Sunday, September 3, 2023

Wearing white after Labor Day

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I Wore White After Labor Day

I was so scared that my hair turned gray.

All because I wore white after Labor Day.

I was so scared that I damn nearly died of fright.

People became violent and I was forced to fight.

People were enraged just because I decided to wear white.

They kicked and punched me and some would even bite.

People kicked my ass on a regular basis and I had quite a scare.

I was so frightened that I constantly had to change underwear.

I got my share of bruises, broken bones and cuts.

An elderly woman even shoved her foot up my butt.

When it was all over, I was amazed that somebody didn't have to call my next of kin.

If I live to be a hundred, I swear that I'll never wear white after Labor Day again.

        - - - Randy Johnson


Here we go.

Will you be wearing white after Labor Day?

Many of you think this is a silly question.


There are still women who, whether they will admit it or not, will just quietly put away their white jeans and white dresses and bring them back out after Memorial Day.

Am I one of them?


I have an adorable white dress I want to take to South Carolina with me in October.  The end of October.  It does, after all, have long sleeves - that matters, right? đŸ¤”

Thinking on this . . .

Will let you know . . .

Vogue says it's completely okay.  But how I would feel may trump what Vogue says.

Thinking on this . . .

Will let you know . . .

In the meantime, here's a little history about how this fashion "rule" came into existence.

From Vogue -

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can’t wear white after Labor Day. But why? It’s a fashion rule that has been parroted by grandmothers, general interest magazines, and teenage mean girls for generations, as if it’s a statute that society has always abided by. Break it and—the horror!—you’re committing a sartorial sin.

As with so many American fashion edicts, though, its origins can be traced back to the elite of the Gilded Age. Every summer, they would decamp from the crowded, sweltering city to cooler places by the ocean, such as Newport or Southampton, for the entire season. Packed in their trunks were wardrobes of white.

It was a practical choice, above all: back then, it was wholly inappropriate to wear tank tops, shorts, or mini-dresses even as the temperatures soared. White, which reflects light, keeps the wearer cooler. Plus, linen—a popular, breathable fabric especially for suits—usually came in neutral tones.

The emergence of sportswear also played a role: in the early 19th century, tennis became a popular co-ed sport among the moneyed classes. Wearing a white uniform had been a tradition since 16th-century France, where the nobles wore it playing indoor jeu de paume. In fact, in 1877, London’s Wimbledon Club made it a strict requirement for their players. Why? White masks sweat—which, at the time, was considered extremely unseemly to show, especially in the presence of the opposite sex. For those reasons, it also became popular with leisure sports like cycling: many women adopted a shirtwaist ensemble that involved white—or a long skirt paired with a feminine blouse—which allowed for easier movement, as exemplified most memorably in John Singer Sargent’s 1897 portrait of Gilded Age socialite Edith Minturn.

Then, there was a class element at play: white didn’t show sweat, but it did show dirt. To wear white was a subtle way of showing you weren’t doing the landscaping, cooking, or cleaning—or, well, manual labor at all.

When fall came, the wealthy packed their whites away. They didn’t need to wear them: the temperatures had cooled, the tennis tournaments had finished. But they also couldn’t wear them. Back then, the New York City streets were made of dirt, covered in horse excrement, as well as rotting garbage. If you walked out in the color, it would soon be covered in grime of mysterious origins. “White, while perfect for the country, it is, because it soils so easily, impossible for town wear,” Vogue wrote in 1925.

That’s not to say there was any kind of stigma around wearing white: white furs were always popular in the winter, while women often wore lighter colors to balls or at the opera. (To do so was a status symbol, as it showed you had a carriage staffed with footmen that could ensure your dress wouldn’t get dirty in the process.) In fact, if you look at Gilded to Progressive back issues of Vogue, you’ll find many of our illustrations featuring women in white or lightly-hued fancy dress.

In the 1910s and 1920s, however, everything changed. With the mass production of Henry Ford’s Model T in 1908, a new era for New York City was ushered in—and what was once a carriage town quickly became a car town. From 1915, even those who didn’t have a Ford could hire a cab from John Hertz’s Yellow Cab company. Rail transportation, too, rapidly expanded: in 1913, the city signed what is known today as “the dual contracts.” Over the next 49 years, New York’s subway system became one of the most sophisticated and sprawling in the world.

How does that relate to wearing white, I hear you ask? The final piece of the puzzle lies in the expansion of New York City’s Sanitation Department, led by Colonel Waring.

In 1895, a New York Times article read “Clean Streets At Last,” waxing hopeful about the department’s future after visiting a once derelict street in Manhattan. “The Times man had seen dead cats there festering on a July day, black with buzzing swarms of flies; piles of decaying vegetables, and green gutters, with bubbles bursting with fetid gases. Now he noticed that there were clean gutters and absolute sweetness.” By the 1920s, Waring’s “White Wings”—or sanitation workers who wore white uniforms to show a medical-like authority—were commonplace on the streets. So, slowly but surely, the reasons why you couldn't wear white in the city—the dirt, garbage, and excrement that came from navigating the crowded roads—faded away. Similar trends were growing in European cities as well: in Paris, Coco Chanel started wearing white regardless of the season. Meanwhile, American Vogue began dressing models in “winter whites” throughout their cold-weather issues—an aesthetic you can still find in Vogue’s pages today.

Yet, old habits die hard, and somehow, the “no white after labor day” old wives’ tale has stuck—almost bafflingly so. In Amy Vanderbilt’s Ladies Home Journal advice column in the 1970s, she responded to a reader who posed the question: “I don’t know where the rule began, but it no longer holds.” And, throughout the decades, some of the world’s best-dressed women from, yes, Coco Chanel, to Gigi Hadid, to Michelle Obama, have worn the color all year round.

So, perhaps the time is nigh to issue a declaration: We don’t live in the Gilded Age anymore. Our streets are paved. Our trash is taken out. You can wear white after Labor Day."


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