Sadly, summer is winding down, and in just a matter of weeks, we’ll swap our swimsuits for sweaters, our sandals for boots and pack away our beloved sundresses, linens and espadrilles. But when it comes to our ivory skirts, white jeans and cream colored tops, do we really need to put them away after Labor Day?
Cutting to the chase, the answer is no, and below we highlight 10 white styles that are perfect for the colder seasons.
But first, let’s get to the bottom of the age-old question: “Can you wear white after Labor Day?” We’ll also explore how it originated and why it’s considered a fashion faux pas.
The history of wearing white after Labor Day
There are two general theories of how the “no white after Labor Day” rule came about. One dates to the turn of the 20th century, when white was worn for function, not fashion. This was decades before air conditioning became a common convenience and society women were expected to cover up in full, polished outfits even while on vacation, especially for beach outings. That led women to wear lighter, or white, clothing as a way to stay cool during the summer.
Some historians, however, believe that beating the heat during the early- to mid-20th century was more of a symbol of division between societal hierarchies. The contrast between dark clothing worn by the working middle class and the leisurely white clothing worn by the elite is thought to have been a way to show divisive affluence.
Be it societal snobbery or simply to avoid sweating, one thing is for sure: Tastemakers, editors and stylists in today’s fashion world don’t necessarily play by the rules. And “no white after Labor Day” is one that’s often broken.
An expert’s opinion
To help explain the modern world of fashion’s stance on wearing white after Labor Day, we caught up with Hollywood stylist Karla Welch, who offered her expert advice on wearing white in the offseason. Welch is the mastermind behind red carpet styling for celebrities such as Julianne Moore, Tracee Ellis Ross, Mandy Moore and Karlie Kloss, as well as editorial stylings for publications including Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle and Teen Vogue. Welch also teamed with Express on an Express x Karla womenswear collection that’s trendy, affordable and modern. And full of white!
Here’s what she had to say:
Underscored: Are there any new “rules” for wearing white after Labor Day?
Welch: The rule is there are no rules. Make sure the fabric is suitable. Linen pants, not so much. Linen jackets definitely still work. I love a winter white look!
Underscored: What style advice would you give to women who want to wear white after Labor Day, but don’t want to look too summer-y?
Welch: Nothing beats a white jean with a white sweater. But the key is grounding it with a winter shoe or boot.
Underscored: What are your go-to white pieces for fall and winter and how do you style them into your cold-weather wardrobe?
Welch: I love chunky knits and white jeans. I wear them with brogues and or a knee-high boot [for] a very Princess Diana vibe.
White pieces perfect for fall and beyond
Using Welch’s advice, we put together 10 white styles, which are on-trend and perfect for wearing now through fall and beyond.
Express X Karla Sash Tie Utility Jumpsuit ($88; express.com): Utilitarian is a major trend for the fall season, and this white utilitarian jumpsuit from Welch’s collection is chic and totally transitional between seasons. Wear it as is with a cute pair of chunky sandals now, and add a cool leather moto jacket and snake print boots for fall.
Everlane The High Rise Skinny Jean ($68; everlane.com): Everlane’s High Rise Skinny Jeans are ultra-flattering and slim at the ankles, making them perfect for tucking into a chic pair of knee-high boots.
Weekend Max Mara Origano Sweater ($460; matchesfashion.com): A chunky ivory knit, like this one from Weekend Max Mara, balances a white jean for an ultra-chic winter white ensemble. Just be sure to pair it with a sleek pair of booties in a dark or neutral tone to ground your look.
Ulla Johnson Storm Tie Waist Tapered Jeans ($375; nordstrom.com): If skinny white jeans aren’t your style, try opting for a pair of tapered off-white jeans, like these Ulla Johnson Storm Tie Waist Tapered Jeans. The contrasting stitching and loose fit are cool details that add interest. Tuck them into a slouchy boot and pair them with a cardigan or chunky knit, and you’re good to go.
Mango Structured Wool Coat ($299.99; mango.com): A winter white coat is timeless, just be sure to opt for a style that’s tailored, like this structured wool coat from Mango. Wear it over everything from plaid blouses and ruffled tops with jeans to chunky knits and turtlenecks with trousers.
Free People Echo Midi Skirt ($148; freepeople.com): Like Karla suggested, winter whites are all about choosing the right fabrics. Try opting for a thicker white skirt, like this deconstructed utilitarian cotton midi from Free People.
Tibi Embellished Twill Blazer ($795; net-a-porter.com): Investing in a beautiful white blazer is always a good idea. This Fall ‘19 collection blazer from Tibi is made with a relaxed fit from soft, sustainable twill that will look fabulous with everything from trousers at work to white denim on the weekends.
Banana Republic Double-Breasted Trench Dress ($139; bananarepublic.com): A trench dress in a warm white hue is perfect for transitioning between seasons. Wear it with a pair of lace-up sandals now and layer it over a cream-colored turtleneck with knee-high boots for fall.
Madewell Shrunken Ribbed Cardigan ($69.50; nordstrom.com): This ‘90s-style shrunken ivory cardigan works perfectly for winter, thanks to its ribbed texture and contrasting button detail. Wear it with a pair of high waist white denim, like these from Everlane.
Eileen Fisher Italian Cashmere Long Cardigan ($498; eileenfisher.com): Just like this Tibi blazer, investing in a cashmere cardigan is never a bad idea. Plus, cashmere is even more luxurious in a beautiful creamy white color.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.