In the United States of America, it is common fashion knowledge (or whatever) that one should not wear white after Labour Day. The reasons for this are varied, but below is an excerpt from the most widely held belief as to the origin of this rule.
The wives of the super-rich ruled high society with an iron fist after the Civil War. As more and more people became millionaires, though, it was difficult to tell the difference between old money, respectable families, and those who only had vulgar new money. By the 1880s, in order to tell who was acceptable and who wasn’t, the women who were already “in” felt it necessary to create dozens of fashion rules that everyone in the know had to follow. That way, if a woman showed up at the opera in a dress that cost more than most Americans made in a year, but it had the wrong sleeve length, other women would know not to give her the time of day.
Not wearing white outside the summer months was another one of these silly rules. White was for weddings and resort wear, not dinner parties in the fall. Of course it could get extremely hot in September, and wearing white might make the most sense, but if you wanted to be appropriately attired you just did not do it. Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, and society eventually adopted it as the natural endpoint for summer fashion.
Things have gone so far that this tradition has been touted as a matter of etiquette… I would beg to differ. In fact, I believe that is utter rubbish and I consider the rule to be unnecessarily archaic! For me, the only justifiable reason for not wearing white after Labour Day is the fact that fall welcomes colder temperatures and black is said to attract heat, thus keeping one warmer.
Renowned style icon Coco Chanel wore white year round and as for me…Well anyone who knows me knows that I will never subscribe to any fashion or even style rule if it makes no sense to me. I had a white turtleneck sweater that fit like a dream and I used to rock all hell out of it in the winter when I lived in New York! Thank God, I have an independent and well functioning mind!
That said, I must mention a most ridiculous caption I read below a photo in a Jamaican newspaper (The Jamaica Observer). Making reference to a woman who was dressed in white, the caption stated that though she had flouted the rule of not wearing white after Labour Day, she looked great (unfortunately I can’t find the link). To say I was seriously irritated is a gross understatement! What’s worse, I’ve seen similar references in the same publication repeatedly.
Why I’m extremely irked to see garbage like that in a Jamaican paper is that:
1. Labour Day in Jamaica is in May!
… and we have no fashion rule as it relates to same. All the captions I’ve seen in said paper have been after September (Labour Day in the US), so clearly reference is being made to the above mentioned American rule – which is just plain DUMB!
2. We live in a tropical climate!
While it generally gets colder from November to about January (Christmas breeze) and plants blossom heavily in April and May, we have no seasons. It is pretty much always warm!
I should perhaps pen a letter to the lifestyle editor of the Jamaica Observer, so that if she is not cognizant of the fact that it is ludicrous to allow such hogwash in the paper, she may learn!
I don’t know why people think that every trend or idea that pops up in Europe or North America must be copied on this island. We need to put things into perspective, emulate what is practical and allow common sense to be our guide in knowing what to leave by the wayside.