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museumtom

What ladies should wear at a funeral

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museumtom

From the Waterford News. 1915.

Rules for Mourning.

Mourning is now so generally required that a few rules governing its choice and wear may be helpful to those unfortunately compelled to adopt it by the loss of near relatives at the front. There is something very solemn and dignified about well-chosen, well-made mourning neatness and suitable materials are all important. The fabric for a widow or near relative should have a dull surface, and the dress should be trimmed liberally with crape. No other trimming is permissible besides this emblem of deep mourning, lace and embroideries being quite out of place. Relief is obtained only by means of the snow-white muslin collar and cuffs, but the latter are not now obligatory. Black furs are de rigeuer but exception is sometimes made in favour of sables. A tiny white waistcoat is sometimes introduced in place of the white collar when the widow is quite young.

Half Mourning.

Diamonds and pearls may be worn with discretion, but black-bordered handkerchiefs have long been banished to the limbo of things forbidden. Needless to say, footwear, hosiery, handbags, umbrellas, and all accessories of the toilette must be of the same sombre hue as the raiment. As in dress, so in millinery, no material having a shiny surface should be combined with crape. The silk used for headgear must therefore be dull but rich. Elderly women wear plain bonnets of crape and silk, but the young generally choose round hats of the togue type. Veils may be short or long. In the former case they are worn over the face and are edged with crape; in the latter they form the trimming of the hat, or partly so, fall in rich folds down the back. For half-mourning the fashionable striped shirts and blouses in black and white silk are very chic, especially when donned with simple white muslin collars and a black tie.

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J T Gray

That's very interesting, Tom, especially given that the Great War is generally held to be what put an end to the restrictive - particularly to women - Victorian customs of mourning. I don't know how many women were employed in men's roles in Ireland, but I suspect that by 1918 all this advice was superfluos, because no-one had timee for the restrictions!

Adrian

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centurion

The advice would be aimed at the well off ["Diamonds and pearls may be worn with discretion"] who often had little useful to do.

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Dragon

I wonder how far these prescriptive practices added to the financial worries of a family, especially if the main breadwinner had been gone for some time and there were several offspring to clothe as well as a widow. I don't think that crape and silk were the cheapest of materials, and any dulled jet decorations would add to the cost.

Edit - re Centurion's post: what about engagement rings? Were those pemitted? Diamonds and other precious stones weren't confined to the wealthy, or could be passed through the family. (I have several Victorian and Edwardian engagement rings which I know were from fairly ordinary families.) Pendants were also common gifts from new husband to new wife; you would think she would want to wear such a piece especially if she were attending his funeral.

Gwyn

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SiegeGunner

The sad thing is that with large and extended families and higher child mortality, most adults probably already possessed such mourning and funeral attire as they could afford.

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centurion

Expensive materials ["The silk used for headgear must therefore be dull but rich"] including furs ["Black furs are de rigeuer but exception is sometimes made in favour of sables"]. I suspect that the "main breadwinner" in the target audience was the rents from the estate or returns from investments, either that or the article was a 1915 equivilent of Hallo mag showing the masses how the well off lived.

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David B

I don't know if this was universal or not but in the 1930's (yes I was there) ladies didnt go to funerals but stayed at home and

prepared the wake eats. Mind you it was probably a good thing, my aunt died in 1939 and the day of the funeral it was 110 degs

and the men with their high collars and dark suits must have suffered somewhat. Us kids had the honour of staying at home,

for which we were rather grateful.

D

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Dragon

Social pressure for attitudes to be relaxed meant that women who wished to attend funerals were able to do so. Anecdotal evidence is that pregnant women often stayed at home minding the extended family's children and, as you say, preparing food.

I believe that in poorer families, mourning outfits were often borrowed, from within the family or from neighbours. Fashions and women's dress-silhouettes changed, though and if you wished to look modern (and a funeral was an occasion when the widow was on show), dresses were remodelled and altered. Hat styles changed, too. I suspect that this time was unprecedented in its numbers of young widows - were they still expected to wear mourning for two years or so?

The attendant expenses such as mourning stationery were a worry for some families even before the war. In the pre-war years, wreaths were also expected, even in poor communities where donations to feed the family would have been more useful. Did these costly practices continue under the pressure of war?

Gwyn

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john jerome mcmanus

G;day all,

Without raising any partisan angst, may I ask if these "ritual" obligations extended from Irish or Anglo/Irish traditions?

Curious to know.

Regards

Pop

(Sean McManus)

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J T Gray

I'm not particularly aware of what funeral traditions were prior to around the mid-Victorian period - though I think they were fairly well ritualised, at least to those who could afford it, even then. A major influence on the increasing ritualisation, and the increased burden on women, was Queen Victoria who famously never came out of mourning after Albert's death.

What Tom speaks of sounds much like what would have been accepted in the mainland UK at the time, so I suspect that they were "Anglo" whereas things like wakes would be "Irish". However it is possible - even probable - that many irish and english funeral customs co-evolved, as there was obviously considerable traffic between the two places. I suspect - perhaps someone more in the know than me can confirm or refute? - that there was probably difference between the funerals of the rich and the poor than there was between England and Ireland.

For those who could afford there was an enormous industry in turning out mourning clothes, and keeping fashions moving so that they "needed" replacing regularly. I don't have a copy of "Death, Heaven and the Victorians" to hand for examples but the major social responsibilities and visible acts of mourning - veils, black crape and the like, black for a year and dark "half-mourning" for a year after that - fell onto women, while a man could almost get way with an appropriate width of crape ribbon round his hat or sleeve.

Further to the stationery and wreaths Gwyn mentions, I have some village undertakers records and, although coffins paid by the parish had ceased by 1915, the number of entries prior to this where the family paid for things like colouring and lining the coffin make it clear that no-one (literally - I don't think there is a single entry where there wasn't something extra added to the parish coffin) was going to be seen to have a true "pauper's funeral" - they had to have the best they could afford, which was probably a huge burden on the poorest.

I think I might be drifting off topic a bit...

Adrian

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truthergw

My reaction to the article was that a fashion critic was desperately trying to be relevant, at a time when people were finding a lot more to worry about than what kind of hat was being worn to the races this year. Des will bring a lot more expertise to this than I ever could but it has the feel of a filler to me.

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centurion

In late Victorian and Edwardian periods there were magazines wholly devoted to reporting on things like 'what Lady Montague-Whirtley wore at the Royal...." (Today we have magazines that do the same thing only with 'celebrities' "exclusive photos of Slithy Tove's wedding"). The readership were people who could not (and never would) be able to afford such extravagances but who lapped up the detail. The article in question has that sort of air about it.

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jon_armstrong

Wasn't it just the same as today where this would only be followed strictly by a small but influential section of society, but a cheaper and more watered-down version of it would trickle down to the masses?

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David B

Hi Sean,

I would think that, certainly, the ritual came from Anglo/Irish traditions, and further a funeral parlour didn't involved either.

The coffin was kept in the front parlor with the blinds drawn, until a hearse arrived to take the coffin to the cemetery. Bigger and funerals

were held in the Church. These days of course we tend to use a funeral parlor most of the time.

David

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1st_east_yorks
From the Waterford News. 1915.

Half Mourning.

Diamonds and pearls may be worn with discretion, ............

A great example of the etiquette of the time.

Just one question, how do you "half mourn" ...??

Sean.

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IPT
A great example of the etiquette of the time.

Just one question, how do you "half mourn" ...??

Sean.

half mourning

  1. traditionally, the second period of mourning, during which black clothes are lightened or replaced by gray, white, or purple
  2. the clothes worn then
  3. mourning for someone you didn't really like that much (I made this one up)

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centurion

[quote name='IPT' date='Sep 17 2009, 02:38 PM' post='1266656'

mourning for someone you didn't really like that much (I made this one up)

But got it more or less right anyway - you might go into half mourning for a cousin you didn't see much for example

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wizard2250
The coffin was kept in the front parlor with the blinds drawn, until a hearse arrived to take the coffin to the cemetery.

This is what I grew up with. My Great-Grandfather emigrated to Newfoundland (at a young age, with his family) and they came from Moyglass. Seems the tradition was passed on through our family, which is Catholic back as far as I can find. I know that this is true as I was born at 8 a.m. (the same hour my Grandmother was buried) and my Dad never got to the hospital...or even knew I was born until he got out of the house 6 p.m. after the post-funeral part of the wake (which took place at the house).

In the outports near St. John's I attended wakes as a young man which were known as 'Irish Wakes' and involved a celebration of the deceased persons life (in a respectable way)...not a mourning. The families were Ryan and Shea and O'Flaherty among many others and my recent trek into family history shows a lot of those outport names were Ireland-based. Any ideas from members in Ireland if this was a Newfie tradition or something passed down through an Irish tradition.

thanks,

shawn

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centurion

I can think of a few wakes in County Sligo that were anything but respectable.

The idea of having the coffin in the house is not specifically catholic or Irish. It was certainly the custom in the North of England at one time. When the back door was the main entry and exit from the house it was often said that you only passed through the front door three time Once when you carried your bride through it (or were carried through it), once when you left to get married and once when you were carried through it by pall bearers.

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abbrover

My mother always said the curtains had to be drawn on the day of a funeral and they were not opened again until you returned after the funeral had taken place. In Victorian times ladies were not supposed to go out in society until after the first period of mourning was over and then only to visit close family and friends during half mourning. The items described would really only be available to those with money. I would assume that this was another custom that probably began to change as a result of the war although, as others have said, sometraditions of mourning still survived

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J T Gray
The idea of having the coffin in the house is not specifically catholic or Irish. It was certainly the custom in the North of England at one time.

It was probably fairly widespread - it was certainly the done thing in Essex in the nineteen-noughties, and I believe my grandfather was laid out at home in 1958.

Adrian

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1st_east_yorks
half mourning

mourning for someone you didn't really like that much (I made this one up)

Yep, that was about how I interpreted it. (a semi-mourn or a mournette maybe!)

p.s. i love the honesty of your footnote. :lol:

Sean.

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