Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Mourning dress

Credit Line:
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. F. W. Cameron, 1955
Accession Number:
Not on view
By the late Middle Ages in Europe, black had connotations of mourning, though it could also suggest worldly elegance and luxury, in part due to the costliness of black dye. Broadly worn as the color of grief during the nineteenth century, black could be perceived as both humble and sober or sophisticated and becoming. A shade of true deep black that did not quickly fade toward blue or brown was the mark of a fine-quality textile and the ideal for mourning attire. In their 1856 catalogue, Besson and Son’s Mourning Store of Philadelphia assured prospective buyers of the quality of their black goods, promising only "what is of the proper shade of black." This simple afternoon dress, appropriate for the third, or ordinary, period of mourning, is composed of a taffeta woven with narrow horizontal bands and dots in soft black.
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