Full mourning (widow’s weeds), required a black dress with a plain collar—the cuffs and collar could be made of white muslin -- a bombazine mantle, and a crepe bonnet with veil for outdoors, and a widow’s cap for indoors. Mourning crepe was made from gummed, tightly twisted, silk threads, giving a crinkled surface. Constant breathing through the fabric caused respiratory health problems. Even the under clothing was black. Poorer women often dyed their regular clothing black.The length of time for widows’ full mourning was a year and a day, and was represented with dull black clothing without ornament. It also included a weeping veil of black crepe. Re-marriage was allowed after this period. At times women would return to black clothing on the day after marrying again. The color black represented the absence of light and life.
Second mourning lasted for nine months. It allowed for minor ornamentation of fabric trim and mourning jewelry. The veil was lifted and worn back. Often elderly widows stayed in mourning for the rest of their lives.
Mourning jewelry was most commonly made of jet, which is a type of fossilized coal. Hair art also became popular. It started as a simple way to keep a bit of a loved one near, and turned into an elaborate art. A lock of hair would be woven into knot designs, which could be placed in a brooch or locket. It also could be made into rings, bracelets, earrings, watch fobs and necklaces.
Half mourning lasted from three to six months, and allowed more elaborate fabrics in trim. Gradually, the widow could ease back into color and all types of jewelry could be worn. In half mourning women could wear gray, mauve, purple, lavender, and white. Subtle prints could combine these colors.
The usual mourning time for a widower was two years, but he could end it early. Men could go about their normal daily lives and employment.
Mourning for parents ranked next to that of widows. One year was the standard length: six months in crepe, three in second, and three in half mourning. Second mourning was suitable for parents-in-law. After one month in black, lilac should follow.
Young children were never kept more than one year in mourning. No girl under the age of 17 was expected to wear full mourning for the full length of time.
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