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White after Labor Day?
Nuevo Etiquette for the Fashion Curious

by
the undercover fashion detective

Now that Memorial Day has passed and we've pulled our white frocks from the mothballs, the question that always seems to pop up is, 'Why can't you wear white after Labor Day?'.

 With the emergence of El Nino, the hole in the ozone layer and acid rain, it seems that summer months aren't as predictable as they once were. So why does this rule seem to hang around? Besides, these days, do we really care about the dictums of fashion etiquette? I mean, if you can wear cowboy boots with mini skirts and sneakers with just about anything, why care about what color they are? What you wear in late September can depend on where you are. Wearing dark colors in autumn in Thousand Oaks, California may produce heat stroke while in Portsmouth, Maine it might be just what the doctor ordered...literally!

 This piece of fashion history has proven to be quite a mystery. The rule, which was mostly with regard to white pumps and dress shoes, seems to have a few exceptions. For instance, brides, nurses and tennis players can wear white no matter what the season. And then there was the "invention" of winter white, or cream, which allowed rebels to get by with only raised eyebrows from the fashion police. So where did this antiquated rule come from?

I checked Emily Post, thinking that Miss Manners must certainly have documented the origin of this rule. Except for an interesting tip regarding the color orange defying the suns rays, I didn't see anything about why white after Labor day. Modern Day Emily, or the Emily Post Institute, conducted a survey in 2001 and found that although a majority of the population has no idea when or why this rule is accepted, but they still follow the rule. Interesting.

 In looking over the new styles for fall, I checked to see just which designers had a rebel streak in them. Would any offer a style in white for fall? Most take the "safe"route by offering "bone" or "pearl", but upon further inspection of the Ross Hommerson fall line, I did notice a few pump and evening styles being offered in white. And with patent leather craze that's coming our way, white round toed go-go boots will hit the shelves this winter.

 It would seem that we are blindly following this fashion dictum. Except for obvious reasons, the ruling that we can't wear white before Easter or after Labor day seems quite random. So how do we get it off the books? Is there a board of appeals we can petition? To date my research has not unearthed such a governing body. I've been told that it's the greatest fashion myth ever perpetuated, and another reported is that it is a way to save the less savvy from making unfortunate fashion mistakes. (remember those white Candies of the 80's?!)

 I do think that you might be able to squeak by with a little white here and there as long as you don't abuse it. It's truly up to personal choice whether or not you adhere to the rule or not. In the days of "casual Fridays" and "dressy casual" I think it might be okay to bend the rules!