The post–Labor Day moratorium on white clothing and accessories has long ranked among etiquette hard-liners’ most sacred rules. As punishment for breaking it in the 1994 movie Serial Mom, for instance, Patty Hearst’s character was murdered by a punctilious psychopath. But ask your average etiquette expert how that rule came to be, and chances are that even she couldn’t explain it. So why aren’t we supposed to wear white after Labor Day?
One common explanation is practical. For centuries, wearing white in the summer was simply a way to stay cool — like changing your dinner menu or putting slipcovers on the furniture. “Not only was there no air-conditioning, but people did not go around in T shirts and halter tops. They wore what we would now consider fairly formal clothes,” says Judith Martin, better known as etiquette columnist Miss Manners. “And white is of a lighter weight.” Read More.