In December of 1861, Queen Victoria’s beloved husband Albert died. Her response to his death would forever change Victorian mourning customs. It had been the custom for a Widow to wear black for a period of one year; other relatives were in mourning for lesser periods, depending on their relationship to the deceased. However Victoria donned black and went into seclusion for almost five years after Albert’s death. At her instruction, all of her staff also went about in mourning. For a year after Albert’s death, no servant of the household could appear in public, except in mourning. This might have continued indefinitely, except that the morale of the ladies at court fell so low that the Queen finally relented, and permitted “semi-mourning” colors of white, mauve, and gray. Even royal servants were obliged to wear a black crepe band on their left arm until 1869.
Because this much-loved Queen had such a huge impact on style, the depth of her mourning affected the rest of the Victorian world – even in America - and a large body of customs developed surrounding mourning. These customs had the greatest effect upon a widow, who must observe two years of mourning for a deceased husband. The first year and one day were called “deep mourning” or “full mourning”. During this time, the clothing the widow wore was strictly dictated. She might wear no color other than black, and the preferred fabric was black crepe. Crepe had no sheen, and had a slightly wrinkled surface – much like crepe paper that we see today. She was to wear a widow’s cap, which featured long black streamers (veil), or ribbons. She was not to wear any jewelry except jet. Her hose and gloves were also black. If it was winter time, fur was permitted, but only dark fur was allowed. She was completely isolated from society for the first three months, except for church attendance. She might not even be permitted to attend her late husband’s funeral, such was her isolation. When she did appear in public, she wore a “weeping veil” which fell to mid-calf. Read the entire article on our blog.
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An exception to the generous sizing is the type of ball gown that requires boning in the bodice and that supports a heavy skirt. Many times this style is also "off-the-shoulder" and requires a firm fit to stay up. These styles tend to not run as generously as most of our other garments because of this. But please, give us a call if you are uncertain.
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