Since Antiquity, mourning has been outwardly expressed through black clothing. During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, however, mourning wear became fashionable, and a strict set of rules governed how and when the clothing should be worn. These trends and the etiquette associated with them changed rapidly and were disseminated to the general public through newly created, affordable fashion magazines.
According to Victorian customs, mourning occurred in stages. The amount of time a person mourned depended on the relationship to the deceased. For example, widowed women mourned for the longest period of time. As a general rule, mourners dressed in black, gray or purple, depending on the stage. Black crape and long veils signaled the first stage, which usually lasted one year and a day. During the second stage, which lasted six to nine months, black velvet or silk trim was worn. In the final six months, mourners wore subtle shades of gray, white, or purple. This bodice is made of black silk but embellished with black velvet trim, and the hat is decorated with black silk trim and a jet pin on the right side, implying that both of these items may have been worn during the second stage of mourning.
Mourning Wear: Bodice, Hat, and Skirt
Silk, satin, taffeta ribbons, plush trim, jet, and cambric lining
Lent by Stephens College Costume Research Library
Matilda Magnus Price Historic Fashion Collection
Closed on Mondays and University holidays
"I still remember the feeling of awe and disbelief when I was alone and walked in the room with those casts." --Ruth Tofle, chair of architecture, winner of the 2013 distinguished faculty award from the MU Alumni Association