white wool dress will keep you just as warm as a darker one will: just avoid long hemlines if you’re going to be out in the elements, so you don’t end up dragging that pristine whiteness through puddles.

White knitwear

We’d argue that as long as your sweater or cardigan is warm enough for whatever temperature you’re dealing with, there isn’t a single colour we can think of that could possibly be inappropriate. Wear your white sweaters with pride.

Winter white and other shades of white

If bright white still feels too summery for you, look for variations of the shade: winter white is a creamier, slightly darker shade of white, which is easier to wear in winter (hence the name), while cream, off-white, or even pale golds will all give you the effect of wearing white, but will, again, be a little less blinding, and easier to keep clean.

Think about fabric

Fabric really is key to wearing.. just about anything, really. Thin white cotton obviously won’t cut it when it’s cold out – but then again, neither will ANY shade of a thin, cool fabric. Look for wool, tweed, velvet, or really anything else that’s thick, warm and hard-wearing. Once you have the fabric sorted, you can wear any colour you like.

What about you? Do you wear white in winter?


  • September 4, 2012


    Also white is more easily seen on dark, rainy nights than dark colours. And given that most people will not wear the hi-vis stuff (the most sensible thing to wear during those long, cold and dark winter evenings and nights) white is the next best thing.

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  • September 5, 2012


    I know everyone say you can wear white after Labor Day, but I just can’t. It was one of my Grandmothers hard and fast rules and she always looked so nice.

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  • […] Amber recently did a piece on wearing white after Labor Day, and I completely agree with her stance on the topic. As a non-American (we don’t do Labor Day), I mostly just try to dress for the weather. As long as the weather keeps up, I will be wearing white (if I feel like it). Because that’s just the kind of rebel I am. dress and belt Dorothy Perkins (seen here and here) cardigan and shoes New Look (last year’s challenge) « Shoe challenge #68: Blink Mystery boots » […]

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