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This autumn the Costume Institute

at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC)

presents its Fall exhibition at the

Anna Wintour Costume Centre.

The hauntingly titled

Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire

chronicles the fashion of Victorian Era bereavement wear.

(image from the metropolitan museum of art):


in full mourning attire

Curated by

  Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute,

and Jessica Regan, Assistant Curator –

the exhibition highlights thirty mourning outfits

from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

It traces a century of bereavement garments

from 1815 – 1915

years encompassing the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

During this historical period, mourning dress was women-centred;

as the very act of ‘mourning’, was a female role.

Attention focused on the clothing worn by the grieving women.

(image from angelpig):

mourning attire, victorian, ladies in partk


As with all any fashion content, mourning attire

had its own quality of extravagance and ostentation.

For the first year of bereavement,

societal dictates required that when in public

women were to be attired

in the customary colour of black,

as black was regarded as the absence of

light and therefore life.

A ‘weeping veil’ was worn, which covered the face.

(image from tchevalier):

mourning attire, victorian era, hat and veil


weeping veil (l)

mourning hat (r)

This first year was known as the period of deep mourning.

The dress was fashionable, yet simple

and free of any embellishments.

(image from tinkercottagemuseum):


mouring full attire, women's, victorian,

The next stage known as second mourning lasted for nine months.

During this period, lack lustre black wear was still worn,

but with a bit of black trim on the clothing

and jewelery was permissible.

The weeping veil, still part of the ensemble,

 was worn pushed over the head and the face exposed.

(images form nypl.org):
mournig attire, women, Victorian hats
mourning hats (circa 1891)


mourning attire, edwardian ladies mourning suit, nypl.orgindex.phpmourning skirt suit (circa 1891)

The third stage in the grieving process,

half-mourning lasted three to six months.

Colour was re-introduced, although mostly greys,

subdued purples and deep burgundy reds.

Dress with some ornamentation was acceptable.

Hats replaced the weeping veil

and jewelry could once more adorn the body.

(image from norwichtextiles):

mourning attire, victorian, half mourning, grey

As to be expected of the etiquette driven Victorian age,

women’s mourning costumes adhered

to an exacting dress code

imposed by societal notions of propriety.


(image from livejournal):


mourning women's wear, victorian, different looks

 a variety of mourning looks


Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire

21 October 2014 – 1 February 2015

The Anna Wintour Costume Center

The Costume Institute,

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC 

For additional information visit: