Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Historical Frills: Funeral Procession of Rose

Recently released for reservation by Alice and the Pirates, Funeral Procession of Rose pays homage to the rituals and fashion of Victorian mourning. After the death of her husband, Queen Victoria wore black for the last forty years of her life and sparked a new trend which quickly trickled down through all the social classes in England. Especially for the upper classes, the etiquette surrounding mourning rituals and fashions was particularly strict. Well-to-do women in particular were under the close scrutiny of their peers and often had to wear mourning garb for years after the death of a husband or close family member. The closest relationship with the longest mourning period for women was by and large a wife dressing after the loss of her husband. In etiquette books the period of 'First Mourning' would last for 1-year and 1-month with the widow in question dressing solely in bombazine fabric (a mix of silk and wool) with an overlay of crepe. 'Second Mourning' picked up where First Mourning left off and lasted about 6 months wherein less crepe was worn, but the bombazine and all-black clothes remained. Next came 'Ordinary Mourning' which lasted another 6 months and removed crepe entirely. Bombazine was usually replaced by silk or wool, and in the latter half of the period came the reintroduction of jewelry and ribbons (though only jet jewelry would suffice). The final stage of mourning was 'Half-Mourning' which also lasted - you guessed it - 6 months, and saw the reintroduction of somber colors. Grey, lavender, and mauve all became acceptable to wear in addition to black. Though it was natural for women to shorten some of these periods and break the rules somewhat, those who sought to wear black and mourn for longer often grew in status and were better respected by their peers. Long-lived mourning was seen as a sign of devotion, and  as Queen Victoria mourned for the rest of her life, her subjects became just as enamored with the idea of a love which continues to affect the survivors long after the deceased had been buried.

Aside from the blue, all of the colorways available from Alice and the Pirates adhere to the colors allowed for widows in the period of half-mourning. While the inclusion of grey is rather an obvious allowance by the etiquette books, lavender and mauve seem much odder to include. It is thought that these were allowed as transition colors from mourning to regular dress because they were used in the Christian tradition by both Catholic and Anglican clergy to represent the Passion of Christ at funeral services. These colors were worn as stoles and due to their religious ties were seen as the only truly acceptable colors for a mourning woman to wear. 
OP in blue
Moving from colors to the actual design of the dresses, JSK I is probably the closest to the earlier Victorian silhouette with a cinched bodice at the natural waist and a full skirt. The early Victorian period moved strongly away from the empire-waists and column-like dresses of the Regency and focused upon the full-bodied crinoline dresses so often associated in America with the Civil War. The bustle periods did not come until later when the crinoline styles fell decidedly out of fashion. The use of the lace overlay on the bodice recalls the use of crepe worn over bombazine in the first two periods of mourning, while the ribbon at the natural waist seems to be an allusion to the reintroduction of ribbons during the last three months of ordinary mourning. While JSK II does not fit with the Victorian silhouette, it is somewhat reminiscent of the informal tea gowns which made appearances starting in the 1870s. By this point, women were beginning to loosen their stays at home, and un-corseted tea gowns became appropriate for informal entertaining within one's own home. Finally, the OP's high-collared neckline is particularly iconic of the late Victorian silhouette. The sleeves are also reminiscent of Victorian fashion of the 1890s which was moving towards the leg o'mutton sleeves which billowed out from shoulder before tapering down to a tightly cinched wrist. The length and shape of the OP's A-line skirt is also in accordance with the trends of the later Victorian period which had moved far away from crinolines and was quickly moving towards the hourglass silhouette which would be popularized by Charles Dana Gibson and the Gibson Girls.
Wine/Bourdeaux colorway which is reminiscent of the color 'Old Mauve'
As if the colorways and silhouettes weren't homage enough, the print itself is a wonderful rendition of a late-autumn or early winter funeral procession. Nearly all deaths occurred within the home and the journey from house to church to grave was done in the morning. The coffin was pulled through the streets in an ornate carriage which, depending on the wealth of the family, could have been accompanied by a large host of mourners. Interestingly enough, the women of the house did not attend the funeral and instead remained at home after the deceased was carried out. Though the host of mourners is absent in the print, there is a sense of peace in the composition. While the horse-drawn carriage trots smartly away from the church which looms in the background, a host of leave-less trees bear witness like mutes (hired mourners) to the last journey of the deceased. A single crow perches in one of the trees with its head turned towards the carriage - its beak closed in a silence that stretches through the top half of the print and which is only broken by the metronome-like clopping of hooves on cobblestones.

"1890s in Western fashion." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 Aug, 2014.
Mitchell, Sally. Daily Life In Victorian England. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2009. 164-167. eBook Academic               Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 10 Aug. 2014.
"Victorian Fashion." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 Aug, 2014.

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