PITTSBURGH — We all heard growing up that Labor Day meant packing up our white clothes to make way for darker hues in our closets.
It wasn't strictly enforced, of course, but I did put away my crisp Keds and all white outfits — mostly because Midwestern winters don't pair well with light colors.
I don't wear Keds anymore, but I still think about that rule this time of year. And I'm not alone. The white vs. no white Labor Day debate earned a headline from Marie Claire as recently as July.
That piece undressed the history around this rule. It dates back to the late 1800s, when old-money socialites were trying to distinguish (and elevate) themselves from the younger, new-money crowd. Avoiding this fashion faux pas was a way to fit in with the upper class.
Social rules have relaxed a lot since then, but this one seems to hang on. Do many people abide by it? Do fashionistas? The Post-Gazette invited five Pittsburgh fashion experts to weigh in.
Richard Parsakian almost always wears black, but as the owner of Eons Fashion Antique in Shadyside, he's no stranger to historical fashion taboos. It's not uncommon to see vintage pieces that reflect long-forgotten rules, he said.
"Of course, classic conservative designers like Ralph Lauren, who copied styles from the '30s and '40s, would use costume as a class distinction that reflected a mostly white, Anglo-Saxon point of view," Parsakian explained. "Materials such as linens and cottons were seen in the rich Hyannis Port, Martha's Vineyard and Palm Beach playgrounds."
Most of the avant garde designers whose work he "worships" rarely follow those rules. Instead, many combine white with black.
He does still hear customers bring up the no-white-after-Labor-Day rule, "but mostly as a joke."