Can You Wear White After Labor Day?

Wearing white after Labor Day – is it a fashion DON’T? We’ve all heard the mandate and wondered if it was true. Is it a bubbameister, an urban legend, a fashion myth that white after Labor Day is a faux pas? 

The answer is FALSE. 

You can absolutely wear white after Labor Day. However, there are some ways to wear white that help it transition to fall more easily. But, I’ll get more into those tips in a bit.

Nevertheless, as with most things, fashion and style, the answer is not completely clear cut. Style is subjective. It’s art. And the beauty and/or stylishness is in the eye of the beholder.

So, yes, there are “rules,” but there are almost always exceptions to those rules. That’s why it can be so confusing.

Most importantly, there is one golden rule that trumps all of the other advice and trends you will ever hear. 

You. Be. You. 

First and foremost, you should wear what makes you happy and what allows you to feel like the best version of yourself. Period. The end. For many people, that means following convention and adopting the prevailing tastes, and that’s where I come in as a style translator. 

But if that’s not you, then, to somewhat hijack Nike’s quote, Just DON’T Do It. Wear what feels good and true and authentic to you. Because as a personal stylist, that’s what it all starts with – helping people hone in on and express their genuine selves.

The History Behind the Rule.

There is a fair amount of speculation as to where the No-White-After-Labor-Day rule originated. Some say it was out of practicality; that in the warmer summer months, especially without air conditioning, it was cooler to wear lighter fabrics and colors. And since Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, that was the marker.

Another theory is that society ladies of the early 1900s contrived this rule to make other women feel uncomfortable. Wealthy women created fashion propriety rules to differentiate “old money” from the nouveau riche. They were quite literally the “Mean Girls” of that generation,  making No-White-After-Labor-Day the original “On Wednesdays we wear pink.” 

According to Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in an interview with Time, “It [was] insiders trying to keep other people out, and outsiders trying to climb in by proving they know the rules.”

Any way you slice it, this rule no longer rings true.

So How Do You Wear White in the Cooler Months?

If the No-White-After-Labor-Day rule is stuck in your head, and you’re a bit of a fashion conformist, you can still wear white in the fall (and even in the winter) and feel great. Just keep the following little outfit tweaks in mind.

  • Stick to heftier white fabrics like denim, cashmere, leather, and suede. 
  • Linen, gauze, and eyelet can be worn while the temperature is above 55 degrees, but when it gets any cooler than that, it’s time to store them away until next summer.
  • Pair your post-September whites with more autumnal shades like camel, rust, chocolate, and cranberry. It helps the white pieces feel more seasonally appropriate.
  • Keep your toes covered. If you’re wearing white in the fall, try mixing it with a bootie or a close-toed shoe. The juxtaposition of a more summery white item and more fall footwear strikes a nice balance, especially in transitional weather.
  • Throw a third piece over it. Remember the post about a third piece? Well, it comes in handy here too. Putting a chunky sweater or a leather jacket over white helps the outfit feel a smidge more fall.

Hefty White Pieces to Wear all Year Long

Autumnal Shades to Pair with White

Closed Toed Shoes to Wear with White

Third Pieces that Transition White to Fall

Please know, I am not a mean girl of my generation, and want everyone to wear what makes them feel good and self-assured. If for you that’s white linen and sandals in November, more power to you! That being said, if these tips have helped you to wear white after Labor Day confidently, that’s music to this non-mean mean girl’s ears!

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Photo: Molly Nook

Post Updated 3/4/21


Cleveland-based personal stylist and fashion blogger.

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