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Are White Sales & ‘No White After Labor Day’ Related?

It would seem that White Sales and the old-fashioned tradition of not wearing white after Labor Day would have something to do with one another: “People aren’t wearing white after Labor Day, so we better put it on sale!”</br></br>But, that’s never how it worked.</br></br><strong>Who Invented White Sales?</strong></br></br>The very <a title="PBS" href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/theymadeamerica/whomade/wanamaker_hi.html" target="_blank">first White Sale was held in January 1878</a>, when department store magnate John Wanamaker cooked up the idea to spur slow post-holiday sales in January. As it stood, though, this was just icing on Wanamaker’s capitalist cake.</br></br>Just four years before that first White Sale, Wanamaker copyrighted the first-ever department store advertisement. And, before that, he invented – yes, invented – the price tag. Before him, people just haggled. Seriously.</br></br>But, Wanamaker and his marketing genius had nothing to do with the “no white after Labor Day” movement – a holiday that, even back then, was still observed in the first week of September.</br></br><strong>So, Who Invented ‘No White After Labor Day’?</strong></br></br>There are several well-held beliefs on how the fashion tradition developed in the early 1900s (around the same time as Wanamaker’s White Sale, actually), and the fact that no one really knows suggests the true answer rests at the crossroads of those rumors.</br></br><span style="text-decoration: underline;">The Practicality Theory</span>: One prominent idea is that the “no white” rule was a reminder for folks that the season for summertime wear was over and that winter was beginning. This was a practical issue, as white clothing would not hold up well in the damp, dirt and muck that accompanied winter.</br></br><span style="text-decoration: underline;">The Fashion Theory</span>: This suggestion stems from a belief that New York fashionistas were the people really driving couture, with the production of catalog spreads and billboard advertisements that fueled the notion that white clothing was for summer, and for summer only.</br></br><span style="text-decoration: underline;">The Elitist Theory</span>: Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are some historians that blame rich socialites for the bygone fashion trend, and the idea isn’t without precedent. Back in the day, the “old money” in places like New York had a strong desire to stand apart from the “new money” coming into town, and would establish secret fashion rules so that more seasoned rich people could still look down on the upstarts.</br></br><strong>And, What Does It All Mean Now?</strong></br></br>Bupkis! White Sales happen all the time and people wear white whenever they want. Isn’t it a great time to be alive?
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