“Black is more than ever the favorite color of fashion. There was a time-our mother will remember it-when the sole fact of wearing a black dress when one was not in mourning was sufficient to call forth a kind of reprobation, and to cause the wearer to be classed among the dangerously eccentric women” Harper’s Bazaar (1879)
Just in time for Halloween, The exhibition Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire has open its doors at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center.The exhibition is a retrospect of mourning fashions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Close to thirty looks, many of which are being exhibited in public for the first time, are on display.
There were different stages of grieving, and color palettes to go along with which the mourner was expected to follow during this time period. For the first months after a death, only matte black dresses were acceptable. With time, the requirements loosened, and the severity of the attire decreased. Widows were expected to wear very modest dresses and intricate veils.
In the early stages of mourning, the dresses were mostly constructed in solid black fabrics, silk taffeta being a popular choice. Trims, fabrics and accessories differentiated clothing used for mourning from black outfits worn for fashion purpose only. During the 1870s, Fashion editorials often advocated on combinations of black and white for lighter mourning stages.
These sequins evening gowns were worn by Queen Alexandra, a year after Queen Victoria’s death. They are in the half mourning colors of mauve and purple used by the English court.
I invite you to go experience this exhibition in person. The fabric manipulation used in these garments it’s so intricate and beautiful. Making these all black garments not so boring and simple, but instead full of details and inspiration.
The exhibition will be on view through February 1, 2015
Photos by: the Metropolitan Museum of Art