Reflections: I've Put Away My White Dinner Jacket!
I've Put Away My White Dinner Jacket!
By William L. Bulla
Labor Day has come and gone! It is now time to put away our white clothing. As least it has been a fashion rule since the 1920's.
For some reason, Labor Day was designated by the fashion world to separate summer from fall. This meant that our summer apparel was to be removed from our bodies and placed into storage until the following spring.
Over recent years this tradition has loosened up a bit, and some fashion magazines say it's all right to wear white a little longer. However, some social customs have continued. I am referring to men not being allowed to wear white dinner jackets past Labor Day. It was all right for me to wear it the Saturday night before, but two days later it was taboo to do so. The weather was just as warm, but that old rule hadn't changed. And if I had worn mine, I would have stood out in a crowd of dark-ones.
A few theories surrounding the rule's origin: Before air conditioning (yes, there was such a time) wearing white was simply a way to stay cool in hot summer months. Around the same time in history, wealthy people tried to distinguish themselves by adhering to etiquette rules such as this one. The rule they adopted required them to stop wearing white between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
Remember, in 1930, no one was wearing t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops or halter-tops. Their clothes today would be considered rather formal. By the 1950's,with an expanded middle-class population, the rule of "no whites" after Labor Day had become a hard and fast rule with the "social elite."
And if the rule was born out of a desire to fit into, or keep people out of, a social class, then it's now dead in that regard as well. I, like many others I see daily, have not given them up for the year. Shorts, summer casual and short sleeve shirts, are very cool and comfortable as the heat of summer lingers on. I plan to wear mine as long as we keep getting 80 to 90-degree temperatures.
So why is it bad to wear white after Labor Day? It's not any more. Go for it! Even the 17th Edition of Emily Post's / Etiquette / (2004) gives you permission. But whatever you decide, there will be someone, somewhere, following that old rule. Oh, by the way, the "rule" never mentioned clothing; it was only wearing white shoes after Labor Day. Somehow it spread to mean all clothing and accessories.
Even though I've packed up my formal white dinner jacket for the winter,
I'm headed out to dinner dressed informally in white shorts, t-shirt and
William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.