Is this really respectful, traditional mourning attire, or not? NO!
New York's Metropolitan Museum of Ar has announced its first autumn fashion exhibition since 2007! Perhaps eager to capitalize on a new lugubrious public sensibility nurtured by Dark Shadows, Six Feet Under and True Blood "Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire” examines Victorian and Edwardian Era fashions of the bereaved between 1815 and 1915.
Looking lost and nun-like above, Queen Victoria, extravagantly mourned her husband Prince Albert's death for three decades. It was her example which helped to establish the conflicting characteristics of this ritual of grief in the West. The photograph was taken in 1863 to mark the wedding of her son, the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward to PrincessAlexandra of Denmark. Even the bride's going away attire has been constrained by the Queen's bereavement. Fortunately, all white is considored the deepest mourning whatever. But, there is no lace or satin, rather the only decorative trimmings consist of bands of pleated silk.
Mindful of her position as the worlds most influential monarch, eventually Queen Victoria sanctioned jet and lace, in addition to un-colored jewels, as appreciate royal mourning as well as crepe and dull silks. But for the rest of her life, she otherwise never diverted from black clothes relived by white.
The late Ms. Joan Rivers with her daughter and clergyman, leaves the funereal of her husband. Even by standards of fifty years ago, her crepe dress devoid of decorative embellishments, her sedate pearls and veiled hat represent the strictest form of mourning. Her daughter's white blouse buttons, like the brass buttons on her jacket, do not
Circa 1880: Alexandra, the Princess Albert Edward of Wales
Even while mourning a loved one, duty, such as the annual State Opening of Parliament, required of royal ladies a brilliant display of color-less jewels. Black gloves, considered outre when not in mourning with evening dress, are the give-away of bereavement
1901: Observing court mourning for Queen Victoria, the new Queen Alexandra is resplendent for the annual State Opening of Parliament,
1901: Princess Mary in court mourning
1909: The new mourning queen dispenses with the prohibition against sequins to open Parliament
On a crucial diplomatic tour with King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, mourning the death of her brother, wore a Norman Hartnell designed white wardrobe
1953: Three Queens wear deepest mourning for a father, husband and son, King George VI
A friend of the current Prince of Wales, a woman notwithstanding the provocation or even the occasional offensiveness of her biting barbs and quips, Ms. Joan Rivers, ironically greatly admired conventional form and decorum as well. Highest praise praise from her for an actor was once to admire his fortunate "WASP good looks". This why it seemed fitting to access the stately send-off lovingly planed by her daughter Ms.Melissa Rivers, if not with the same 'shade' they might have employed on Fashion Police, at least with similar serious interest.
1997: Windsor Princes and the Earl of Spencer mourn the Princess Diana. Many show people today, opting for a four-in-hand necktie with evening dress, rather than seeming smartly dressed for a festive occasion, appear instead, to be wearing mourning
Minimal and modest jewelry, hats, black stockings are all indicative of mourning
Strictly speaking, black trousers should accompany a morning coat as mourning. The Queen's black gloves are ever increasingly, rarely encountered, However, her lack of black stockings and shiny shoe ornaments are unfortunate. If anyone knows better, it's she
As early as 1922, writing in the very first edition of her invaluably thorough and authoritative treatise on correct behavior, Emily Post was totally without equivocation. To properly express loss and bereavement, certain conventions, as to dress and comportment, ought to be carefully observed. Were these strictures, or even their modern equivalent, strictly observed at Joan Rivers' funereal service?
Sunday, September 7, 2014: Ms. Joan Rivers' decorous funereal service was filled with ceremonial pageantry
Lace? Polka dots, after Labor Day, no less? Fuchsia-colored shoes?---are NOT traditionally correct mourning. Calling a ceremony commemorating loss. a celebration of the loved-ones life, many, indeed most, eschew such old-fashioned notions
Incorrect! However boring, a blue necktie is not mourning
Neither is a striped suit, though many wear them to funereal services, unless one has no black suit or a very dark blue suit, even a discretely stripped suit is all wrong
Mourning, except for the miss-matched shoes, surely a last joke between Ms. Goldberg and the deceased?
Because her hat was merely a utilitarian precaution against the weather, Barbra Walters' mourning attire was touchingly appreciate
Nothing one might wear is a protection against grief
Proof that mourning and chic are not incompatible, Carolina Herrera channels Evita Peron
The conflict between high fashion and expressing one's sorrow through ones garb has always been thus. A highpoint of the British social season for two centuries, Royal Ascot represents a glittering legacy. Only a 100 years ago tragedy struck. HIM King Edward VII died! What was the world of fashion to do? A passionate devote' to the sport of kings, the late Sovereign would have never countenanced suspension of the week-long race meet. So although the Royal Box was quite deserted, with the Royal Family in the seclusion of deepest mourning, outside of the Royal Enclosure it was as packed as ever, although out of respect, the elite were clad from head to toe in black. Beplumed, beflowered, clad in satin and shod in patent leather, despite as much jet jewelry as one sees on Downton Abby, it was not quite 'true' mourning, as much as a respectful fashion statement.
Satin and shoe buckles, not mourning!
Fringe, not mourning
We all know what the most correct mourning looks like thanks to our sad history of martyred heroes, one after the other, in the 1960's. By then, mourning etiquette was not nearly as rigorous nor as rigid as Emily Post's dicta in 1922:
A generation or two ago the regulations for mourning were definitely prescribed, definite periods according to the precise degree of relationship of the mourner. One’s real feelings, whether of grief or comparative indifference, had nothing to do with the outward manifestation one was obliged, in decency, to show. The tendency to-day is toward sincerity. People do not put on black for aunts, uncles and cousins unless there is a deep tie of affection as well as of blood.
Many persons to-day do not believe in going into mourning at all. There are some who believe, as do the races of the East, that great love should be expressed in rejoicing in the re-birth of a beloved spirit instead of selfishly mourning their own earthly loss. But many who object to manifestations of grief, find themselves impelled to wear mourning when their sorrow comes and the number of those who do not put on black is still comparatively small.
1963: Via TV we all mourned together
PROTECTION OF MOURNING
If you see acquaintances of yours in deepest mourning, it does not occur to you to go up to them and babble trivial topics or ask them to a dance or dinner. If you pass close to them, irresistible sympathy compels you merely to stop and press their hand and pass on. A widow, or mother, in the newness of her long veil, has her hard path made as little difficult as possible by everyone with whom she comes in contact, no matter on what errand she may be bent. A clerk in a store will try to wait on her as quickly and as attentively as possible. Acquaintances avoid stopping her with long conversation that could not but torture and distress her. She meets small kindnesses at every turn, which save unnecessary jars to supersensitive nerves.
Once in a great while, a tactless person may have no better sense than to ask her abruptly for whom she is in mourning! Such people would not hesitate to walk over the graves in a cemetery! And fortunately, such encounters are few.
Since many people, however, dislike long mourning veils and all crepe generally, it is absolutely correct to omit both if preferred, and to wear an untrimmed coat and hat of plainest black with or without a veil.
1968: Mrs. Kennedy comforts Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr.
2004: Another widow wearing impecable clothes, mourns
Lustreless silks, such as crepe de chine, georgette, chiffon, grosgrain, peau de soie, dull finish charmeuse and taffeta, and all plain woolen materials, are suitable for deepest mourning. Uncut velvet is as deep mourning as crepe, but cut velvet is not mourning at all! Nor is satin or lace. The only lace permissible is a plain or hemstitched net known as “footing.”
Fancy weaves in stockings are not mourning, nor is bright jet or silver. A very perplexing decree is that clothes entirely of white are deepest mourning but the addition of a black belt or hat or gloves produces second mourning.
Patent leather and satin shoes are not mourning.
People in second mourning wear all combinations of black and white as well as clothes of gray and mauve. Many of the laws for materials seem arbitrary, and people interpret them with greater freedom than they used to, but never under any circumstances can one who is not entirely in colors wear satin embroidered in silver or trimmed with jet and lace! With the exception of wearing a small string of pearls and a single ring, especially if it is an engagement ring, jewelry with deepest mourning is never in good taste.
The black stockings, gloves hats and modest ornaments are exemplary. Apart from the gray gloves and trousers of the men, the Japanese Royal Family scrupulously upholds the strictest, deepest Western mourning tradition
Fancy clothes in mourning are always offenses against good taste, because as the word implies, a person is in mourning. To have the impression of “fashion” dominant is contrary to the purpose of somber dress; it is a costume for the spirit, a covering for the visible body of one whose soul seeks the background. Nothing can be in worse taste than crepe which is gathered and ruched and puffed and pleated and made into waterfalls, and imitation ostrich feathers as a garnishing for a hat. The more absolutely plain, the more appropriate and dignified is the mourning dress. A “long veil” is a shade pulled down—a protection—it should never be a flaunting arrangement to arrest the amazed attention of the passerby
The necessity for dignity can not be overemphasized.
Mourning observances are all matters of fixed form, and any deviation from precise convention is interpreted by the world at large as signifying want of proper feeling.
How often has one heard said of a young woman who was perhaps merely ignorant of the effect of her inappropriate clothes or unconventional behavior: “Look at her! And her dear father scarcely cold in his grave!” Or “Little she seems to have cared for her mother—and such a lovely one she had, too.” Such remarks are as thoughtless as are the actions of the daughter, but they point to an undeniable condition. Better far not wear mourning at all, saying you do not believe in it, than allow your unseemly conduct to indicate indifference to the memory of a really beloved parent; better that a young widow should go out in scarlet and yellow on the day after her husband’s funeral than wear weeds which attract attention on account of their flaunting bad taste and flippancy. One may not, one must not, one can not wear the very last cry of exaggerated fashion in crepe, nor may one be boisterous or flippant or sloppy in manner, without giving the impression to all beholders that one’s spirit is posturing, tripping, or dancing on the grave of sacred memory. This may seem exaggerated, but if you examine the expressions, you will find that they are essentially true.
Draw the picture for yourself: A slim figure, if you like, held in the posture of the caterpillar slouch, a long length of stocking so thin as to give the effect of shaded skin above high-heeled slippers with sparkling buckles of bright jet, a short skirt, a scrappy, thin, low-necked, short-sleeved blouse through which white underclothing shows various edgings of lace and ribbons, and on top of this, a painted face under a long crepe veil! Yet the wearer of this costume may in nothing but appearance resemble the unmentionable class of women she suggests; as a matter of fact she is very likely a perfectly decent young person and really sad at heart, and her clothes and “make up” not different from countless others who pass unnoticed because their colored clothing suggests no mockery of solemnity.
Mourning Afternoon Ensemble, 1870-1872, Black silk crape, black mousseline from the forthcoming exhibition; The Metropolitan Museum of Art“Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire,” October 21 – February 1, The Metropolitan Museum of Art