When/how did the custom of wearing mourning fade?

Yeah, I was definitely thinking of it from the female point of view.

It’s a regular topic of conversation when your husband:

started smoking at 17,

smoked a pack a day for most of his life afterwards, with the exception of a few years when he went as high as five packs a day and of his three final years,

spent all his smoking years making the joke that “since so many men in my family died at 65, if it was true that each cigarrete shaves 5 minutes off, I’d be dead already”

was first diagnosed with lung cancer at 59 and quit cold-turkey

has been declared cured,

has been diagnosed with lung cancer again,

has been declared cured again,

has been diagnosed with lung cancer again…

Mom’s reasoning was “your smoking has cheated me of several years’ worh of marriage.” Making the assumption that he would have died at 65 and of a pretty rapid death, rather than at 62 after 3 years of playing “Morse cancer”, she estimates that he cheated her of 3 years. When she gets real angry at him (which she still does), she counts the cheat as 6 years.
Other regular topics of conversation were things like wills, which are not a normal topic of conversation for families where nobody is spending several years dying, but are a normal one for those in the case.

Armbands are easy-on and easy-off but they are something made specially for mourning, whereas my brothers already had black jackets precisely because they DO wear them regularly. The main point (which I thought I’d already explained in my post) was that they wore mourning clothes but without making a show out of it; the armband would have been a bigger show. A guy can wear full black every day and nobody who doesn’t know his Pa just died will think he’s in mourning… they’ll just think he likes black.

Again, go back not 50 years but 100.

At home we have the wedding pictures of all four sets of great-grandparents. All four brides wore black. Two wear black mantillas that they actually owned (a very large and decorated lace veil, worn by Spanish women for church - nowadays it’s worn only for extremely-formal occasions or as part of certain “folk” dresses), the other two black lace veils provided by the photographer.

We also have the first communion picture for one of them. Since she was 14 for FC and 16 for the wedding, the dress is the same black one. But instead of the black mantilla, she’s wearing a white lace veil.

Colorful dyes at cheap prices are a relatively recent invention and the heavy sun of mediterranean countries ate through the first ones real fast. If you wanted a lasting color, it had to be white (which you can bleach) or black (which hides most spotting and is easy to re-dye). Take a look at “folk dress” from Spain, Italy, Greece: most ladies wear black! It can be black with white polka dots, it can be black with an embroidered apron over it, it can be black with tons of colorful embroidery… but it’s black.

Uhm, leave the Swiss out of it… Dad died in 2000 and I’ve only been here for five weeks. Sorry about the misleading location.

In formal situations (dinners, parties, etc.) yes, but Victorian gentlemen wore a surprising amount of color in their “everyday” clothing.

In the museum in which I work, we have an extensive collection of clothing. In particular, waistcoats could be very colorful, but we also have light-colored pants, pants with checks and gingham-style patterns and the like. The Sears catalog* for 1898 lists mens shirts and suits in a variety of colors.

  • The Sears catalog is a great tool for those interested in domestic history. It was used by nearly everyone except the very rich and the very poor.

I’m not sure what the general population does, but I recall that when a family friend of ours died last year, all of his biker buddies wore a black armband to his funeral. In fact, pretty much everyone at the funeral was wearing a black armband; not like a garter, but more like a solid-black ribbon tied around the right arm and hanging down. He was Christian, but not Catholic, and not of any one particular tradition or culture. Maybe it was just a biker thing.

Actually, all four of the funerals I went to had that. Two of them were for teachers of mine, one was for our biker friend, and the other for a guy who committed suicide. At each of them I remember noticing that, and every time it brought back scenes from “The Stranger” in my mind.


i think kennedy and king, and women in church, when speaking of mourning veils. it does give a sense of personal space.

i have been seeing more sunglasses lately. although it is a bit odd looking at night or inside.

Well, it wasn’t John Kennedy or Martin Luther King who were wearing the veils, it was their wives, and that’s my point. I don’t like the idea that women need more protection from ordinary public interactions than men do, to the point that we should find it reasonable or desirable for them to hide their faces.

Hmmm…I looked at it the reversed way. My thought was that it was a pity that men didn’t ever have the option to hide their face while mourning. What a pity for them. I hope that veils make their way back into American culture once more. I’ve know that I’ve been in situations where a bit of black lace in front of my face, hiding my teary red eyes would have been appreciated.

When I visited my great-aunt in Sicily about 20 years after her husband died, I was in her room once when she opened her wardrobe. It was filled with nothing but black dresses. One hundred percent solid black and that was it. Her sartorial widowhood was almost Hindu in its totality, except that Hindu widows wear 100% solid white for the rest of their lives.