sewing

Mourning Clothing in 1906

Standard Patterns, 1906.

I was thinking the other day about how crazy it is in America, that employers expect their staff to return to work usually only three days after losing a spouse, child or parent. Of course, we may be able to take longer if we have paid time off accrued, but some employers don’t even pay for the initial three days. My mom has been gone now for three months, and I’m still mucking about with her stuff and dealing with her tiny estate. I can’t imagine going back to work while I’ve been doing this, much less if she had a big estate to contend with.

So when I came across this article about 1906 mourning, I was intrigued. Remember the first episode of Downton Abbey, when the always forthright Lady Mary asked if she had to go into mourning for poor cousin Patrick who had been lost on the Titanic? Mourning was a big deal then, and you literally wore it on your sleeve. I’d be interested to see the actual timeline of how and when we lost mourning, and began expecting people to just get on with life. I’d also love to know how other countries deal with mourning now. Do you have to go right back to work, or do employers give you time to process things before jumping back in?

The article I read, in The Designer magazine, talks about the importance of all of your black being the same shade. At three months, you could add a thin band of white at the neck and wrists. Fabrics used for street outfits were flat and dull, usuall crepe (of course), Venetian (per Merriam-Webster “a fine worsted fabric used especially for suits, coats, or dresses and made in twill or satin weave with a napped or clear surface and a lustrous finish”) broadcloth, serge, cheviot (made of wool or shirting) or zibeline (a wool from camel’s hair, alpaca, or mohair). In the home, cashmere, henrietta (a twilled wool), “Priestley novelties, eudora, albatross or nun’s veiling” were worn. Trims were done in dull braids, crepe cording, or mourning silk frilling.

By 1906, young children were no longer put into deep mourning, so their options were more open. Frequently worn were white dresses with black sashes, gray dresses with black braid or the like. If deep mourning was considered appropriate, they might wear dresses of black cashmere or henrietta, with guimpes of plain white lawn or nun’s veiling. Very little girls always had the white guimpe to relieve all of the black. These outfits were finished with black shoes and stockings (no patent leather tips), and all black hats and gloves.

What do you think? Do you think we support mourners today like we should, or were the year long mourning periods of old over the top? I’m interested in what you think.

Standard Patterns, 1906.

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