White After Labor Day: On Fashion Rules And Breaking Them

One of PeaceBang’s pet peeves is meeting clergy who pshaw and poo-poo fashion rules, as though fashion is a shallow subject which they, in their mighty spiritualness, dwell far above and need not consider.

Me to them:
Fashion is as ancient an art form as is liturgy.
Don’t dismiss and denigrate what you don’t know.
Fashion is about aesthetics. It conveys crucial information about status and identity in a society. It is a central form of non-verbal communication in our shared environment, cross-culturally and globally.
A certain degree of fashion literacy is essential for those in public life and leadership.

“People should be able to wear what they want and be comfortable” is a meaningless statement of hyper-individualism. Leaders who manage to do well with that attitude are almost always conventionally attractive, slim and probably white. Draw in a deep breath and smell the privilege!

Fashion rules are sometimes arbitrary and contrived by Fashion People setting trends (“If you’re not wearing PUCE, you’re NOT DRESSED!” “Tulle pants are IT this season!”) but most of the time they reflect political realities (eg war, trade routes, huge cultural events) that start with the people or one influential person (say, tying a rag around a part of their body to absorb sweat or to dab a quill pen on while writing), become popularized and are then interpreted artistically by designers who send them out in beautified form as fashion. We recommend you to see site for info on the latest fashion trends.

No one knows who started the White After Labor Day “rule,” exactly, but it probably has its origins with retailers who wanted to pull in new inventory for the autumn and sell more clothes. Making the color white a “summer” color was a brilliant marketing ploy that also makes sense: white reflects, rather than absorbs, light. It keeps the body cooler under the hot sun. When the days get cooler, it’s nice to be able to clean and store all those summer whites (especially for servants whose job it was to keep all those whites bleached and pristine for the privileged classes).

It was steamy as Hell yesterday so I decided to wear white for its psychological association with coolness, post-Labor Day be damned. I paired it with a very autumnal hued skirt (burgundy) and a floral patterned shirt. The shoes are all-season. Click photos to enlarge.


“Why yes, I’m wearing white after Labor Day!”


Fluevog heel detail:

If you’re going to break the rules, just make sure to think it through: why is the rule part of our culture? Why are you breaking it? Will you still be appropriately and respectfully dressed? Is there anyone with whom you seek to connect who might be distracted, put-off or offended by your choice? Do you care if they are? Can you afford to not care, if you don’t? Is your position in the organization or group so secure and respected that you can afford to not care about overturning cultural norms or traditions? Answer that last question carefully. Leaders with an “I don’t care what you unenlightened people think” attitude about clothing usually don’t care about other things that matter a lot to other people. They won’t last long in leadership if they actually ever attain any beyond their title.

4 Replies to “White After Labor Day: On Fashion Rules And Breaking Them”

  1. My understanding of when to wear white is from when West Point changed to summer white uniforms and when they returned to the grays. I stick to the rule because I am a stick in the mud and just feel better not wearing white too early or too late. I will also stop wearing straw hats one autumn is officially here.

  2. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, our warmest months are generally September and October. So the argument about white being cooler fails for us. This is one “rule” that always seemed completely arbitrary and silly to me.

    The one defining black as “sophisticated” is just as dumb.

  3. I also feel like certain fabrics are very seasonal, as well as certain colors/patterns of a few of my clothing items that scream “spring/summer” to me that I just can’t wear. I’m packing it all up – and hopefully next spring they will seem cute AND (egads!) still fit!

    I live in LA, where it’s hot through October and it seems like anything goes in terms of dress. And I pastor in Pasadena, which is really still quite staid in terms of cultural expectations.

  4. If the temperatures are in the mid-eighties or even 90, I will wear white, even if it is the mid-end of Sept. or even Oct. With cooler fall temps in NE Ohio, I tend toward fall colors and fabrics and what will keep me warm! Today it will be mid-eighties and I am wearing a floral ivory jumper with a satiny cotton ivory tee and a beige linen cardigan, oh, and sandals. Call me frumpy, but it is cool and comfortable for a long day.

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