I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Regency-era Mourning

mourning fashion
Belle Assemble morning gown, 1818
Mourning was a big part of life during the Regency era, not just a stage of grief or a period or adjustment, but a literal season set by society which dictated one's clothing and behavior.

The length of one's mourning period depended upon the relationship to the deceased, and customs could vary by social class.

In addition, there were two types of mourning, Full and Half. In Full mourning, one wore matte black, but after a suitable period (about halfway through the mourning period), one could transition to Half mourning and wear subdued colors like lavender.

The guidelines listed here are by no means comprehensive, but they give us an idea of what mourning was like during the Regency.

Lengths of Mourning Period:

Spouse:  1 year
One's child:  6 months – 1 year  (the older the child, the longer the mourning period)
Parent or In-Law:  6 months–1 year
Grandparent:  6 months
Sibling:  6 months
Aunt or Uncle:  3 months
Cousin: 1 month

What did a woman wear and do during mourning?
Image result for regency mourning
Fashion Plate 1810, Wikipedia commons
Full mourning required a black wardrobe. Fabric choices included crepe (lightweight silk), bombazine (heavier silk), velvet, or sarcenet with no shimmer or sheen--fabrics should be matte or dull. Oftentimes a woman would have her current gowns dyed black, because new wardrobes were so expensive. Her accessories would also be black, from gloves to cap, and she would not wear anything shiny or sparkly, like jewels. She also might wear a veil.
Mourning tiara, worn 1818 and thereafter:
Mourning Tiara 
She should not attend social functions during this time. She could, however, receive calls.

If she mourns the death of her husband, she must not marry again for a year. This way, if it was discovered she was expecting, there would be no doubt of the paternity of the baby.
Ackermann, Mourning Dress,, 1819
Ackermann's, 1819
Halfway through the mourning period, her wardrobe could soften to include "sober" colors like lavender, brown, mauve, and gray. Apparently she could also incorporate patterns into her wardrobe, as in the fashion plate below.
Fashion Plate (Half Mourning Walking Dress), London, England, Early 19th century, Los Angeles County Museum of Art:
Fashion Plate, Half Mourning, 
She could wear modest jewelry, and a popular thing to do at the time was to wear a pendant or brooch incorporating the deceased person's hair.
Mourning pendant in memory of Betsy Robinson who died in 1809. With dual hearts, an eternity knot of hair, initials and the sentiment ‘The  union of hearts constitutes our happiness’.:
1809, From the artofmourning.com
She could begin to attend social activities, but should choose wisely and not appear to be having too good of a time.
Mourning Hats, 1805.:
Mourning hats, 1805
Men had mourning rules a little easier.

 Many gentlemen wore black anyway, so they often wore clothes they already had in their closets, like black coats. They could also wear black neckcloths, an armband of black crepe, black ornamentation on their hats, and black gloves.

A widower was expected to take time to grieve, but business or parliamentary obligations necessitated that he did not hide away for long. He could remarry within the year.

In Half Mourning, a gentleman might resume his regular wardrobe but continue to wear a black armband.

Children mourned, too, and wore black, and/or black bows or sashes were sewn onto their clothes and hats.

Considering how many relations one had, and that the life expectancy was not what it is today, a person could possibly spend years wearing mourning attire!


Anonymous said...

Informative post, my grandmother mentioned to me once how her mother spent many years in mourning attire. So much so, that my grandmother detests the color black to this day.

P.S. I just pre-order The Reluctant Guardian.



Susanne Dietze said...

Hi Janella!

How interesting about your great-grandmother and her mourning attire. How sad. I can't blame your grandma for not liking black.

It's so interesting nowadays how much mourning customs have changed. I've been to a few funerals where the family requests no black whatsoever in honor of the deceased's life or preferences.

Thank you so much for pre-ordering The Reluctant Guardian! You are so sweet! I truly hope you enjoy it.