When/how did the custom of wearing mourning fade?

In It’s a Wonderful Life, there’s a scene where George is wearing a black armband on the left sleeve of his suit coat, in mourning for his father, who died two months previously. And when he puts on his overcoat, he’s got another black armband on that.

I’ve never seen this IRL, not even at a funeral. When and how did the custom fade?

Not really an answer to your question but lots of info on mourning on wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mourning

As to when/why it declined i’d venture the answer is simply that like many things, to do with customs/etiquette, it simply become a lot less formal over the course of the last century.

Not really an answer to your question but lots of info on mourning on wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mourning

As to when/why it declined i’d venture the answer is simply that like many things, to do with customs/etiquette, it simply become a lot less formal over the course of the last century.

Among fire and police, when a brother/sister falls in the line of duty, or in recognition of a life member we still wear a black band across a breast badge crest, and their duty station is draped in black for the space of 30 days.

Cynics will suggest that the black band serves a functional purpose, in that it covers up the badge number, useful on the day after the funeral when the cops go out to ‘beat some heads’.

It has?

My brothers wore something black for months after Dad’s death. No armbands, but that’s, among other things, because nowadays people have more than two changes of clothing: i.e., my brothers, instead of wearing their weekday suits with black armbands, wore black jackets.

Also, doing it this way is a sign that those who know about your loss understand but it’s not… shouting from the roof… like an armband would be. Your loss if private from the neighborhood crows, but shared with those who already know.

Mom claimed she’d never wear black for Dad so she didn’t. But, you know: I didn’t see her in anything but navy or dark grey for a year. Gee, wonder what happened to all her green and red and yellow stuff during that time?

Maybe it has more in the United States than in Spain or Switzerland. For what it’s worth, I’ve never had a direct encounter with someone dressing differently here for the purpose of mourning someone’s death.

Aren’t armbands easily removed and put on over another piece of clothing? I guess I’ve never seen a mourning armband in person.

That wouldn’t work here in the United States – In places like New York and Washington, there are people who wear black jackets on a daily basis, and not because they are part of a uniform, but just because they prefer dressing in black.

Obviously I don’t know your family, but that strikes me as an odd thing to say. I mean, is wearing mourning clothes a regular topic of conversation in Europe?

WAG, I suppose it was in the Sixties, when all sorts of clothing do’s-and-don’ts fell by the wayside. I remember seeing a photo of FDR signing the declaration of war on Japan in Dec. 1941; his mother had just died, and he had a mourning band on his suit’s arm.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it starts coming back, actually. I remember as a child and teenager reading and hearing that black was no longer being worn at wakes and funerals, rather one should wear something dark colored and tasteful. (I read way too many women’s magazines as a kid.) TV and movies in the '80s and '90’s likewise showed lots of navy and dark browns and greens at funerals. Now I’m seeing more and more black again, and not just in the family of the deceased, but in friends and even acquaintances of the family who may not have known the deceased well at all.

Like so many things in our country, the Baby Boomers set the mood. When they were young and prosperous and didn’t want to think about death, funerals became literally lighter. Now that they and their friends are going to start dieing in larger numbers, I bet funerals and mourning will become much more somber and important. Extended mourning may make a comeback as well.

I wonder how much of that has to do with people increasingly wearing black for occasions other than funerals. I like to wear black (it doesn’t show food stains, and matches pretty much all other colors). When I was living at home, my mom always gave me a hard time for wearing black because “it’s a funeral color”.

I remember reading a theory by somebody that the wearing of mourning originated in Victorian times, when it was socially unacceptable to display a lot of public emotion. Wearing mourning was a signal to others to tread carefully around an emotionally fragile person, and a suitable expression by that person of a grief they were not encouraged to express otherwise. With loosening social mores regarding public emotions, the wearing of mourning is less necessary for those purposes.

That may have something to do with it. I think it has something to do with black being “fashionable” as opposed to “funereal.” It simply doesn’t express the same thing anymore.

It was in World War I that mourning garb fell out of favor (at least in the countries participating). So many people were mourning that it was felt to be “bad form” or even unpatriotic to wear black, and various governments actually put out public requests to forego mourning clothes.

I’ve lived in France and Germany and have travelled a lot in Switzerland and Austria and I’ve noticed that in those countries it’s still common for middle-class people, especially in small towns and villages, to wear black up to a year following the death of a family member.

I don’t think it has faded. Three people I went to high school with died in the same car accident while I was in Florida. Since I was in Florida I couldn’t go to the funeral but when I got back a lot of friends were wearing armbands with their initials. A year later I know at least one person who still wears his.

i miss the mourning veils that women wore. they were very helpful items, keeping the mourner’s privacy.

The fact that Spain & Switzerland, both neutral in the World Wars, continue to do this adds strength to your argument.

I suspect the 1918 Influenza had a strong influence, too.

Random item: the uniform for staff of the Glasgow Subway had a black cuff which originated with the death of Victoria in 1901, and remained until the renovations of the 1970s.

I read long ago that the black neckerchief (forget exactly what it’s called) that’s still part of most of the world’s navies’ enlisted personnel uniforms is thought to have originated with mourning ribbons worn by men of the Royal Navy after Lord Nelson’s death at Trafalgar.

I think it requires a rather specific cultural aura to create the idea that a mostly transparent piece of cloth protects a person’s privacy. I, for one, would not welcome the return of another way to “protect” women from ordinary public interactions in a manner not generally deemed necessary for men as well.

I seem to recall (from a book titled “Men in Black”) that Victorian gentlemen rarely wore anything but black. That would tend to contradict the idea that black clothing (for men, anyway) was considered “funereal” in the Victorian era.