Image: Black silk lace trim dress

Black silk lace trim dress

Newcastle, NSW - Black silk, lace trim.

© Newcastle Regional Museum


This dress was worn by Dorothy Osborne (nee Butcher) at the time of the death of her grandmother in 1914.

Mourning in the Victoria era

For women during the Victorian period, mourning attire included every conceivable article of clothing as well as hair accessories, stationery, umbrellas, fans, and purses. Men often added only a black hatband or gloves to their normal attire. The material most associated with mourning was black silk crepe, which was almost exclusively manufactured by one company, Courtauld's. Crepe had a flat, lifeless quality - lustrous materials like furs, satin and velvet were forbidden. Wearing colourful or flattering clothes was considered callous and even immoral. It was considered unlucky to have crepe in the house after the proscribed period had ended - making each subsequent bereavement an extravagant, expensive occasion.

Widows were expected to mourn for two years and were allowed to wear grey and lavender only in the last six months of 'half-mourning'. Children in middle-class Victorian families were required to wear full black mourning clothes for one year after the death of a parent or sibling. Girl's dresses were often modelled on their mother's mourning dress.

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