This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Friday, November 07, 2008

Victorian Era Mourning Fashion

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The Victorian Era stretched through the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). It was the coming of the Industrial Age, a time of great scientific breakthroughs, and an era filled with many social customs and elaborate superstitions. It was a time of mass emigration to the United States from all over the world.

Because of the huge English population that came to America, many of the social and fashion mourning customs so popular in England under Queen Victoria's reign was carried to the U.S. The only difference, is that some of the second and third generations of Americans tended to be a little less strict with these mourning customs, especially those that lived in the wilderness and had to work hard to make ends meet and to survive.

Unlike today, there were various stages of mourning attire for paricular loved ones, and people adhered to these strict rules, especially in England and many of the well established areas of the US. Mourning was the hardest and lasted the longest for widows.

During the first year, widows were expected to refuse all social invitations including weddings and christenings. The only visits allowed were from close relatives and church services. A widow would wear a dress made of black crepe for the first year. Her bonnet was typically made of black crepe with a widow's cap inside and a dark veil with a deep hem. After the first year and a day, a widow could begin wearing black silk. For the next six months, it would be heavily trimmed in crepe until the eighteenth month. Prior to this no jewelry was acceptable. After two years, a widow was allowed to come out of morning and wear regular colors and jewelry again. However, some considered it more tasteful to continue wearing dark colors and grays in half-mourning for another six months.

Deaths of Parents or Child
People would be in full mourning for a year. The first six months they wore paramatta with crepe trim. Then they would wear three months in black and the last three months in half-mourning.

Deaths of a Sibling
People would be in mourning for six months. The first three months they wore crepe and the last three months they wore black attire.

Deaths of Aunts and Uncles
They wore black for three months.

Deaths of First Cousins
People spent six weeks in black.

The photo above is of historical reenactor, Beverly Capps, an expert on Victorian Mourning. 


A very interesting post, Jennifer. I appreciate you sharing it. Some people might think the mourning customes were restrictive. But when you have been through the loss of someone you love, it is understandable. It is also a reminder that life is short and precious, and that we should thank God every day for the lives of those around us.

Wow, this is very insightful! It's something I never knew. I mean, I knew black was worn, but I didn't know for how long, etc.

My father just passed away about 10-11 weeks ago, so as I was reading this I was trying to imagine these routines as though they were still applicable today.

I agree with the previous post as well, that life being short and precious and that we should thank God every day for the lives of those around us. Well spoken!

Thanks, Rita and Shelley,

Life is so precious and short. It's hard not to get caught up in the mundane busy-ness of our daily lives and not take loved ones for granted. That's why I love the holidays so much. They remind us to slow down and remember special moments with our loved ones.

Shelley, I'm sorry about your father. I pray God will continue to comfort and uplift you.

Next Friday I'm going to post on Victorian Mourning Superstitions. It's amazing what they believed!

Thanks, Jennifer! Good information.