Are Seasonal Manners Color-Blind? (A Guest Column by Diane Gottsman)

Labor Day weekend is upon us, and fashion-conscious people everywhere are confronting an annual question: Is it appropriate to wear white after Labor Day?

There has always been a no white after Labor Day debate among fashionistas and the style-conscious. While it is uncertain where the rule originally began, many say it had to do with society and class structure, while others credit the changing seasons. Regardless, most of us really do, or should, care about the image we project.

My take on the issue is to err on the side of caution and banish those white shoes to the back of the closet until next year. Truth be known, I don’t actually own a pair of solid white shoes, but I have plenty of other white articles of clothing that are going to take a backseat for the next nine months. such as a beautiful white sundress, some bright white sunglasses (that I should probably banish forever), and a great handbag that screams summer fun. I am also temporarily retiring my white jeans and all of my white linen (which never looks good because it is always wrinkled). I also have a few items that will remain in my wardrobe rotation, like a beautiful white cashmere sweater that looks fabulous with a pair of dark wool pants. (I am certain I look taller and more attractive every time I wear that particular outfit.) A crisp white cotton shirt is a year-round staple, and my winter white coatdress is ready for the cold weather. But, all in all, I wear white with caution after Labor Day and concentrate on variations of winter white, beige and cream.

Another respected opinion comes from manners expert and author Thomas P. Farley who edited the “Social Graces” column for Town & Country magazine for nearly a decade. His Modern Manners anthology (Hearst Books) went into multiple printings, and he is presently at work on his next tome, on tech etiquette. He says: “The fashion industry abandoned the dictum of 'no white after Labor Day long ago,' and I think it’s time that we in the etiquette world do so as well. Far more important is wearing attire that is appropriate to the formality (or lack thereof) of the occasion. Beyond that, regardless of the season, I believe that men and women alike should exercise the confidence to select attire that makes them feel, lookand–perhaps most important of all–act their very best.”

That’s the key! In order to look your best you must feel good about what you are wearing, regardless of the color or the particular season. But I implore you, when going on an important job interview, grab a dark colored suit any time of year!

Here are more thoughts on the subject from respected peers and other experts:

“If you are a female and live in a warm climate, then white shoes are appropriate just about 9 months out of the year – especially if you are wearing a light-color suit or outfit. If you are a man, white shoes are not appropriate unless you are in a very creative field.”

—Juanita Ecker

Professional Image Management

“Although the fashion industry and some experts say that it is indeed okay to wear white after Labor Day, it is still a burning question amongst many of us because it just doesn’t feel “right.” I am a proponent of wearing white shoes up until the end of the September (depending on weather conditions) but after that, they're a no-go. White shoes (pumps, sandals, wedges, loafers, etc.) are typically made of lighter fabrics and leathers and are more “strappy” in nature, which exposes more of the foot, making it very difficult to transition into a fall wardrobe that consists of heavier fabrics and darker color palettes. There is too much of a contrast between the whiteness of the shoe and the deeper, richer apparel selections, leaving the ensemble looking disconnected.”

—Jacqueline M. Peros

Certified Image & Style Expert

“Although I don’t tout my expertise to be in the world of fashion, I do know a thing or two about the power of personal brand. Some think etiquette is about do's and don’ts, but really it is here to help us put our best foot forward...something that’s hard to do with a dirty white shoe, which can easily happen in the fall and winter months. But if your heart is set on white, winter white is much more forgiving… and where etiquette is concerned, forgiving is a good thing.”

—Mindy Lockard

Mindy Lockard Gracious Living

“Unless you want to look like a fashion victim you cannot wear White Shoes/ Linen/ Sandals/Straw Handbags/Seersucker/Other Warm-Weather Clothes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day…the answer is a firm no.”

—Lesley Carlin

The Etiquette Grrls

“Living in Ottawa, Canada, white shoes are put away soon after Labour Day. Of course, in September we are forced to bring out our light sweaters and darker colours usually emerge too.  Black skirt and pants are the basis of our corporate wardrobe and white shoes would jump out as glaringly inappropriate.”

—Suzanne Nourse

Protocol School of Ottawa

“In general, white is acceptable to wear after Labor Day – especially if it looks great on you.  When it comes to shoes, I recommend reserving all-white shoes and sandals for special occasions like weddings, as most were designed for brides.  An all-white boot is not practical in sloppy weather and will draw a distracting amount of attention to your feet unless your entire outfit and your overcoat is white.”

—Sasha Westin

Personal Style Concierge

“White can be a dangerous color to wear for work regardless of the time of year – it shows marks and dirt too easily!”

—Barbara Pachter

Pachter & Associates

And…one final opinion:

“As long as your shoes have lots of glitter, it’s okay to wear white all year long.”

Emily Rose

Age 10

Diane Gottsman

is an etiquette expert and the founder of the Protocol School of Texas. You can follow her on Twitter at


and check out her web site