Tonight I saw a production of blithe spirit (w/ angela lansbury very good show) and i noticed a detail on rupert everet’s characters costume that as a costumer made me giddy. In the picture below you may not be able to tell but, his character was mourning the death of his second wife and so he was in a dark suit and on his suit sleeves he wore black fabric bands.
And this made me think of other mourning rituals that relate to dress that i find interesting. To take the most well known example: In the Victorian era following Prince Albert’s death, Queen Victoria wore her widow’s weeds for the long remainder of her life until 1901, when the Edwardian era began. Many who saw themselves as high society including those in the lower classes followed her example. The middle classes in particular, to remain in fashion. People would use black edged stationery, envelopes, notepaper and visiting cards. They tied little black or purple ribbons around dressing table bottles and the like and added similar purple or black ribbons even to the clothing of infants. Prayer books and bibles had to be bound in Black morocco leather and handkerchiefs edged in black.Women would even have social societies where they would meet and work on covering items in black fabric, black our jewelry, and also do black tattings. Men also could provide a visual key to their stage of mourning by how many folds their pocket squares held.
but lets remember that lack of color is not the only way of showing mourning. In some asian cultures white is used to show mourning. In the jewish culture not only is color appropriated but also the texture of fabric is considered. Coarser fabrics rather than richer and softer luxurious fabric are prefered. I could go on about different cultures sicietal rules and rituals on funeral and mourning wear but instead here are some good references:
Fashionable Mourning Jewelry, Clothing, & Customs, by Mary Brett
Jet Jewellery and Ornaments by Helen Muller
The Victorian Celebration of Death by James Stevens Curl
Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India by Emma Tarlo
as always, when i am introduced to new sources i will add them in topics