Favorite decades: 1910's, 1800's, 1870's
Favorite artists: Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Boldini, Henry Fuseli, Thomas Lawrence
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Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich Plume Hat by Joseph Clover, date not given (ca late 1810’s?), Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
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 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.
Mourning hat by Henri Bendel, ca 1915 US, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
This beautiful and stylish mourning hat from the World War I era was purchased from Henri Bendel, an important maker and importer of luxury goods. Its clean lines and elegant swath of scarf retain their sense of chic today. The single large buckle trim, a popular feature at time, has the weight and presence necessary to stand up to the severe color scheme and contrasting textures. Despite the timeless beauty of its design, this hat would have had a very limited wearability: the fabric of the scarf, a variety of crimped black crepe called “mourning crepe”, was used exclusively for mourning.
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.
Doll’s bonnet, ca 1840 France, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Doll’s bonnet of dark blue satin faced with yellow taffeta with light blue ribbon ties, trimmed on top with wreath of artificial flowers, dark blue velvet ribbon, and blonde lace.
Bonnet by A Partridge & Co, ca 1840 Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
White silk bonnet, trimmed with net and lace in zig-zag pattern around edges, with pink silk ribbon arranged inside and forming ties. Label: “A Partridge and Co./Mode de Paris, 201 Washington St., Boston.”
Bonnet, 1860’s US, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
A bonnet of white satin trimmed with blue silk grosgrain piping ribbons and fringe ruching, small artificial rose buds and white silk lace around face. Worn by Luciana Foster, born August 19, 1841, who married Frank Tripp, October 16, 1861. Cf.: 46.1015, wedding dress.
Bonnet, 1800-05 France, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Bonnet. White silk with crossed tabs trimmed with cording over net lining at top; floss-covered buttons at sides and center. Heavier silk band twisted along edge; chenille and floss silk braid and net ruffles at edge. Pink silk ribbon bow on left side. Drawstring at back.