This is one of my favorite posts from the past and that’s why I’m reposting it today.

Labor Day was created to honor the American worker and the labor movement.  But when I was growing up, Labor Day meant three things to me.  Of course, there’s the last summer picnic and the day before the new school year started—which isn’t true anymore since school has been going on for at least two weeks now.  And I was always told, “Don’t wear white after Labor Day.” Which got me thinking about the “fashion” rules I grew up with.

Don’t Wear White After Labor Day

This was one of those things my mother was firm with.  We put away the whites on Labor Day weekend and couldn’t take them out again until Memorial Day.  Shoes too, except for sneakers because back then they only came in white or black, and who needed more than one pair of sneakers?

My mother was so strict with this rule that on Easter I can remember being in a pale yellow dress with a white ribbon around the waist, a matching jacket, and a white ribbon in my hair while wearing black patent leather shoes.  I was so disappointed that she didn’t buy me the white shoes that Easter.

I read somewhere that this might have been a “rule” made up by old money snobs who were trying to disassociate themselves from all those “vulgar” new money women. By creating fashion rules but not sharing them. It didn’t matter how much money was spent on an outfit, if it didn’t have the right color or the right sleeve length for an event, then that person was snubbed.

Another thing that I read was it might have just been a way to change from summer/vacation mode into fall/work mode. Many people who lived in the cities, took their summer vacations at resorts or along coastal shores like Long Island or Cape Cod.

During the hot summer months out would come the white linen suits and dresses. But once summer was over, those clothes were put away for something more appropriate for the city. By the 1950’s all fashion magazines held this as a hard and fast rule.

Whether it was a rule of snobbery or just plain convenience, I’m glad that it’s not one that’s followed anymore.

Never Wear Black To A Wedding And Only The Bride Wears White

I can’t forget my mother’s shocked reaction the first time she saw bridesmaids in black dresses.  She predicted doom for the marriage (turns out she was right, they were divorced less than 10 years later!)  Now, all I see is the skinny, black dress at weddings, it’s a uniform at this point.  

And growing up, only the bride wore white, otherwise, you were considered to be competing with the bride for attention, but now I’m starting to see more and more white dresses at weddings.   At one wedding, I actually saw the mother of the groom wearing white…I wonder why.   This rule was followed closely by the next one.

Only Wear Black to Funerals

Black, grays, browns, and navy were the only allowable colors when I was growing up.  And the first time I broke the black rule at a funeral was for my father’s funeral.  He loved to see me wear red, so I did—and my mother was ok with that.

Fall Weddings Are For Darker Colors, Spring Ones Are For Pastels

This one was a tricky rule because Mom never came right out and said it, she just modeled it (and probably made comments about someone not wearing the appropriate colors.)  We weren’t above scrutiny, even after we were married.  Once at a fall wedding, Mom looked at someone wearing pastel pink, then looked us up and down and said, “I’m glad to see my daughters are dressed appropriately.”

No Jeans On The First Day Of School

This might seem an unusual rule but when I was growing up, girls couldn’t even wear pants to school until I was in 5th grade (and I was a tomboy, playing kickball and marbles in dresses every day!) But for my mother, first impressions counted and the first day of school was reserved for a brand new outfit that she approved.  We fought about this one year and I lost when she ripped up my jeans and threw them in the garbage.

There are other fashion rules out there, but these were my Mom’s rules that we needed to follow. I’ve loved to hear what “fashion” rules you needed to stick to when you were growing up.