On Halloween I had the opportunity to visit the Costume Institute at the MET Museum and view their exhibition on mourning attire. It was a perfect start to my Halloween evening.
The exhibit was small, but beautifully curated. The clothing pieces were chronologically displayed with pieces of ombre fabric giving each upcoming silhouette a ghostly appearance. The music, lighting, and other visuals added to the atmosphere.
I was fascinated by the literature provided as well as the costume pieces themselves. I know a bit about the history of mourning attire, but the specifics that were shared in the show were new and interesting to read about.
There were also mourning accessories in a small adjoining room with some portraits and prints of a widow character that were popular in the early 1900's.
One piece of the show I was especially interested in was a mourning dress worn by Queen Victoria. I knew she was a small woman, but this picture does not do her stature justice. She was indeed a short, round lady.
The levels of mourning were also explained and their color palette shown. The integration of a more fashionable mourning style was also evident throughout the history of the custom. It was also explained that fashion borrowed from mourning attire, and that black, a color reserved only for those who had lost a loved one, began to become a popular color in the mainstream fashion world.
I find it sad that this ritual of taking time to outwardly mourn our deceased has faded away. Maybe we are a culture that celebrates the lives of our dead instead rather than laments they are no longer with us. Maybe we are becoming a more present and aware people.
If you have the chance go see Death Becomes Her at the MET Museum. It runs until February 1, 2015.