Mourning ensemble, silk/wool, silk, American

Mourning ensemble

Date:
1857–60
Culture:
American
Medium:
silk/wool, silk
Credit Line:
Gift of Miss Janet K. Smith, 1941
Accession Number:
C.I.41.21.4a, b
Not on view
Fabrics, trims, and accessories distinguished mourning clothing from purely fashionable black attire. The early stages of mourning dress, typically consisting of matte blacks and mourning crape, yielded to a broader range of black fabrics, including silks of some luster such as taffeta, poult de soie, and moiré. A dulled finish suitable for the sobriety of mourning could be achieved by using wool or cotton fibers or through weave structure and finishing techniques. The striated texture of a ribbed or crimped textile was less reflective than the unbroken—and therefore glossy—face of a satin. Although the watered surface of a moiré might seem overly lustrous or luxurious for mourning, it was a fabric commonly sold by mourning retailers, and ensembles similar to this moiré dress with matching shawl were advertised for lighter mourning, especially during the 1850s and 1860s.