Posted by Jessamyn on September 11, 1997 at 00:26:34:
In response to Mourning, written by Kelley on September 10, 1997 at 09:31:23
] Widows were supposed to mourn for at least two years, during which one was expected to wear all black. After a while, she could wear half-mourning, which had black stripes on it. Many chose to wear widow's weeds all their lives (like Queen Victoria), which may be what Mrs. D. is doing (though I don't know how much time passes in S&S).
] Children should mourn their parents for at least a year, but I'm guessing that they could follow the half-mourning idea as well.
] Men were luckily allowed to wear black armbands only if they so chose, but women had to wear full black. Was it the men in Persuasion who talked about the armbands?
People in the Regency counted so many folk as their "close" relations, and death was so much more common than now, that fashion plates actually included fashionable mourning garments. But for the less-than-wealthy, getting up enough proper clothing in a hurry was a real problem, although one could always dye things.
Jane Austen, in a letter to her sister Cassandra upon the death of their sister-in-law after bearing her eleventh (!) child, says:
I shall send you such of your mourning as I think most likely to be useful, reserving for myself your stockings and half the velvet...I am to be in bombasine and crepe...
and of the pair of young nephews left motherless, she says:
Edward has an old black coat, which will save his having a second new one; but I find that black pantaloons are considered by them as necessary, and of course one would not have them made uncomfortable by the want of what is usual on such occasions...
All this fuss was made worse by the fact that the death of certain public figures had to be observed also. I believe there's some reference in the letters to Austen's mother buying up a quantity of black material quite cheap, since she thinks that the old king is going to die any time now. (She was wrong--he outlived all expectation!)
Can you imagine us dressing all in black for months on end because Princess Diana is dead? Definitely a different universe.
Of course, the advantage of mourning was that it put everything up front. You got to wear a visible symbol of your grief and get it out of your system, and then if you wanted to move on as soon as your mourning period was over, that was fine too--it had officially been Long Enough.
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