Labor Day, a federal holiday since 1894, used to represent lots of things: first and foremost, it was a day to celebrate labor, and consequently parades were held in cities large and small. I don’t see this kind of commemoration occurring anymore, but maybe it still does, somewhere in America. With Memorial Day, Labor Day created a nice bookmark to frame/end summer, and this is still a role it plays today. It also came to symbolize back to school, back to regular schedules, back to structure, which is also a role that it has retained. And on a more frivolous note, Labor Day meant the end of white: women (and men) were supposed to put away their summer whites and bring out their darker, more serious clothes. I don’t think that this is still a fashion rule (hence winter whites), but the Labor Day holiday provides an opportunity to look back at the wearing of white.
Women in their white dresses, circa 1795-1970:
Photograph by Thomas Eakins of a “Woman in White laced-bodice Dress” in his studio, 1880s. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Two images from the Smithsonian Art Inventories: William Merritt Chase, Woman in White, 1886 (Munson-Williams-Proctor Museum of Art) and Cecilia Beaux, New England Woman (Mrs. Jedidiah H. Richards), 1895 (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art).
Turn-of-the-century women in white: a photograph from the Bieber Studio in New York City, an advertisement from the Ladies’ Home Journal, poster by Charles Cox and magazine cover by Ruth Eastman, all New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
Two editions (1947 & 2010) of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, first published in 1860.
This photograph looks much earlier to me (look at the shoes) but portrays a nice end of summer image. The party’s over!
September 5th, 2011 at 12:16 pm
This is a wonderful collection and I agree about the woman on the beach, i had 40’s in my head when I first saw it, but maybe she was just dreadfully old fashioned, and possibly a little lost falling asleep on a beach fully clothed.. and those others beautiful.. a nice spot for me to drop in.. c
September 5th, 2011 at 7:09 pm
Thanks for stopping by Cecilia–your comment led me to your lovely blog!
September 6th, 2011 at 2:12 pm
Great post, love the pictures, thanks for the information on Labor Day, didn’t really know much about it. Love your blog.
September 7th, 2011 at 12:19 pm
Nooooooo!! Say it ain’t so!
I’m wedded to the idea of 2 more weeks of summer and I am sticking to it.
PS: watching Antiques Roadshow last night we heard that the value of any painting w/ a woman in a white dress rises exponentially. Neat fact!
September 7th, 2011 at 4:24 pm
How did I miss that? I was watching too last night. Very neat and very timely.