I freely admit to being fascinated with the Victorian era — I love to read books about it and ones written during Queen Victoria’s reign. There is something very peculiar about that era that seems to pervade everything done during it.
For example, there is the precise use of the English language, which I think has a magical quality about it and is still appreciated to this day. But there is also the strict dress code, which seems to have gone to some extreme lengths.
What you are about to see is a sample of the mourning dresses women were expected to wear. Actually, they were more than expected to wear them — they were mandated by social norm. As Harold Koda, who is overseeing the exhibit, puts it in a press release:
The veiled widow could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances. As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order.
No comment is needed.
The costumes will be highlighted in a Metropolitan Museum of Art’s┬áCostume Institute exhibit, which will open on October 21 and run through February 1, 2015. There will be about 30 ensembles on display, as well as selected photos and fashion plates from 1815 to 1915.
1. This Victorian-era ensemble (estimated from 1870 to 1872) features the black hue, modest silhouette, and shrouding veil typical of mourning attire at the time.
2. Constructed of ‘crape’ — a stiff silk gauze — mourning dresses (like this one estimated from 1902 – 1904), served a very specific social purpose in a widow’s life.
3. While social codes stressed that a woman should not make a strong society presence for one year after a death, they continued to wear mourning attire for a full two and a half years, wearing black attire to a variety of events, as these women seen at Ascot are doing in 1910.
4. In the later mourning stages, wardrobe codes became more leniant, as is the case with this black evening dress from 1861.
5. Fashion plates such as this one from 1824 were circulated throughout Europe, inspiring women of how to dress in the occasion of family death.
6. An entire commercial market centered around mourning accessories fledged by the mid-19th century.
7. A mourning parasol.
8. Special mourning jewelry styles emerged, often made of jet and strands of braided hair from the deceased.
Source: The Daily Mail.
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