New exhibition at the Met to explore the evolution of the mourning dress throughout a century
“Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire” the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s fall 2014 show is to offer a sombre exploration of fashion, while providing a historical context on the social dimension of death. Opening on the 21st of October, the exhibition explores the aesthetics as well as cultural implications of mourning fashions in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Approximately 30 ensembles from theCostume Institute, many of which have never been exhibited before, reflect the fashion and cultural state of the period running from 1815 to 1915. The exhibition reveals the impact of high-fashion standards on the sartorial dimension of the bereavement rituals as they evolved over a century.
Evolution of the mourning depicted through women’s clothing and accessories show the progression of appropriate fabrics from mourning crepe to corded silks, and the later introduction of colour with shades of gray and mauve.
“The predominantly black palette of mourning dramatizes the evolution of period silhouettes and the increasing absorption of fashion ideals into this most codified of etiquettes,” says Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who was assisted by Jessica Regan for this exhibition.
A series of high fashion garments, including the mourning gowns worn by Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra can be found in the be Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery, illustrating the evolution of the mourning silhouette through the period.
Obviously mourning gowns weren’t just for royal widows and in the Victorian era, middle and lower class women would go to great lengths to appear fashionable in times of mourning, keen to show wealth and respectability as well as sorrow. Jessica Regan explains, “The veiled widow could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances (…) She was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order.”
“Death becomes her: A century of mourning attire”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center
October 21, 2014 through February 1, 2015.