|Unidentified woman wearing mourning brooch and displaying framed image of |
unidentified soldier, Library of Congress
|Unidentified girl in mourning dress holding framed photograph of her father as a cavalryman |
with sword and Hardee hat, Library of Congress
|Mourning card, In memory of Abraham Lincoln, Library of Congress|
We have shown the good taste in America of abolishing the hired mutes, the emblazonment of the emblematic horrors of death, the skull and cross-bones on the panels of the hearse, and all that "luxury of woe" so remarkable in English funerals. We have borrowed from the French and Germans the tasteful practice of the use of flowers. This, however, with our usual tendency to excess, has become immoderate, and there is often an ostentatious exhibition of a profusion of crowns, crosses, hearts, and stars of the rarest and most costly products of the hothouse, which seem rather an indication of the exultation of wealth than of a regret for the dead or sympathy with the living.
The notice of a death and the invitation to the funeral are conveyed through the newspapers to the friends and acquaintances generally, but notes are sent to those who are to serve as pallbearers. In this country ladies occasionally, but in England never, follow the procession, and the female members of the family not seldom make their appearance in company with the male chief mourners.
It is now beginning to be the custom in America, as in England, to send to relatives and friends cards edged deeply with black, upon which is printed or engraved the name of the deceased, with his age, place, and date of his death. These are acknowledged by letters of condolence sent immediately, and visits of ceremony after a proper time. With a singular preference of devotion to fashion, ladies, whatever may be the control of their emotions and disposition to perform their religious duties, abstain from going to church before, and for several days after the funeral. The card, and the letter-paper and envelope edged with black are used during the whole period of mourning.
Mourning should be worn, as we are told by a professed authority,
"For a husband or wife, from one to two years, though some widows retain their mourning for life.
"For a parent or grandparent, from six months to a year.
"For children above ten years of age, from six months to a year; for those below that age, from three to six months; and for an infant, six or seven weeks.
"For brothers and sisters, six to eight months.
"For uncles and aunts, three to six months.
"For cousins, or uncles or aunts related by marriage, from six weeks to three months.
"For more distant relatives or friends, from three weeks to as many months, according to the degree of intimacy."
The servants are ordinarily put in mourning by those who can afford it on the death of an important member of the family. The nurse only in the case of the death of young children.
It is interesting to note the gradations of morning based on the age of children who die. The mourning period for women who lose a husband was typically much longer than a man who loses a wife. And a widow, as Faust describes, "mourned for two and a half years, moving through prescribed stages and accoutrements of heavy, full, and half mourning, with gradually loosening requirements of dress and deportment."
|Arlington, Va., Capt. Nevins and officers in front of headquarters, Fort Whipple; |
mourning crepe drawn over doors and windows, June 1865, Library of Congress
|Unidentified soldier in Union uniform with saber and revolver |
in locket with chain of braided hair, Library of Congress
|Obverse, Library of Congress|
Information and suggestions on mourning dress and materials are desired by our readers, and we are pleased to give them the benefit of a letter on the subject from Mme. Demorest.
Bombazine is used now comparatively little for dresses. Queen’s cloth, Yamise, Hernietta cloth, Barathea, all wool delaines, and merinos, are much preferred, as being more durable, handsomer, and still lusterless. Alpaca is worn where trimming on the skirt is allowable; of course in deep mourning no trimming is used.
For the heat of summer, such as we are now experiencing, black French grenadine, crape Maretz, and crape Eugene are the principal materials.
Very elegant shawls are made of silk grenadine, with a fold a quarter of a yard wide of crape or silk. Circulars are often made of the same material, trimmed with a fold of the same. For fall, a fine black Thibet shawl edged with a wide fold of crape or silk is the most desirable.
In bonnets, bombazine, crape Maretz, silk covered with crape, and all crape with crape ruche inside, are the only styles admissible for deep mourning.
There is no dress that requires more discretion in the choice and arrangement than that called second mourning, but it is one of the most elegant, when well selected.
For half mourning at this season of the year, Mme. Demorest is making black grenadine richly trimmed with flutings and silk, or ribbon quilled and laid on in various designs, while an endless variety of chene grenadines, lustrines, crapes, and Mozambiques, in black, gray, and lavender, give ample scope for a display of taste in all the gradations of mourning dress.
Some very beautiful designs in shawls have been exhibited this summer, in black grenadine with a border composed of white and violet stripes edged with a heavy silk fringe.
Basquines and circulars made in lusterless silk, and without trimming, are very much worn in light mourning.
For a half mourning bonnet black tulle puffed and trimmed with violets; or, for full dress, white crape covered with black lace and trimmed with violet flowers and violet strings; the latter is very much admired as a reception bonnet.
One of the most elegant bonnets we have seen this season was composed of a new material having the appearance of fine Tarleton and velvet woven together to form small diamonds; the bonnet was covered plain with the material, while a simple, trailing vine of black ivy leaves, veined with white, fell over the crown and cape inside, white and black flowers and white strings.In February 1864, the "Chitchat" produces this interesting anecdote on mourning accessories:
A style for which we have no word of praise, but is much worn, is a string or double string of large black beads round the neck, worn over the paletôt or wrap. They are graduated in size, the largest being the size of a very large marble, and they are of jet, glass, or imitation jet. They are particularly fancied in mourning.
|The soldier's memorial, Currier & Ives, Library of Congress|
In May 1864, they include this bonnet.
|Godey's, May 1864, Providence Athenaeum|
Their description: Bonnet for second mourning. The front of the bonnet is of black silk. The crown is of a light lavender silk, covered with a network of black chenille. The bow on top of the bonnet is of lavender silk, edged with black velvet, and the ends embroidered and trimmed with black chenille. The inside trimming is composed of white and black lace, and loops of lavender-colored ribbon.In the same issue, they include this evening dress, the second figure from the left.
|Godey's, May 1864, Providence Athenaeum|
Their description: Evening dress for second mourning. Lavender-colored silk dress, with three crepe puffs on the edge of the skirt. The over-skirt is a network of fine black chenille, finished with a very rich chenille fringe, which just reaches the crepe puffings on the skirt. The corsage is low, and pointed both back and front. The fichu is formed of white and black lace and lavender ribbons. The coiffure is of black velvet and lavender daisies.In the March 1865 "Chitchat", they write the following:
Dresses of black tulle, puffed, are very fashionable for persons in light mourning, or even those wearing gay colors. They are also convenient and pretty for a watering place. Among the many fanciful ways of trimming are the following: Studding them all over with steel or white satin beads, or else applying silver leaves at intervals over the puffs. Others, again, are composed of several skirts ornamented with white floss silk, darned in to represent blonde patterns.
Fancy pins and arrows of all descriptions are worn in the hair, and some very pretty ones, formed of crochet work and jet, have appeared for mourning.In July 1865, they include the following in their color fashion plate.
|Godey's, July 1865, Providence Athenaeum|
Their description: Second-mourning costume. Dress of black silk edged by a narrow ruffle and trimmed with two rows of lace and bead insertion. The over-dress is of spotted black lace, worked with beads, and caught up and ornamented by large jet beads. The corsage is low, and finished at the waist by a belt of black velvet edged with jet, and finished with a jet clasp. The sleeves are short, and formed of a full puff of lace over black silk, and ornamented by loops of black velvet. The neck is covered by a fancy fichu of black lace, trimmed with black velvet and beads. Leghorn hat, trimmed with narrow black velvet, steel beads, and short plumes.And in November 1865, the following, the first dress on the left.
|Godey's, November 1865, Providence Athenaeum|
Their description: Costume for light mourning. Dress of rich black silk, trimmed with thick cord and violet silk. The corsage is made with long coat-tails, edged with cord, and turned over with violet silk. The front of the corsage is of violet silk, arranged to simulate a vest. The edge of the skirt is trimmed with thick cord, and every breadth is cut up and turned back with revers, the space being filled in by violet silk edged with a fluted ruffle. The bonnet is of black silk, covered with figured net, and trimmed with loops of violet velvet. The inside trimming consists of a blonde ruching and a tuft of velvet.Mourning in the period was not completely humorless, as this joke from the September 1864 issue attests.
CUSTOMER. “A slight mourning hat-band, if you please.”Thanks as always is due to the wonderful Providence Athenaeum. Please visit their website and find out what a worthy organization this is!
HATTER. “What relation, sir?”
CUSTOMER. “Wife’s uncle.”
HATTER. “Favorite uncle, sir?”
CUSTOMER. “Um—well, yes.”
HATTER. “May I ask, sir, are you mentioned in the will?”
CUSTOMER. “No such luck.”
HATTER (to his assistant, briskly)—“Couple o’ inches, John!”