Because we’re revisiting some fashion this week, let’s take another look at this spectacular miniature:

Let me begin today’s lesson by stating that to some degree, mourning jewels are fundamentally sentimental and quite personal. There is little to no doubt about that. Grief isn’t something that can be measured by price, it’s not an affectation and it’s not something that any layer of pomp can prove justification to.

18th Century Mourning MIniature with Contemporary WomanWhen it comes to jewels, no matter what the quality, they were worn for the ideal of grief, regardless of their quality and when you see a piece that not only defies the mainstream, or tradition, of popular at a certain period, you know you’re looking at something special. Does that make the piece any more sentimental than any other mass produced item from a catalogue? I think not.

This piece rises above the expectations of the time in which is was made, it produces a bold statement about the person who held/wore/commissioned it and it demands an immediacy of emotion that was rarely captured in miniature paintings, an immediacy and proximity to the subject that perhaps only photographs could manage to take.

Read the rest of this entry »

Often, it’s the simplest things that help us understand a time, place or even a piece of jewellery. Jewellery in particular is a form of fashion and adapts itself to a specific time, hence just knowing how something was worn helps us get a better idea of when it was made.

Because of this, it’s good to get a little overview of fashion in mourning from the 17th century to the 19th. If you have the time, click over to the ‘Textiles Tuesday’ articles and that may help you stitch together a better idea of when your jewellery was created.

Textiles Series

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 2

Mourning Silk Art

August 1, 2011

From Barbara Robbins comes this wonderful piece and an equally wonderful story!

Mourning Silk Art

“There is an interesting story behind this silk picture.  I bought it from my friend, probably about 4 years or so ago.  It was in perfect condition.  it had the reverse painted glass mat that they used to do.  I had to chose between it and an expensive teapot to go in the carry on, and I chose the teapot because i often bring needlework home in my hardside suitcase with no problems.  I put cardboard in front and behind it, and the put it in the clothes.  The Victorian ones make it just fine, but alas, the Georgian glass is just too brittle.  When I opened this one up, I cried as the glass was broken in several pieces. It was hopeless.  I put the picture, with the broken glass, on the floor in the corner, by my buffet where it sat for about two years.  I couldn’t even bear to look at it , remove the glass, and have it matted with a new black mat.  About two years ago, the night before i was to leave for London, the top of my Victorian dressing case suddenly came lose, and fell on my arm and on my pitcher and bowl, which was one of the few family heirlooms I own.  I was just miserable.  It was as though God had decided I couldn’t have that piece, and I knew I would have had a fit if my brother had done that.  I told my friend, who immediately told me she knew someone who could fix it.  After England, I called him, and drove across down with the about 10 pieces of the bowl (only the handle had come off the vase).  I decided to take the Shakespeare mourning piece (which I have sent you), and this one too.  This man is an artist: he restored the pitcher and bowl to where I can’t even tell it.  He said he could not restore the old glass, so I left the Shakespeare one, which is just cracked down the middle, alone for now as I hated to destroy the old glass.  This one, the lady with the harp, was beyond help though, so he had a lady cut a new glass and he painted a new one.  I had enough pieces of the old so that it looks exactly the same.  Now it hangs on my wall, and I know I can bring Victorian glass but not Georgian home in a hardside suitcase.”

Let me begin today’s lesson by stating that to some degree, mourning jewels are fundamentally sentimental and quite personal. There is little to no doubt about that. Grief isn’t something that can be measured by price, it’s not an affectation and it’s not something that any layer of pomp can prove justification to.

18th Century Mourning MIniature with Contemporary WomanWhen it comes to jewels, no matter what the quality, they were worn for the ideal of grief, regardless of their quality and when you see a piece that not only defies the mainstream, or tradition, of popular at a certain period, you know you’re looking at something special. Does that make the piece any more sentimental than any other mass produced item from a catalogue? I think not.

This piece rises above the expectations of the time in which is was made, it produces a bold statement about the person who held/wore/commissioned it and it demands an immediacy of emotion that was rarely captured in miniature paintings, an immediacy and proximity to the subject that perhaps only photographs could manage to take.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rather than write a myriad of superlatives about how magnificent the Burns Archive is, I’d rather let you all discover it for yourselves, with their wonderful new post about photography and mourning dress.

>> Link / The Burns Archive: Dressed to Distress

Of course, there are my little dissertations to view on mourning dress (without the photography):

17th Century Mourning Dress Part 1
17th Century Mourning Dress Part 2
18th Century Mourning Dress Part 1
18th Century Mourning Dress Part 2
19th Century Mourning Dress Part 1
19th Century Mourning Dress Part 2

Women were the symbolic representation of the family, from its wealth to its respectability. By the turn of the century, however, those in high society copied the neoclassical style in dress. Black dresses were cut to the neoclassical style, with black and white accessories, hair was covered in a plain, tight, white cambric cap with narrow border, crimped at each side of the face, a small black hood above and narrow lace border. Bonnets and black cloaks with black crape veils hiding the face were worn outdoors.

By the latter century, costume and function were tightly connected for women. Dresses of separate bodice and skirt were worn in bombazine covered in crape. Underwear was often white chemises, drawers and underpetticoats slotted with black ribbon. Black caps, crape trimmed bonnets, and long veils.

George III FuneralFirst mourning lasted one year and a day, outdoor garments for this would be shown by the plainness and amount of crape, jet jewellery was permitted. After one year and a day, Second stage was introduced. This involved less crape and its application to bonnets and dresses became more elaborate. It was frowned upon if this period was entered into too quickly and it lasted nine months in all. The Third stage (or Ordinary stage), introduced after twenty-one months, involves the omission of crape, inclusion of black silk trimmed with jet, black ribbon and embroidery or lace were permitted. Post 1860, soft mauves, violet, pansy, lilac, scabious and heliotrope were acceptable in half mourning. This period lasted three months. The English Woman’s Domestic Magazine stated that ‘many widows never put on their colours again’ and this was quite a statement for the identity of the woman, which was held under the veil of mourning and family symbolism for the rest of her life. Hats, shawls, mantles, gloves, shoes, fans all changed during mid century, and pagoda sleeves from 1850-70 were fashionable, designed to be stitched to the outer sleeve to cover modesty from the lower arm and wrist. Wide skirts from the 1850s-70s, tie back fashions of the late 1870s and the ‘S-bend’ look of the early 1900s all were adapted to mourning fashion, without a clear definition of difference between them. Throughout the post 1880s decline, in the 1890s, women would wear their veils at the back of the head only, showing hair beneath bonnets at the front for first stage mourning. This defiance was quite bold and marked a large turning point for mourning structure.

As in the 17th century, the household was responsible for the servant’s costume in mourning, hence female servants were given black dresses, bonnets, collars and cuffs of crape (which changed to white trimming during half mourning). This maintained the cult of mourning throughout the classes, as the working class upheld the ideals of mourning regardless of the cost in this instance, but as the 20th century passed and servitude became less prolific, the mourning industry also suffered.

Funeral Procession; Men's CostumeMen’s costume in the 19th century evolved from the opulence of the 18th century to the armband. As discussed, women became the focal point for mourning and the household, men’s regulations were freed from their previous obligations. By the turn of the century, men removed all gilt buttons, buckles and Court swords and replaced them with black ones. Cloaks were worn to funerals, until they were replaced in the latter century with diagonal sashes in black or white crape. These cloaks were often only worn by the undertaker’s men post 1860, but had gone out of fashion by 1890. In a stark contrast to women’s mourning wear, only the black armband was necessary with a black suit. The black suit was not necessary for mourning, as the armband was representative enough.

Textiles Series

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 2

Throughout the 19th century, the height of the mourning industry and cult cut through class structures and was dominated and renewed in 1861 by the mourning of Queen Victoria. The decline of the industry began around 1880, where the psyche began to change, but no one spoke out against the conventions of mourning in fear of harming social status and exclusion. By the middle of the century, it was magazines and fashion plates that set the benchmark for fashion, and their ubiquity promoted homogenous fashion throughout the world. Cheaper dressmakers could copy these fashionable designs and supply the less wealthy, or they could purchase dresses from the establishment of mourning warehouses. This even went to the extent of dying coloured dresses black in order to follow fashion. Following this evolving fashion was quite difficult for those not so wealthy, and the importance of the mourning stages was necessary.

Princess CharlotteMourning regulation went through different permeations in the 19th century and became longer and more rigid. It was on the 7th of November, 1817 upon the death of Princess Charlotte that Lord Chamberlain ordered official Court mourning: ‘the Ladies to wear black bombazines, plain muslins or long lawn crape hoods, shammy shoes and gloves and crape fans. The Gentlemen to wear black cloth without buttons on the sleeves or pockets, plain muslin or long lawn cravats and weepers [white cuffs] shammy shoes and gloves, crape hatbands and black swords and buckles.’ For undress wear, dark grey frock coats were permissible. The Second stage was decreed two months later, with the allowance of black silk fabric, fringed or plain linen, white gloves, black shoes, fans and tippets, white necklaces and earrings, grey or white lusterings, damasks or tabbies and lightweight silks for undress wear. Men’s dress was unchanged. The third stage allowed women to wear black silk and velvet, coloured buttons, fans and tippets and plain white, silver or gold combination coloured stuff with black ribbons. Men could wear white, gold or silver brocaded waistcoats with black suits. The rules set by Lord Chamberlain crossed Europe, the United States (from the 1860s / 70s) and colonial territories, but Court mourning was longer than General mourning. General mourning was growing in popularity due to the accessibility of mourning costume and the cost.

Mourning Fashions AdvertisementThe rules became more complex, however, as convention dictated. ‘Mothers should wear black without crape for six weeks after the death of the mothers or fathers-in-law of their married children. A second wife, on the death of her husband’s first wife’s parents, was expected to wear black silk, without crape, for three months.*’ The rules became greatly convoluted, and the importance relied ever higher on the woman. Widowers could remarry as soon as they pleased, even during mourning. The Grand Maison de Noir stated that a man should leave off his mourning for the ceremony but take it up the next day. Furthermore ‘his new wife should equally associate herself with his mourning’, wearing only black or shades of half-mourning in memory of her. Basically, the convention dictated 2.5 years for a husband, 18 months for a parent, twelve months for a child, six months for a sister or brother and six to three months for a first cousin.

Textiles Series

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 2

Dated 1788, Memorial ring with a grieving ManMale costume in the 18th century still retains the conventions of the 17th century, but adapts closer to popular fashion of the time. Mourning suits were cut to the same style as their daily clothes. By mid century, coat skirts became flared with the addition of pleats in the back and side seams and by the 1770s, slimmer lines were once again fashionable. Black woolen cloth was acceptable for first mourning, where French etiquette was followed. In Second mourning, black suits and stockings were permitted and grey was allowed. The trains of black mourning cloaks were graded as per the rank of the wearer (Chief Mourners or otherwise), black hats were knotted with hatbands in black or white, which varied for status. Hatbands fell down the wearer’s backs shoulder scarves or sashes were worn at funerals by the less important and men and women wore white accessories at the burial of a woman or child. Crape, silk and to a lesser degree, satin were also used. It was around this time that the armband, a staple in men’s mourning fashion came into use and remains even today.

Convention carried through from the 17th century was starting to lose its prominence in male costume, mourning would be carried over through the 19th century by women and the armband would be the symbolic mourning device used by men. For men, the rule for First Court Mourning was black woolen suits, without fashionable buttons on sleeves or pockets. Muslin or lawn cravats, rather than shirt frills were common and lace cuffs replaced ‘weepers’. Crape hatbands, woolen stockings, shammy shoes, gloves, black (mourning) swords and shoe buckles were proper accessories. Fringed linen was permitted for Second mourning.

Throughout the social change that allowed this greater permission of mourning, there was a tremendous strain on tailors to provide mourning costume on a large scale. Culturally, there was a large amount of friction between the lower middle and upper classes, as there was no precedence for inter-class mixing. Changing art styles and the emergence of mass print and communications and greater dissemination of wealth would lead to the absolute peak of the industry in the 19th century.

Textiles Series

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 2

Louise, Duchess of Bourbon, 1701The 18th century welcomed in greater convention for mourning fashion and began to see the rise of the mourning industry. This became so much so that mourning dress was becoming desirable and the difference between mourning and non mourning dress was narrowing. Much of the fashion in this century was dictated by the fabric rather than the cut, and the silk industries in France and England held major influence on mourning wear because of this. It was Ordre Chronologique des Deuils de la Cour, (1765) where details of Court mourning in France were published, giving precise tailoring instructions. From their first days in mourning, men were permitted to appear in Court, unless it was after the death of a parent from whom they had received inheritance.

Widows had to wait one year and six weeks, with the first six months in black wool. Lord Chamberlain and Earl Marshall both ordered shorter periods of mourning in France and England respectively. By the 1880s in Britain, twelve weeks of mourning were ordered by the death of a king or queen, six weeks after the death of a son or daughter of the sovereign, three weeks for the monarch’s brother or sister, two weeks for royal nephews, uncles, nieces or aunts and ten days for the first cousins of the royal family. Foreign sovereigns were mourned for three weeks and their relatives for a shorter time. Mourning was divided up into First, Second and Court mourning.

As in the 17th century, black and plain were required. Bombazine dresses trimmed in black crape, black silk hoods and plain white linen were worn with black shammy leather shoes, glove and crape fans. Jewellery was not permitted. Second mourning consisted of black dresses, trimmed with fringed or plain linen, white gloves, black or white shoes, fans and tippets and white necklaces and earrings as necessary. Grey lusterings, tabbies and damasks were acceptable for less formal occasions.

Ordre Chronologique des Deuils de la Cour was specific and influential enough to decide upon women’s fashions, as. It was specific enough to specify that; ‘dress was cut with a train and turned back with a braid attached to the side of the skirt, which was pulled through the pockets.’ This is where the overskirt is turned to the back and lifted up, revealing the petticoat underneath, called; robe retrousee dans les poche, the centre front robings were joined with hooks or ribbons. Cuffs were cut with one fold and deep hems, the waist was held in place by a crape belt that was tied on. This left two ends hanging down to the hem of the skirt.

Neoclassical clasp, 1789A woman’s accessories were a crape shawl, gloves, shoes with metallic bronzed buckles, a black woolen muff and a black crape fan. Head dresses of black crape and white batiste were referenced. For much of the century, however, ‘paniers’ were fashionable, but in the French style, with loose pleating falling from the shoulders to the back. The English manner of this was with the back pleats stitched down as far as the waistline. Also popular were lace ruffles at the neck and the cuff, embroidered stomachers, silver gilt lace, appliqué work and small aprons. None of these were permitted for mourning wear. Mourning wear for women still remained consistent in that it remained plain, black or sometimes white fabric.

Textiles Series

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 2

Marie de Medici c.1630Men’s fashion over this century followed on from Elizabethan times, as mourning cloaks and hats still remained popular. It wasn’t until the 1670s that new fashions were introduced; wearing buttoned coats which reached to the mid-thigh, with wide hats and long hair or wigs entering fashion. Full mourning cloak was worn by chief mourners, with the train carried by train-bearers. Mourning gowns had previously been in fashion, but scarves with cloaks replaced this. Conventional mourners wore scarves over their black coats. Scarves were black for a male funeral and white for a woman or child. Male costume was becoming fashionable, as mourning gowns with hoods and lirpipes slowly became unfashionable and were quite unfashionable by the turn of the 17th century.

Accessories were quite prolific for men, ranging from ‘black ‘cloth’ shoes, dull black gloves black waistcoat and coat buttons, black stockings and black sword covers and belts. Mourning swords were even available.*’ Cavalier hats relaced those of the wavy brimmed variety of the Elizabethan era and the high turned crowned hats subsequently replaced these in the Restoration period. Along with these, ‘weepers’ were introduced, which was a hatband made from black or white silk, wound around the crown and the ends falling down the wearer’s back. In memorial fashion, these would stay consistent for over two hundred and fifty years.

Female fashion evolved to a greater degree than male fashion, but this would increase as time went on, with male fashion remaining static in the 19th century and female fashion becoming more elaborate. Up to the 1620s, female mourners still used forward-tilted wheel farthingales, padded sleeves, ruffs and long stomachers. Mantles combined with trained mantles and large arched hoods were used for the more important. Waist-length black veils, wired out to avoid the ruffs were used for the not so important.

During the 1620s, farthingales and ruffs were abandoned for lace-edged falling collars, waists began to rise and sleeves became voluminous and billowed. Not long after this in the late 1620s and 30s, arched hoods began to make their exit from fashion and post 1650, mourning mantels dropped out of fashion. Ladies began to mourn in black gowns with extra long trains and silk veils.

By the end of the 17th century, fashion had evolved radically. ‘Mantua’ dresses with long stomachers and looped-back skirts were adopted for mourning use. The ‘Paris’ or ‘Mary Stuart Cap’ is worn under veils until the end of the 17th century and drop earrings were popular. The ‘mantua’ dresses were made in dull black silk with white linen undersleeves and neck-frills. Black and white caps were worn beneath mourning hoods or veils. The ‘shadow’ veil was also worn, shaped to a point over the forehead without a cap underneath.

Textiles Series

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 2

Elizabeth I Funeral Procession 1603As the primary mourning colour, black was adopted in the fourteenth century, where Planche notes that the earliest record of full black for mourning in England was in 1364, when Edward III put his court into black for John II of France.* From this time, the adoption of mourning costume was relegated to the aristocracy and those with Court connections. During the 18th century, social barriers began to decline with the entrance of new wealth and withdrawing of restrictions by the Court of Heralds. Mourning costume played a significant part in this new social mobility.

As the adjudicators of custom, the Courts of Heralds persecuted those who transgressed the lines of aristocratic mourning regulations and issued fines accordingly. At this time, the rising merchant class were trying to compete with the nobility in society, which equated to proving their status by following Court regulations in the closest manner.

The requirements of mourning put a tremendous strain on the household and this would only increase as years passed. In costume, reflective surfaces were not permitted, with a heavy reliance on dull and matte fabrics. Broadcloth, crape and paramatta were mandatory. The stages of mourning were also coming to prominence. First mourning, or full mourning required no jewellery or shiny surfaces. Only dull silk, crape and broadcloth were permitted. Second mourning dress was less severe and those that followed it carefully could change accessories to reflect the change. Half mourning stage required dull mauve, black and grey. Passive patterns and silk fabrics were allowed. Deep red survived as a mourning colour, but not among the fashionable. With regulations like these in mind, the household was expected to provide gowns, cloaks, scarves, headbands and gloves for the chief mourners and provide for the family servants afterwards. The less affluent couldn’t afford this necessity of the stages of mourning coupled with the funeral reliance, but it was demeaning to skimp. Due to this, servants’ dress was cheaper in price and quality. By the end of the century, Court Heralds lessened restrictions of mourning to upper classes, leading the middle classes to wear mourning costume as a symbol of social status. Court mourning was worn by those with direct Court connections, but General mourning was open to those who could afford it. This grew so much that by the 19th century, General mourning was worn by the working classes. Court etiquette remained largely constant across Europe.

Textiles Series

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday

June 15, 2010

Mourning costume provides the most visual symbol of mourning appearance and is crucial to the representations and evolution of mourning customs and fashion. For the purpose of this website, mourning fashion and costume will be covered from 1600 onwards, as this area alone is vast enough.

Needless to say, mourning fashion is inherent in human culture, dating to the prehistoric, clothing to commemorate a death reflects upon the person and the culture in which they live.

For modern times, mourning fashion permeated throughout society as affluence and convention would allow. The sheer cost of maintaining acceptable mourning dress was incredibly difficult for families and throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the higher echelons of society frowned upon lesser classes imitating higher society. During these centuries, mourning dressed moved to the lesser aristocracy and middle classes, which would eventually change by the 19th century.

Over the next series of Tuesdays, we’ll be looking at the evolution of mourning textiles and costume over the period of the 17th century to the 19th century. Tune in for some fun!

Textiles Series

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 17th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 18th Century, Part 2

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 1

Textiles Tuesday: 19th Century, Part 2

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