SouthCoast Retailers Rail Against Fashion’s Oldest Myth
Remember when rapper Diddy shocked his uptight Hampton neighbors by throwing a "white party" for Labor Day, in which all guests had to be decked out head-to-toe in white garments? It may have shaken up the status quo of his swanky neighborhood, but at least he wasn't committing a fashion faux pas by holding it after Labor Day.
But then again, can you actually wear white after Labor Day?
You are probably familiar with the moth-eaten notion that wearing white clothing from Labor Day in September until May Day – oddly, another day designated to celebrate workers – is taboo. It may be something of the past, though, considering the younger generations either don't observe it or don't even know about it.
A young-sounding associate in the women's department at Macy's in Dartmouth, when reached by phone, was surprised by the fashion rule and a question about sales of white clothing after Labor Day. "Hmm, I never heard that before," she said. "Would you be kind enough to hold on while I ask my supervisor, please?" A moment later, a person of authority picked up. "Yes, we sell white clothing after Labor Day," said the manager, who asked to remain unidentified.
How did such a fashion statement begin? One idea is that it started as a huge status marker for the wealthiest families, as a way to separate the old elitists from the nouveau riche group. At one time in America, social acceptance for prosperous women was based on what they wore and what time of year you wore it. If you had plenty of money, you bought a new wardrobe for each of the different seasons.
But apparently in modern times, white is a color for all seasons.
"Yes, we sell white apparel after Labor Day," said Liz, the evening manager at Madrag, in the King's Highway plaza in New Bedford. "September and October around here are still seasonable, so wearing something like cream white denim jeans is appropriate and fashionable."
What about when there's snow on the ground and everything is frozen solid?
"I know a lot of our customers don't ask for white so much during the cold months, except for special occasions and holiday parties," she said.
At J.C. Penney in the Dartmouth Mall, like at Macy's, a younger associate never heard of not wearing white after Labor Day, so she had me speak to her manager. "Yes, we do sell white clothing after Labor Day," the manager said. Asked whether or not she was familiar with the expression, she said, "I have heard of it, but I don't know how many people still follow it anymore."
It's time to shut down fashion's oldest myth once and for all. I don't know who needs to hear this, but yes, you can wear white after Labor Day.