Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I have heard it said many times that our ancestors’ times were easier times. That may true in some instances, but when it comes to wardrobe, I beg to differ. When a death occurred, which it usually did at a much higher rate than today, wardrobes were affected by the need to adhere to the strict societal rules of the times. Today we may wear black to the funeral, if we prefer, or we can wear whatever color and style we want. Afterwards, well, there are no rules.
This article from the 1907 Trenton (NJ) Evening Times discusses the “relaxed” rules of mourning and there are so many “suggestions” it makes my head spin! All relatives of the deceased were expected to wear mourning from the widow to the children to the grandparents to the nieces and nephews and all for varying periods of time. Even the servants were expected to wear mourning. Grandparents got off easy with only six months of wear, while the widow was expected to suffer, with what the author calls “fashionable” wear, for eighteen months to two years. These “rules” didn’t just refer to the dress, but to the hat, veil, coat, embellishments and fabrics. And the fabrics could have NO SHEEN!
Can you imagine just packing up the entire family's wardrobe and purchasing a whole new one in black? Think of the expense! Although black is a very chic color and considered a basic staple, especially to any modern woman's wardrobe, I can't imagine how depressing it must have been to have to be forced to wear it day in and day out for an extended length of time. AND this was considered "light" mourning!
Source: Trenton Evening Times, 11 May 1907