Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of C.W. Howard, 1950
Not on view
This dress was once worn by Queen Victoria (1819-1901) of the United Kingdom, as documented in an 1894 photograph of the Queen holding her great-grandson, Edward VIII (1894-1972). Purchased from an annual sale of the Queen's garments, it shows the traditional touches of mourning attire, which she wore from the death of her husband, Prince Albert (1819-1861), until her own death. The simple white trim and minimal use of crinkled crepe on the dress indicate a state of half mourning, although it is 33 years after her husband's death. The bodice is of a lighter material to allow for comfort during summer months and the entire garment is finely detailed inside and out. Black mourning dress reached its peak during Queen Victoria's reign. She set the standard by wearing mourning for half of her life. With these standards in place, it was considered a social requisite to don black from anywhere between three months to two and a half years while grieving for a loved one or monarch. The stringent social custom existed for all classes and was available at all price points. Those who could not afford the change of dress often altered and dyed their regular garments black. The amount of black to be worn was dictated by several different phases of mourning; full mourning ensembles were solid black while half mourning allowed the wearer to add a small amount of white or purple.