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Labor Day. No More White Clothes?

Labor Day. No More White Clothes?

by Karen and Erica

We can’t believe Labor Day is upon us already. It heralds the end of summer, even though summer weather could continue for months here in New York. Even weirder, the end of summer has been broadcast in store windows since late July, when heavy, dark, oppressive looking clothes appeared in store widows on 95 degree days. Why do they do that?

Those windows reminded us of a rule that we learned when we were babies—that you must not wear white after Labor Day. It never made sense to us, and we violated it often. And still do. But where did it come from? We were inspired to look into it.

The Constitution Center says the no white after Labor Day rule comes from Emily Post. We checked that out, and found that Emily Post did indeed articulate the rule, reflecting a time when “society” left the hot summer city for cool beach mansions, abandoning dark city clothes in favor of whites left in said mansions. Obviously, this was a time before “society” worked as most of us do now—and reflects the life of the very few, since even then most people had to stay in the city. Indeed, not everyone had a beach mansion. Perhaps that is why some speculate that the rule was not merely a fashion statement, but also had a social climbing aspect to it.

Those of you who are Lustre Ladies (as opposed to those of you who will be) remember hearing about Emily Post, but we suspect you have not heard that name in decades. We were astonished to see that Ms. Post is now the Emily Post Institute, and continues in that capacity to dispense, on the web, all kinds of advice about etiquette. She now speaks of business etiquette, which we actually think is a great idea, and addresses such abstruse matters as what to wear if the invitation specifies white tie and tails, a matter about which few of us know much any more.

Emily Post now says wearing white whenever you want is fine. Whew! Maybe she was following in the footsteps of Coco Chanel. Like us, she wore white year round.

Whatever your view of the rule, or any rule about what to wear—you know what we think about them—we suggest you sit by some blue water with a fruity cold drink beside you, remember why this is called Labor Day (hint: nothing to do with white clothes), and kiss the summer goodbye in style.

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