Fashion dictates can change with the wind, but some seem to hang around forever. The rule of not wearing white after Labor Day is so ancient that even fashion insiders have trouble remembering why it ever started.
“I believe it comes from the whole linen aspect,” said Anthony Scott Miller, chair of fashion and accessory design at the Savannah College of Art and Design. “Clothing needed to be light – both fabric and color – in the heat because we didn't have air conditioning.” When winter rolled around, the lightweight fabrics had to be retired, he said, and with them went the lighter colors.
Modes of dress at the time were a way to identify what part of society you were coming from, Miller said. “We've opened our minds up enough now,” he said. “I don't really need to be concerned about what society is dictating to me.”
Larger metropolitan areas are filled with rule-flouting style-setters, including Atlanta-based fashion designer and former celebrity stylist Ellie Mae.
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White, she said, can be the perfect foundation for post-Labor Day dressing. “White isn't so much a color as it is a staple,” Ellie Mae said. “With timeless fashion there are no rules.”
The fledgling designer says it's easy to break the no-white-after-Labor Day rule.
“Let white be a centerpiece or an accent. The contrast against darker colors can enhance and empower the white. You just have to own it,” she said.