Friday, September 10, 2010

Wearing white after Labor Day: what do you say?

Hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend!

One of the big etiquette traditions ingrained in our minds is the decree not to wear white after Labor Day. A quick look at the Fall 2010 runway styles (we did some Googling!) proves that fashion doesn’t follow this rule anymore, and most news articles on wearing white after Labor Day usually contain the phrase, “A rule that’s meant to be broken…”

We train etiquette experts from all over the world, so some of our blog readers might find this rule puzzling, since it seems to be unique to the U.S. Perhaps avoiding the color white in cold months has a practical reason—after all, it reflects, not absorbs, heat.

Another reason has to do with the U.S. nouveau riche culture in the 1950s. What had been an unofficial, seasonal wardrobe change became code for the elite and social climbers: wearing white after Labor Day meant you didn’t know the “rules.”

But, as Time Magazine said when exploring the white-after-Labor-Day issue, “more people than ever are breaking the rule.”

Why would people be breaking this rule? Well, beyond fashion trends, let’s be practical. Here in our hometown of Athens, Georgia, this week’s temperatures are still in the 90s, and it often remains quite warm even by the first day of Fall, which is Sept. 23. Depending on where you live, white might be the most comfortable option for you.

A happy medium is exploring softer shades of white, and in small doses (like accessories). White comes in a variety of hues, from beige to ivory, eggshell to seashell, magnolia to vanilla. Did you know that astronomers came up with the name “Cosmic Latte” to describe the color of the universe? (It's true.) Anyway, there’s a lot of different kinds of white out there, and no one should give you a hard time about wearing them before the first crocus blooms.

Which brings us to our next point: if you see a friend wearing white from head-to-toe well into the winter months, what should you do? Our advice is to say nothing at all. Etiquette exists for many reasons, and one of them is to make life feel a little bit kinder. Instead of reacting to an outfit that might be in the “wrong” color, smile and be happy to be in your friend’s company.

If we see you wearing white after Labor Day, we won’t say a word.

Debra, Cindy, and April are not breaking the rule - this photo was taken before Labor Day!

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