Wearing white after Labor Day has long since been a controversial topic in the fashion world. Some people use it to their advantage, breaking the rule in huge ways to make a statement, such as Michelle Obama wearing a floor length snowy white gown to the Inaugural Ball in 2009. But others take the trend very seriously, such as Kathleen Turner’s character in the 1994 movie “Serial Mom,” where she murders a lady for wearing white shoes after Labor Day.
The “don’t wear white” trend started in the late 1800s and early 1900s when women came up with rules to divide society between the wealthy higher class people and the less wealthy lower class people. The wealthy would spend all summer on yachts and at resorts wearing white flowy sundresses and white head scarfs. Then after Labor Day — a holiday that usually means summer is over — they would head back into the city for the colder fall, winter and spring months. In the city they would wear darker colors so that their white clothing wouldn’t get soiled from mud puddles and also to keep warm under black wool sweaters and long johns.
This trend has become more tame since then, starting with Coco Chanel who wore white all year long.
The current generation is all about standing out, and one way to do that is by purposely not following trends. Kjersti Pollard, a style consultant in Lincoln and a University of Nebraska-Lincoln fashion design alumnus, said she thinks that the wearing-white-after-Labor-Day trend is more trendy to not follow.
“It’s very acceptable to wear white after Labor Day. If you’re not pushing the envelope you’re not keeping up with the times,” Pollard said. “You gotta break the trend to make a trend.”
Pollard thinks the age-old trend is more about not wearing white pants or white shoes versus not wearing a white shirt. White button-up shirts are a staple in formal wear and professional clothing, so they are an exception to the rule.
“It’s not odd to wear a white shirt or a white sweater after Labor Day,” Pollard said. “We wouldn’t look at someone wearing a white button-up on the way to a meeting or something and say ‘Hey, stop it.’”
Meghan Ehrke, the owner of Select Style, a women's clothing boutique dedicated to modern and classic fashion, agreed with Pollard that people should wear white whenever they feel comfortable in it.
“I wear white whenever it makes me happy,” Ehrke said. “I have definitely been known to wear all white in winter time.”
Pollard also can be found wearing white after Labor Day and prefers to wear white pants over any other trouser.
“I wear white pants all year long,” Pollard said. “If it’s not messy outside I’m in white pants.”
Pollard recommended to those who want to break the trend to wear white pants with either a gray sweater for a monotone look, or a black sweater and a tan cardigan for more contrast. She also really recommended wearing white wide-leg slacks with a formal top.
Ehrke recommends those willing to break the no-white trend to wear a white knit sweater with white fur boots for a winter look.
“Winter time is all about textures. Wearing the white knit and white fur adds warmth and interest to an outfit,” Ehrke said.
All in all, it’s okay to wear white after Labor Day. Don’t let trends stop you from wearing what you want to wear. Fashion is constantly changing and keeping up with the crowd is so last year.
Ehrke stressed that everyone should wear something they feel confident in, even if it means creating a fashion faux pas.
“If you look and feel good in white, I vote you wear it all year long.”