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Beauty Mythbusters: Wearing White After Labor Day

By Amalah

Hola Amalah!

I’m a fairly new reader of your blogs, but that hasn’t stopped me from giving you my full attention and devotion. As such, I need some advice on the long standing “white after Labor Day” rule… and fast! My bridal shower is coming up in 2 weeks (Sept 30th), and I bought a really awesome white skirt suit (it’s a luncheon/tea) to wear, with high heel black patent leather peep hole shoes. I’ve been more excited about the outfit for the shower than my wedding gown! Ok, maybe not quite, but who wouldn’t be excited about a really awesome pair of peep hole heels!??! Anyway, an aunt and cousin recently asked me what I wearing to the shower and after hearing “white suit”, their jaws practically hit pavement.

I thought that was an old cliché, that no one paid attention to anymore, but apparently, I’ve been living in a pretend world of my own configuration. Can you help straighten us out please!? If white is out of the question, am I also not allowed to wear black? Because damnitall, I wanna wear those shoes! And, does it matter that I live in the Windy City at all? Does the white after LD only apply to winter weather prone states? Is it universal? Should I move to Vegas??

Color Cliché Challenged,

PS: If you tell me to move to Vegas, I’ll be VERY happy!

For some reason I swore I already addressed the white-after-Labor-Day question, but a thorough search of the archives reveals that I was probably thinking of the entry about wearing white to weddings. Seriously, who knew white was so all-around controversial?

You are actually correct — wearing white after Labor Day is no longer the fashion faux pas it once was, with high fashion magazines and designers pretty much all thumbing their noses at the convention. Even etiquette experts admit that it’s hard to pinpoint why the rule existed in the first place. Was it because a lot of white clothing is summery and light and there were women who didn’t understand that you just don’t wear linen spaghetti-strap sundresses in December? Was there mass chaos in Paris when everybody started wearing white bikinis to the opera and SOMEBODY had to put a stop to it? Who knows, but about 99% of the etiquette and fashion guides out there today agree with you that it’s a silly and outdated tradition, and that white can be appropriate year-round.

(Interesting factoid: the oldest versions of the “rule” only referred to white shoes, and then somehow got twisted to include white fabric. So even today you’ll find more people who still follow and support the no-white-shoe rule, but see nothing wrong with white clothing.)

(Personally, I don’t really like the look of white pumps very much, so I’ve never been forced to give the whole thing much thought. I have white sandals and summery strappy heels, but they get retired when the weather gets chilly, and around here that’s…right after Labor Day. I once had someone chastise me on my blog over a photo of a pair of bone-colored sandals on an unseasonably warm day in the early spring, and I thought that was kind of a silly thing to fret over.)

You’re wearing black shoes, and your suit is perfectly appropriate for both the weather and the occasion. And it’s a bridal shower! And you are the bride! Brides! White! It just makes sense to me.

So the only sticking point is that two of your shower guests have made it clear that THEY still believe the convention is alive and well and proper, so I guess it’s reasonable to expect that other guests do too. So you can either show up with this column in your purse as your permission slip (that’s so Ann Landers!), or you just need to OWN that outfit and not let what anybody thinks rattle you or question it. You love it, there’s nothing wrong or inappropriate with it, to hell with everybody else. Which is always a good attitude to have when it comes to getting dressed.

(Unless you are wearing a white bikini to the opera. You might want to rethink that one.)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Stephanie

    September 21, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    I know nothing about fashion etiquette re: white after Labor Day, but perhaps if you wore a black shirt or scarf and/or some awesome black jewelry with the white suit, it would come across more as a black-and-white outfit, than an all white outfit.
    You could also call your suit “winter white.” It’s got winter in the name… are we really expected to wear winter white in the summer?

  • BaltimoreGal

    September 21, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    <<<“the oldest versions of the “rule” only referred to white shoes”<<<
    EXACTLY! I was partially raised in the South (and my mother is a full-on South Georgian, no less). The rule is NO WHITE SHOES after Labor Day (which I do agree with, all-white (true white) shoes should be summer shoes in my book- because I’m not a fan. NOT that I would say that to anyone’s face. I was raised with manners! (Kathy Griffin- what?) The idea of no white clothing doesn’t make sense. What about weddings? A white dress shirt? Madness!
    Winter white is a color to be worn in winter but it’s almost a tan so I wouldn’t try that route. If people are gonna question your outfit they’re gonna argue that point too.
    Ummm- plus as Queen Amalah so rightly puts it- YOU are the bride. The shower is for YOU. If you want to wear hot pink hooker boots you should be able to. (I wouldn’t but I would probably wear black so who am I to judge? Wait…) Anyway- either way, you have GOT to write back and tell us about what you wore!
    Amalah, excellente advice as always.

  • Di

    September 21, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Hey! That’s muh question up der! Whoa!
    Thanks for answering me Amalah, mucho appreciate the advice. I was checking in every day to see if maybe (pleasegodpleasegodpleaseletAmalahtellmewhattodo!) you would answer, and YOU DID!
    I’m going to wear the white suit. It is HOT. And, I’ve also bought some black and clear crystal jewelry to wear with it, to pull it all together. But really, its all about those shoes. 😉
    Thank you again. I’ll take a pic of the ensemble and send it your way.
    Hugs to Noah! (PS: not that you need my validation, but the haircut is adorable!)

  • kalisah

    September 21, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    And what exactly do these relatives expect you to get married in, if you’re wedding is not in the summer? OF COURSE the bride can wear WHITE any damn time she wants!

  • dramamama

    September 23, 2007 at 8:44 am

    I have always been curious about when the “No White Shoes After Labor Day” ban lifts… Memorial Day? Seriously, I have always wondered. I would love to finally have closure on a question that has haunted me for 20 years.

  • NewfieldBella

    September 25, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    From what I know, the white shoe ban gets lifted on Easter Sunday, so you can wear your white pumps (gag) to church.

  • Lorien

    August 3, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    I love my white flat pumps!!! I wear it all year long!!! Ha! There! LOL!!! I usually pair it with my fave large short sleeved black Bowie shirt(it has his face on it(album cover for “Changes”)) and my studded belt over my huge shirt and cool purse!!! If it’s warm, bear arms with sleeves rolled up, if not I’ll layer it w/my black & white stripped long sleeved turtle neck & skinny or boot-cut jeans!!! I’m short so, most of my jeans drag… XD So, basically only part of the shoes that’s visible is the pointy part!!! LOL!!!
    I get complements from strangers & people I know alike!!!
    They would say, “Wow, I love your style!!!” 🙂