Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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Animal Locomotion, Vol. 7 (1872-1885) - Eadweard Muybridge, photographer.
It’s interesting to be able to see these outfits in motion.
Adelina Patti by James Sant, ca 1886, National Portrait Gallery, London
The Italian opera singer Adelina Patti, the last of the line of great coloratura sopranos, made her London debut on 14 May 1861 at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden, as Amina in Bellini’s La Sonnambula. In this and other roles, particularly that of Rosina in The Barber of Seville, she delighted audiences throughout Europe and in North and South America. Her public career lasted nearly sixty years and is virtually without parallel.
Mourning dress by Amédée François, ca 1880 France, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Half-mourning dress by W G Jay & Co, 1883-84 London, Manchester Art Gallery
Half-mourning dress (?) Pale grey satin trimmed with black figured and black corded silk and white net. Two piece.
Bodice lined with cream twilled silk. Low square-cut neck. Fastening at centre front with embroidered buttons. Neck trimmed with band and double frill of net. Sleeves shaped to wrist, trimmed with frill of net. Separate skirt lined with stiffened cotton, fastening left back. Hem cut in triangles. Train at back. Lace muslin frill. Tapes and ties at back to form bustle.
Cabinet photograph by Evelyn & James, 1885 Wandsworth (London), Manchester Art Gallery
Full length portrait of a seated woman in mourning dress. Plain interior backdrop with a table to the left with a fur throw and a black dog. The woman wears her hair in a chignon with a brimless straw hat with a velvet band and bow. She is wearing a black wool and crepe dress with a fitted bodice with centre front buttons extending to a point and full length fitted sleeves with crepe cuffs. The bodice of her dress is made up of crepe with a bolero style front and a high standing collar. She has a bustle and her skirt is made up of crepe inserts and black silk.
Written on reverse in pencil “Mary Le Neve Foster / 1885 - or 1886 / In Mourning dress for her mother”
Mourning necklace, 1875-1900, McCord Museum
Perhaps surprisingly, mourning became an occasion for increased consumption. It might seem much more natural to expect that the grief associated with the death of a loved one would result in indifference to any form of consumption. But such was not the case in Victorian Canada. Paradoxically this deeply private time gave rise to eminently public rituals. Death imposed a number of rules, the most important of which specified the details of permitted activities and dress. To abide by the constraints of deep mourning, mourning and half-mourning, for example, a widow had to have dresses, shawls, bonnets, gloves, handkerchiefs and underwear in strictly codified colours. For many months, only black jet jewellery was allowed. To those who followed the codes, mourning was a time of heavy spending.
This heavy necklace with a gothic cross and medallions decorated with small flowers, probably pansies, is designed for mourning. It is made of a synthetic material imitating jet, a black stone.
Jet is a precious stone found in abundance near Whitby, England. In the Victorian era, the town had many manufacturers of jet jewellery.
According to the rules of mourning, no jewellery was to be worn in deep mourning, the length of which depended on the degree of relationship to the deceased. Next came mourning, during which only jet was permitted, followed by half-mourning, when either jet or gold could be worn.
The owner of this necklace, who is unknown, was expressing her taste for the gothic, a style much in vogue in the 19th century. She also showed her very Victorian knowledge of the symbolic language of flowers, in which pansies represent thoughts.
Child’s mourning garment, ca 1882 England, the Victoria & Albert Museum
Little girl’s mourning garment, in the form of a short princess-line coat dress made of black grosgrain lined throughout with white cotton. The garment has a rounded neck with a self fabric neckband, and fastens the length of the front with metal hooks and stitched loops. The hem and wrist-length sleeves are finished with vandyke tabs bound and faced with self fabric. The coat is shaped to fit at the waist: it is cut in six pieces, the front two of which have long darts. Lines of stitch holes indicate that two mitred pieces of fabric which were originally positioned at the waist back have been removed.
Mourning tiara, 1880’s Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic), the Victoria & Albert Museum
Jet is the fossilised remains of driftwood. In Britain, the main source is Whitby, in Yorkshire. It became particularly popular in mourning jewellery in the mid 19th century.
The custom of wearing mourning dress was encouraged by Queen Victoria’s prolonged mourning after the death of her husband Albert in 1861. Formal mourning required black crepe or bombazine clothes along with ‘a few trinkets to accentuate the general sombreness of the costume’. This tiara shows that jet or its substitutes was worn at the highest level of society: only those above a certain social class would have had the occasion to wear a tiara. It is interesting that it is made of ‘French jet’, a cast glass substitute for jet. As supplies of jet were not sufficient to keep up with the demand, dark cast glass known as ‘French jet’ or ‘Vauxhall glass’ was often used.