Labor Day just passed us by and with it a dictum that has confused people for decades: Do you have to stop wearing white after Labor Day?
Not so surprisingly, that question has come up in conversations several times in the past week. Frankly, I’m used to getting asked etiquette questions even when I’m not in an official Emily Post etiquette capacity. A person learns that Emily was my great grandmother, and then there always seems to be a question. And at this time of the year that question inevitably is about when it’s appropriate to wear white.
So here’s the answer: Anytime. That’s right, you can wear white before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. That said, as with anything etiquette, temper the “rule” with a little practical reality. The whole wearing white during the summer season was always more a question of fashion than etiquette. White jeans in the winter, Why not? They’re warm and comfortable and as long as they’re clean, no problem. But thin linen pants of any color on a blustery, snowy day in Vermont? Get real. So the real issue with clothes, any clothes isn’t some date centric rule, it’s about wearing what makes sense.
Clothes are a way of showing respect for the people you are with and the event you are attending. Much more important than the issue of wearing white is whether the clothes you choose are clean, wrinkle free, and scentless. By choosing clothes that reflect the event as well, you are showing respect not only for the people you are with, but also for the other people there as well. If those clothes are white, clean and fit the occasion, then you can rest assured they are appropriate anytime.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."