In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Historic Clothing Collection

Mourning Clothing

With the growth of the middle class, the custom of wearing black during periods of mourning became prevalent. The expense of black clothing could be mitigated by means of economically dying existing cotton dresses, or remaking and dyeing an old one. Black silks or mourning crape were another class of, often unaffordable, mourning. Reasonably priced silk did not become widely available until the late 19th century. By that time, middle-class social propriety had consolidated mourning dress and customs, prescribing when, and for how long, dull blacks were proper, and when glossy silk, jet jewelry, touches of white, and half mourning (lavender) were acceptable.

Those climbing the middle-class social echelons felt pressured to participate in excessive mourning, although such indulgence was often seen as conspicuous consumption. Mourning customs relaxed during (or after) the First World War, when mourning was so widespread.