In a way, Labor Day is like New Year's Eve. Both days straddle the old and the new, and both days offer the opportunity to start fresh. Even though many people use New Year's Day to get busy with a list of resolutions that are meant to change their lives (quit smoking, lose ten pounds) in reality the new year often means little more than vacuuming up dried fir needles and writing the wrong date on checks for a few weeks.
By contrast, Labor Day is when we really get to start over. Kids go back to school in carefully selected school clothes and spanking new notebooks. They see old friends and tackle new cliques, and their report cards are blank slates. Adults forgo sneaking out early on Friday afternoons and give up their shares in beach houses. Everyone is back from vacation, and that big project you shoved to the back of your desk can't wait any longer.
Labor Day also signals the transition from easy to more difficult. Summer is all about sundresses slipped over the head, dinners of sliced tomatoes and basil, and sunscreen and a swipe of lipstick. Life is simple. Perfume is likely to be something fresh and easy: an Eau de Cologne during the day and a narcotic floral at night.
As fall settles in, ten minutes to toss together a salad turns to a three-hour braise. Instead of slipping on sandals, you put on socks then lace up boots and wonder if you should have layered the whole thing over tights. Last minute barbecues become multi-course dinner parties. You find yourself reaching for more opaque, complex fragrances capturing spice, incense, and gourmand notes to match the color of the leaves and the hint of wood smoke in the air. This is when I want to wear sheer but grounded scents like Serge Lutens Chêne, L'Etat Libre d'Orange Like This, and, in the rain, L'Artisan Parfumeur Voleur des Roses. Or, it could be you'll sniff a fragrance you loved last fall and decide it doesn't suit you anymore. You're not the same person, and you want a new fall perfume.
Maybe where you live nights are still warm and you'll be wearing sandals and flouting the "no white after Labor Day" rule with a glass of rosé in your hand by the pool for weeks. I envy you. For the rest of us, remember that although it's sad to leave summer behind, in the effort required of autumn we can redefine ourselves. We've had a good, long rest and now we can move ahead with our goals, whether they're as simple as finding a cool-weather look that is more Ginger than Mary Ann or bigger, like finally writing that novel.
Lucky for us, Labor Day isn't over yet. While you're kicking back on your day of no labor, let me leave you with a holiday gift and a great way to spend an hour or two: the L'Officiel archives. L'Officiel is a French fashion magazine, and its complete archives, all the way back to 1921, are online. You can select on old magazine (I love the issues from the 1930s), click on it, and it opens up on your computer screen like a real magazine. Press an arrow, and the pages flip. Take in the Schiaparelli, Patou, and Louis XIV-themed society parties in chateaux, and don't miss the perfume ads!
Happy Labor Day.