Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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Mourning evening slippers by Melnotte, 1845-65 France, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Tiny black slippers were de rigueur in the fashionable mid-Victorian lady’s wardrobe. Black shoes were felt to go with anything, hence the most versatile and dependable choice of footwear to have on hand. Slippers of this type are most commonly found in satin, so the faille fabric of this unworn pair is unusual. It is possible that the shoes were intended for mourning, when a dull-surfaced fabric was desired. The interesting label of the London vendor - written largely in French, noting the firm as exclusive agent, and mentioning the added stock of Parisian gloves, perfumes, and novelties - demonstrates the importance of imported French shoes and accessories in the contemporary market.
This person is my hero.
Mourning band for George Washington, 1799 Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Mourning band for George Washington (d. 12/14/1799), white ribbon with painted design of urn inscribed “GW” in wreath, edged with black silk and covered with black silk crepe
Written in ink of fabric label sewn to object: “Mourning Badge for George Washington. G.W. on urn. Probably worn by Wm. H. Sumner [1780-1861] 1799, son of Gov. [Increase] Sumner [1746-6/7/1799]”
Mourning dress with transforming bodice by Daubricourt, NY, ca 1905 New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Mourning dress by Amédée François, ca 1880 France, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Mourning dress by Charlotte Duclos, ca 1910 France, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
I usually don’t like mourning dresses (you weren’t supposed to, anyway), but the beading pattern on this one is stunning.
The elaborate but subtle beading on this mourning dress would have shimmered when new. The asymmetry of the charmeuse panel is indicative of the high fashion of the period. An example of extremely chic mourning attire for the evening, it features an element of subtle exposure: the beaded underpanel hidden by the charmeuse would have been revealed with the movement of the wearer.
Mourning hat by Bruat, Inc, ca 1915 US, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Black hats were popular for general wear in the 1910, particularly during the years of World War I, when sobriety and utility were the order of the day. Some hats, however, stand out specifically as mourning wear, suitable only to the bereaved, despite how chic the design might be. While this hat is fashionable in form and decoration, the unrelieved black clearly identifies its function. The choice of grape clusters - a normally colorful motif symbolizing fertility and abandon - produces an incongruous shock, thereby serving to strengthen the statement of mourning.
Mourning ensemble, ca 1870 US, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Black mourning dress reached its peak during the reign of Queen Victoria (1819-1901) of the United Kingdom in the second half of the 19th century. Queen Victoria wore mourning from the death of her husband, Prince Albert (1819-1861), until her own death. With these standards in place, it was considered a social requisite to don black from anywhere between three months to two and a half years while grieving for a loved one or monarch. The stringent social custom existed for all classes and was available at all price points. Those who could not afford the change of dress often altered and dyed their regular garments black. The amount of black to be worn was dictated by several different phases of mourning; full mourning ensembles were solid black while half mourning allowed the wearer to add a small amount of white or purple. Mourning clothing tended to follow the fashionable silhouette of the period, much like this exquisitely finished full mourning dress. This dress shows typical high style 1870s touches such as asymmetry, the bustle back and decorative hem details. The refined details are worked in black crinkled crepe, a common textile used for mourning attire, which indicates that the owner may have had the garment produced for a special occasion.