Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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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.
Mourning parasol, 1895-1900 US, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
A beautiful as well as large parasol, it is decidedly for mourning. This fact is evidenced by the hidden mourning crepe found in the middle layer between the taffeta and the densely ruched mousseline de soie. The handle is also extremely refined.
Mourning poke bonnet, ca 1840 US, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The style of the poke bonnet manifests the demure and modest style that followed the young Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne in 1838. This severe all-black example was probably worn for mourning, a long-standing custom that the Queen elevated to a social institution, especially after the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert.
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.
Summer by John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1875, private collection
It feels like summer (or spring, I guess) here in Charlotte…It was 73 today but it was in the 20’s on Friday so people are feeling lousy due to the dramatic change in the weather.
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”
Carte-de-visite photograph by Maull & Co, 1864 London, Manchester Art Gallery
Full length studio portrait of a woman in mourning sitting beside a table. She is wearing a day dress, skirt has an embroidered pattern set at regular intervals, patterned band runs around skirt just below the knee, large lace net hem with scalloped edging, bodice has similar patterned band across the shoulders and bust, upper part of the bodice is quilted with vertical strips, patterned band also runs down the trumpet sleeves, white undersleeves, white lace collar, she has a black lace shawl over one arm. Drawing room backdrop with drape.
EDIT: I don’t think this woman is in mourning. Not really sure where that information is coming from.
Carte-de-visite photograph by Maull & Polyblank, 1861 London, Manchester Art Museum
Full length studio portrait of a woman in mourning sitting on a chair in front of a desk. She is wearing a black watered silk dress, skirt hem has a patterned band at the hem, with matching patterned band along sleeve edge and down front on the bodice, trumpet sleeves. Bodice is similar to a zouave jacket. Widow’s cap. Plain background with drape.
Mourning bracelet, 1840-60, McCord Museum
Jewellery made from hair was very popular in the mid-19th century.
Symbols of life, hair has long been associated in many societies with funeral rituals. This piece of mourning jewellery, worn during this period in memory of the deceased, was a reminder of the inevitability of death. However its price, sometimes high, also made it a symbol of social status.
When the hair was that of a friend or living relative, the piece of jewelry was worn as a token of esteem. This one, however, was no doubt made from the hair of a deceased person and worn in his or her memory. Such jewelry was not acceptable during the period of deep mourning, when only jet accessories were permitted.
Hair is a material that can be braided, woven, sown, knotted and coiled to produce all kinds of shapes and patterns. Horsehair was also used for this type of jewelry.
Not all hair jewelry was made by jewellers. Magazines explained to their readers how to make it at home.
This kind of jewelry had existed in Europe since the late 17th century.
Bracelets, necklaces, earrings and watch chains were made of both men’s hair and women’s hair.
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.