Evening Mourning Dress, December 1817

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, December 1817.

“Evening Dress”

This mourning dress commemorates the death of Princess Charlotte who had died on November 6, 1817 at age 21, after giving birth to a stillborn son.

Though the model’s face is appropriately somber, even sad, she is dressed for a formal evening — either a party, a ball, or some other form of entertainment.  Though the type of clothing is strictly prescribed for court mourning, in terms of color and fabric, social activities were not much curtailed. It appears to have been sufficient to wear clothing that honored the deceased person, without the need to restrict social activities. This was not true for personal mourning. If a woman lost her husband, for example, she would have no need for a black evening dress as she would not be expected to do any socializing.

This dress represents full, or deep, mourning. During this first phase of mourning, fabrics were to have no sheen or shine, and no sparkly jewelry was allowed. Jet jewelry was considered appropriate.

The print is described in the magazine as follows:

“A black crape frock over a black sarsnet slip. The skirt of the frock is finished by full flounces of the fashionable chevaux des frises trimming. The body, which is cut very low round the bust, is elegantly decorated with jet beads. Short full sleeve, ornamented to correspond to the body. The hair is much parted in front, so as to display the forehead, and dressed lightly on each side of the face; the hind hair is drawn up quite tight behind. Head-dress is a jet comb, to the back of which is affixed a novel and elegant mourning ornament; and a long black crape veil placed at the back of the head, which falls in loose folds round the figure, and partially shades the neck. Ear-rings, necklace, and cross of jet. Black shamoy gloves, and black slippers.”

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