Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire
This Costume Institute exhibition explores the aesthetic development and cultural implications of mourning fashions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Approximately thirty ensembles, many of which are being exhibited for the first time, reveal the impact of high-fashion standards on the sartorial dictates of bereavement rituals as they evolved over a century.
The thematic exhibition is organized chronologically and features mourning dress from 1815 to 1915, primarily from The Costume Institute’s collection, including mourning gowns worn by Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra. The calendar of bereavement’s evolution and cultural implications is illuminated through women’s clothing and accessories, showing the progression of appropriate fabrics from mourning crape to corded silks, and the later introduction of color with shades of gray and mauve.
The Anna Wintour Costume Center’s Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery orients visitors to the exhibition with fashion plates, jewelry, and accessories. The main Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery illustrates the evolution of mourning wear through high-fashion silhouettes. Examples of restrained simplicity are shown alongside those with ostentatious ornamentation. The predominantly black clothes are set off against a stark white background and amplified with historic photographs and daguerreotypes.