Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
Festooning ourselves, especially widows in yard upon yard of black fabric as a social norm after the death of a loved one seemed an accepted practice so embedded in our culture we never question it.' Widows weeds' was the insouciant term, maybe an indication this ' norm ' was not as popular as we think in 2019. Widow and children, LoC death ' certificate ', pre-war.
Sorry, how frequently can you get away with ' habiliments', without hearing about it?
There's an article from the middle of the war on a Southern town whose mayor literally outlawed mourning wear. Cannot re-find it in this mess called ' files ', but it made sense. So many women wore black the entire town, said the mayor, was daily plunged into gloom. One quote from a Southern woman speaks of how her town reeked of boiling dye pots, a heart breaking indication of how many men would not come home. The thing is, as early as 1861 this whole idea where the departed were memorialized by everyone decking themselves in black layers was challenged.
A cleric with foresight penned this article, by no means a singular take. Widow at Lookout Point, posing by Umbrella Rock is terribly eerie- who did she lose there?
Shops selling mourning wear saw profits sky rocket. There's an hysterical article in a Vermont paper satirically describing one store where Mourning R Us, where soberly garbed clerks passed customers along to counters dedicated to specific degrees of mourning and based on one's relationship to the deceased. War profiteers were not all government contractors.
Heck, Demorest's shop of high fashion had an entire mourning department during the war. Mourning was pretty. And profitable. Below, Godey's.
Custom dictated we observe these socially mandated manifestations of grief. But. Like a lot of accepted notions about our Victorian forebears, how accurate is our perception? Yes, around a gazillion era photos seem to indicate ' strict mourning ' was observed- it was also challenged. Some, like the author of the Vermont article took swipes by highlighting how absurd it was making death so expensive. Others seem dismissive of the practice on other grounds, considering it archaic, intrusive, expensive and depressing. Chose an anonymous cleric's position as an example.
Perhaps this is a ' sober hued ' dress, we do not know. While observing yet another tradition, the widow's portrait, she refrains from traditional head-to-toe black.
Sentiments seen frequently, and makes sense. Insisting on social norms in a time when these were both prohibitively expensive and underlined the toll taken by war, was indeed questionable. Would like to point out Southern women also tended to dispense with their crinolines as a mark of their independence. Well, crinolines were expensive, too.
As the article suggests, widow marks her mourning state with a black ribbon and hair ornament.
Yorkville, Virginia, not York, Pennsylvania.
9th century widow- we'd been at this awhile. Someone was saying ' maybe time for a change '.