TIME Culture

Why It’s O.K. to Wear White After Labor Day

The dated custom of avoiding it in September is no longer in fashion

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Tradition holds that this is the time of year when wearing white becomes a major fashion faux pas. But it turns out that the history of the “no white after Labor Day” rule isn’t so black and white.

In the video above, TIME’s Archives Editor Lily Rothman explains why Americans stopped wearing white after Labor Day (and also why you should feel free to rock your white jeans well after summer is over).

TIME fashion

In Defense of Barack Obama’s Tan Suit

President Obama Makes Statement In The Briefing Room Of White House
No matter what anyone says, this is not an image worthy of controversy. Alex Wong—Getty Images

Just because the President wore a suit that wasn't a shade of gray or blue doesn't mean you should have a problem with it

Let’s make this much clear: there is nothing wrong, wild or crazy about a tan suit. This may come as a shock to those who expressed outrage at President Obama’s choice of attire yesterday, but not all suits come in a shade of gray or navy. In fact, as colors outside of those two go, tan is rather plain and simple. As for the suit itself, the lapels are in their typical three-inch range, it’s not tailored any better than his other suits (at least from the navel up) and the American flag pin is in its usual location. The tan suit is just another suit that happens to be a slightly different color than the ones he normally wears. It was, in no way, a fashion statement.

Here is a brief list of fashion choices that would have been “bold” or “wack-ass” that the President could have made yesterday:

  1. T-shirt with suit and sleeves rolled up (aka the “Miami Vice“).
  2. Whatever Austin Mahone was wearing at the VMAs.
  3. Crocs.

But the President did not wear any of those things. Nor did he wear a three-piece suit, a seersucker suit or a white suit. Hell, he didn’t even opt for the Reagan mullet suit (business on the top, lounging on the bottom).

Perhaps the only curious thing about Obama’s suit selection was its timing. Not the fact that he wore it during the summer time (that’s when you should be wearing a tan suit, if at any time), but that he wore it while discussing crucial issues of foreign policy with the press. It was a somber occasion, and there’s apparently a certain expectation of precisely how the President’s attire should match the mood.

It’s tough to argue with that point. When discussing serious matters, there’s no reason not to be dressed accordingly. (Though one could hardly be forgiven for wondering why those criticizing Obama for discussing serious matters in improper attire are focused on that attire rather than the issues they’ve deemed so serious.) The larger problem lies in the expectations that Obama had previously created. In this 2012 Vanity Fair profile, Michael Lewis quotes Obama saying the following: “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits… I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

So for the last six years, that’s pretty much all we’ve seen him in. Gray or blue, charcoal or navy, day after day after day until seeing him out of that particular uniform (other than athletic attire) became tantamount to seeing a performer out of costume.

The irony is that the President is often criticized for being bland, even in his fashion choices. To be frank, after yesterday’s outcry, who can blame him? Next time you or anyone asks the Commander-in-Chief for a little personality or originality, don’t be surprised if this is cited as a reason for declining that request.

The choice in tie, on the other hand, that’s a little more difficult to defend…

TIME celebrities

Behind the Scenes of Tavi Gevinson’s TIME Photo Shoot

The recent high school graduate begins a new phase of her life

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Tavi Gevinson is no stranger to posing for pictures, styling an outfit, or even acting. Though the Rookie editor-in-chief made her Broadway debut in This is Our Youth this month, she’s been acting since she was little, she told New York Magazine.

Gevinson, 18, is featured in this week’s TIME fall arts preview and was photographed by Peter Hapak in New York City.

In the video above, take a glimpse inside the photo studio.

TIME Television

Katy Perry and Riff Raff Showed Up at the VMAs Dressed Like Britney and Justin

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals
Riff Raff and Katy Perry attend the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. Steve Granitz—WireImage/Getty Images

Throwback!

Katy Perry and rapper RiFF RAFF just riffed on an outfit Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears wore to the 2001 American Music Awards. The two showed up on the red carpet from the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards wearing the same denim getups that the early ’00s power couple wore 13 years ago. (But doesn’t it seem like yesterday?)

Perry and RiFF RAFF recently teamed up for “This Is How We Do,” out on iTunes tomorrow. The pop diva has previously joked about dating rumors surrounding her and Riff Raff:

MONEY deals

Labor Day Sale Prices Are Here—a Week Before Labor Day Weekend

Banana Republic 50% off promotion
Jin Lee—Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a brutally competitive back-to-school season for retailers, clothing stores like Banana Republic and Abercrombie & Fitch have busted out extra-early clearance sales to the tune of 40% and 50% off everything.

Check out some of the impressive sales taking place right now:

Abercrombie & Fitch: 40% off everything in stores and on the web;

American Eagle: extra 50% off items already on clearance;

Ann Taylor: 50% off a broad range of merchandise;

Banana Republic: 40% off your entire purchase online with the code BRGET40, or $50 off when you spend at least $100 in stores;

Gap: 30% off for everyone (use code AUGUST), or 40% if you have a Gap credit card (code: $40STYLE) now through August 24, plus $25 in Gap Cash for every $50 you spend now through September 1.

If you didn’t know any better, you might have assumed that these big, across-the-board discounts are for Labor Day sales, or for post-back-to-school clearance sales. Heck, 40% off everything has more or less been the standard markdown level to get shoppers to bite on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, renowned as the best sales days of the year.

So why are retailers pushing such hefty discounts at such a seemingly odd time? One reason is that right now is an especially competitive, arguably desperate moment for apparel stores in particular. Iconic retailers like Target, Walmart, and Sears have been struggling mightily of late, and a wide range of clothing stores are trying to cope with consumers’ shifting fashion (and shrinking household budgets) that have brought about the need for deals like $10 jeans.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), household spending on clothes during the back-to-school period is basically flat compared with last year. Shoppers said they planned on spending $231.30 on clothes this season, versus $230.85 a year ago. What’s more, more parents seem to be taking the slacker approach to back-to-school shopping, procrastinating on purchases rather than prudently completing shopping lists long before school starts. As of August 12, an NRF poll indicates, 24% of families hadn’t done any back-to-school shopping yet, compared with 21% at the same time last year. Though fashionistas would disagree, trendy clothing is less of an essential for the start of the school year—kids need notebooks and markers more than new outfits—so it’s a safe assumption that procrastinators have been shying away in particular from clothing purchases, especially if they’ve been avoiding back-to-school shopping because of a tight household budget.

All of these factors add up to a situation in which stores simply haven’t been able to convince shoppers to buy enough clothing yet during the end-of-summer, back-to-school period. They could have waited to drop their big discounts on Labor Day Weekend, but because stores are constantly trying to beat competitors to the punch nowadays, sales tend to start earlier and last longer than ever—hence back-to-school deals beginning in June and Christmas advertising starting just after Labor Day.

Speaking of the winter holidays, they’re a major reason why retailers are being especially aggressive in clearing out summer and fall inventory right now. The November–December period is by far the most important time of year for all of the retailers mentioned above, and to make the most of it, stores want to start with a clean slate (and cleaned-out stores) as early as possible, to prep for the busy months ahead.

In fact, the world’s largest retailer already announced the launching of a holiday season initiative two weeks before Labor Day. “At Walmart, we never stop thinking about the holidays,” a post from Walmart’s Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer, stated in mid-August. And yes, he was referring to the winter holidays: Starting around Black Friday, Walmart plans to have all of its store registers open during peak shopping times, according to a new Checkout Promise introduced by Mac Naughton.

All of which is a roundabout way of explaining why stores are resorting to big, broad markdowns at a seemingly strange time. But before you bite, bear in mind that next week, the sales will probably be even better on whatever merchandise hasn’t already been snatched up. The folks at dealnews anticipate that many stores will offer deeply discounted clothing during Labor Day clearance sales, sometimes with markdowns or 70% or even 80% off.

MORE: Why Parents Should Procrastinate on Back-to-School Purchases

TIME fashion

In Defense of That J-Crew Gingham Shirt

Op-ed gingham style

Updated 12:05 p.m. ET

Listen up, folks: That blue checkered J-Crew gingham style shirt everyone’s making fun of today? Stop it. That shirt is wonderful.

The frock-mockery started with an Instagram account that’s posting images of various men (and women, and even babies) wearing the very same J-Crew shirt. There’s often something on Instagram or Tumblr that people are making fun of, from men who sit with their legs too wide on the subway to guys who hate shopping. This new one’s admittedly pretty funny on first glance: Hey, look at all these dudes wearing the same shirt!

Here’s the thing: yeah, that shirt’s popular. And yeah, I own one! But there’s a good reason for that: It’s a pretty classic American shirt great for all occasions, it almost never goes out of style and it’s super easy to pull out of my closet and match with a whole bunch of different pants and shoes so I look decent with minimal effort, which is really the apex of men’s fashion for me and probably lots of other dudes (It’s all about efficiency.)

So the shirt is fine, folks.

But fashion issues aside, there’s another problem with this Instagram page — it’s totally a form of cyberbullying. It seems like whoever’s running the account is either taking creepshots of men wearing a gingham shirt while unaware their photo is being taken or grabbing such images from elsewhere on Instagram or the wider web. Either way, this isn’t cool — because while it may be all in good fun to whoever’s running the account, the page isn’t laughing with the men rocking the gingham shirts, it’s laughing at them. And nobody, whether man, woman or adorable tiny baby, deserves to be Insta-shamed about their wardrobe.

Update: Taylor Lorenz over at the Daily Mail interviewed the creator of the Instagram account, who seems to be doing it less as an insult and more of a tribute to this fine piece of apparel. Carry on, good sir!

TIME Retail

One Problem With Plus-Size Fashion: Customers Aren’t Buying It

A model walks the runway at the British Plus-size Fashion Weekend show during London Fashion Week last winter.
A model walks the runway at the British Plus-size Fashion Weekend show during London Fashion Week last winter. John Phillips—UK Press/Getty Images

The fashion industry may deserve plenty of blame, but if consumers want options, they must vote with their wallets

If plus-size fashion is a $17.5 billion industry, why are plus-size consumers still marginalized? The fashion industry takes a lot of blame, and to some extent the blame is fairly placed, but not entirely. As a plus-size fashion blogger and veteran fashion marketing consultant, I talk to women every day who are looking for more from the fashion industry. Limited variety has forced us to take a utility-vs-style approach, which is often confusing for the few trend-driven retailers navigating the space. If you’re one of the reported 100 million plus-size Americans, your own retail behavior could be more to blame than you think.

Naturally consumer behavior informs retailer decisions, but the most perplexing insight of my career was when a plus-size retailer tested shoppers, showing the same styles on size 8 and 14 models, each to a different customer segment. The size 8 model translated into more sales nearly every time, even as customers demanded on social media that the brand use plus-size women in their product photography. This was not an isolated incident; industry friends shared similar anecdotes about brand after brand. And retailers are going to continue to create online shopping experiences that lead to higher sales. For example, brands frequently reshoot a slow-selling item on a “higher converting” model (to use the industry term for earning potential) to move inventory. As essential as clothing is to our lives, fashion is first and foremost a business.

Plus-size blogger Chastity Garner recently revived a movement to pressure Target into extending the sizes of their designer collaborations on the heels of Melissa McCarthy’s claim that she was unable to find fashion designers willing to create gowns for her red carpet appearances. Although the perception of fashion traditionally has been that plus-size women are not desirable customers, Lane Bryant is stirring up the industry, collaborating with Isabel Toledo, Sophie Theallet, and most recently Lela Rose. Partnerships like these raise the profile of plus in the wider fashion industry while utilizing a brand’s established fit, patterns, and silhouettes. The success, perceived or otherwise, of these collaborations is invigorating and inviting.

But real change for plus-size fashion will come when customers make more conscious purchasing decisions. Aimee Cheshire, co-founder of Hey Gorgeous, an online retailer that carries established and independent fashion sizes 8 and up, shared, “The difference will be seen immediately when the plus consumer breaks the cycle and starts to take risks buying beautiful, high-quality pieces that she is proud to wear.”

As brands continue to tune into plus-size consumer feedback and behavior, we as a community must acknowledge that every interaction we have carries a responsibility. When The Limited shuttered ELOQUII due to a lack of resources, passionate team members used the community’s outcry as validation of what they already knew – that women want quality, current fashion at any size – and independently revived the brand. (Disclosure: ELOQUII is among the brands for whom I do consulting work.) True variety, whether that be more trend-driven styles, better fit, higher quality fabrics, model selection, or extended sizes, will come from the accumulation of our choices. Product reviews, feedback, tweets, comments, photos, and blog posts all contribute to a brand’s success. And so does consumer behavior at the cash register.

Sarah Conley is a social media marketing expert and blogger; you can find her take on plus-size fashion, beauty, and technology at styleitonline.com.

TIME fashion

See Nicki Minaj’s Wild Style Evolution

Her many looks from her early mixtapes to 'Anaconda'

On Tuesday, Nicki Minaj finally released the music video for her single “Anaconda.” The twerking-heavy video—and the album cover featuring Minaj in a thong was released last month—have sparked a lot of buzz about her outrageous, scandalous and unapologetically sexy style. Here’s a look at how the rapper’s look has evolved over the years.

And of course, her look in “Anaconda:”

TIME Opinion

The Fanny Pack: Symbol of Male Liberation

In defense of the world's greatest supply bag

America’s national arbiter of Southern Cool, Matthew McConaughey, declared his love for the fanny pack to the world while at Fenway Park Sunday.

“I’m not afraid of the fanny pack,” said McConaughey, when confronted about his accessory. “You gotta kind of put it on the side to make it look a little not as nerdy, but still, practicality wins out. I got so much gear in here that I don’t want in my pockets.”

The Houston Astros Vs. The Boston Red Sox At Fenway Park
Actor Matthew McConaughey stands for the national anthem at the Red Sox game at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) Boston Globe—Boston Globe via Getty Images

For those not in the know, a fanny pack is a small pouch worn around the waist like a belt. Supposedly once the pouch was worn over the buttocks, hence the name, though no one wears them that way today. They peaked as a fashion item in the 1980s.

McConaughey’s love for the fanny pack is all good and well and I offer him my sincerest stamp of approval but his statement deserves a lingering glance. He speaks not only to today’s evolving fashion trends and the utility of the fanny pack but to the society’s sexist fashion standards and the plight of modern man, especially when it’s hot outside.

Consider the options available to a man wishing to carry a few supplies out into the world (excluding winter time, when the giant coat and the fact that going out is awful anyway renders the conundrum moot).

The briefcase—No one took you seriously when you carried one in high school and no one takes you seriously now, unless there are actual briefs (the legal kind) in that thing.

The backpack—We could rename it “The backsweat.” Also kind of juvenile, but it’ll do in a pinch.

The satchel—Known to everyone talking out of earshot as your “murse,” this bag is actually pretty handy but it can be a bulky when you’re trying to feel light and free and summery.

The hand—Real men carry things with their hands. But we are not real men and haven’t been since the end of the Stone Age so moving on.

The purse—Bless you bold purse carriers, but no. Getting an arm into the strap is impossible and there is just no way to hold these things other than with hand on strap arm extended at 90 degrees. Ergonomically out of the question. I am not alone.

The fanny pack— Small, light and comfy. The flip flop of supply bags. Liberator of male-kind. The fanny pack will get you where you need to go along with your carmex, knife, road beer, sunglasses, or whatever else. You will not be dependent (in the supply arena, anyway) on a purse-wielder, nor will you be weighed down by any aforementioned bulky or discomfiting bags.

Through the centuries man has known it to be true that the fanny pack is tops. Only recently, in this dark age of meggings and other fashion crimes, have we lost sight of our centuries old love for the fanny pack. See here, symbol of manly freedom and fanny pack pioneer, The King of the Wild Frontier himself, Davy Crockett.

Davy Crockett, King Of The Wild Frontier
Silver Screen Collection—Getty Images

Follow McConaughey, men. Follow Crockett. Embrace the fanny pack. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have the world to win.

TIME Advertising

One Fashion Brand Takes the ‘No Photoshop Pledge,’ Who’s Next?

ModCloth is the first retailer to officially promise not to retouch its models, but its not the only company eschewing Photoshop

ModCloth has taken the pledge. The online fashion retailer became the first brand to officially pledge not to retouch its models by signing the Heroes Pledge for Advertisers agreement last week.

The pledge was created by group behind the bipartisan bill called The Truth in Advertising Act, which was introduced in March and asks the Federal Trade Commission to develop regulations regarding retouched advertisements.

By signing the pledge, which is self-regulated, ModCloth has effectively promised three things:

  • To do their best not to change the shape, size, proportion, color or remove or enhance the physical features, of the people in ads in post-production.
  • That if the company does make post-production changes to the people in their ads, they will add a “Truth In Advertising” label.
  • They will not run any ads that include retouched models in media where children under 13 might see them.

It’s not surprising that ModCloth chose to sign the pledge. The San Francisco-based company is known for its vintage-style clothing and accessories marketed to the younger set. “We’ve always believed in celebrating and showing real women in our marketing,” ModCloth chief marketing officer Nancy Ramamurthi told Today, noting that company hasn’t used professional models since its launch in 2002 and has never used Photoshop to retouch them. “It was a no-brainer to sign on and participate.”

Though ModCloth is the first retailer to sign the pledge, thankfully it isn’t alone when it comes to moving away from unrealistic perfection in their catalogues. Earlier this year Aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie brand, released ads that proclaimed, “No more retouching our girls and no more supermodels.” The words went with a series of ads featuring unretouched models complete with tattoos and normal, everyday folds and bulges. (Though they were all slim, young and beautiful…) The brand also redesigned its website to include a bra guide with each product modeled in every size to give the average customer an idea of how the garment would look on them — and not a size zero model.

“This is now our brand,” Aerie’s senior director of marketing Dana Seguin told Fast Company in January. “It’s not a seasonal campaign for us. It is now how we’re talking to our customers.”

And then there’s sportswear company Title Nine, which, unsurprisingly given its name, has a pro-woman outlook. The company uses athletes as their models and, according to the website’s model mission statement: “It’s our models that best represent who we are here at Title Nine. All are ordinary women capable of extraordinary things…. We hope as you look through our online store and our catalog, you’ll see a little bit of yourself in each picture.” Similarly, Betabrand used non-professional models in its spring campaign; instead, online retailer selected women who had PhDs or were doctorial candidates to model the clothes.

Considering that study after study has found that depictions of women in the media have an impact on the way women and girls feel about their own bodies, it’s heartening to know that some companies are taking care about their own portrayals of women’s bodies. But while it would be wonderful to see more companies sign the Heroes Pledge for Advertisers, it would be even more wonderful for such a campaign to be unnecessary.

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