I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art which is currently holding the fashion exhibition 'Death Becomes Her' which covers a century (of predominantly female) mourning attire. Death is an uncomfortable topic that is often avoided for obvious reasons, however, I found myself fascinated by this exhibition and how people used clothing to help deal with death through the mourning process, though it occurs less in modern times.
As a lover of historical dress I was very excited to see this exhibition despite its slightly macabre feel. I was unsure of exactly what to expect beyond black period garments. Often times I find it is easy to forget just how different fashion and its rules were throughout history, as today pretty much anything goes. This exhibition highlights exactly how strict fashion was in those times as it was an indicator of a persons class and place in society. During deep mourning, all clothing was black and made from specific fabrics deemed appropriate for mourning (which seems ludicrous to me) and surface embellishment forgone as dress was deemed to be a physical depiction and representation of a persons mourning. However, the mourning clothing still represented the fashionable silhouettes of the time. As time/the phases of mourning passed texture, embellishment and colour are slowly reintroduced to the wardrobe, however, timing of these acts were often judged by society not a persons feelings. I think the rules of mourning attire would have be exhausting and almost trivialise a persons internal and emotional grieving/mourning process as those people were expected to put on a show of their mourning and grief for others to witness and judge, and it is likely mourners were also forgoing their taste and self expression which is not fair on them. I found that I felt relieved that the present doesn't call for such drastic measures, with current mourning attire being regular (though usually conservative) black clothing and is usually only worn for the funeral. Death Becomes Her also showed the stark contrast between then and now, as in that time period black was worn almost exclusively for mourning whereas now it is arguably the most common clothing colour.
|This gown would be worn during deep mourning.|
|These gowns were a part of the wears move away from deep mourning|