Half-Mourning Half Dresses, February 1797

Gallery of Fashion, February 1797.

“Mourning Dresses.”

I am classifying these mourning dresses as Half Dress, as they are a bit more fancy than Morning Walking Dresses, and are equivalent in elegance to the Afternoon Dresses seen in this upscale magazine. Also, the red outer garment on the right is described as an “opera shawl.” As Opera Dresses also fall into the Half Dress category, it seems right that these dresses fall somewhere in the broad Half Dress category.

The black muff on the left is particularly interesting as it has two white roses in the front, something I’ve never come across before. Another element to note is the plume in her hair, half gray and half black. The black half is set with black pearls, which, along with the black pearls in the cap and trimming the robe, are painted in a thick glossy black paint against the matte black of the feather, cap, and robe. Impossible to see online, but very beautiful in person, like tiny black pearls.

That figure also wears what looks to be a portrait miniature on a ribbon around her neck, framed in bright gold. Perhaps of the loved one being mourned? There is no court mourning that I can find for this time, so these are likely dresses for personal mourning.

The figure on the right has similarly painted pearls in her head-dress. Her earrings and chain are painted in bright gold metallic paint. Something is suspended from the chain. Perhaps another portrait miniature?

The print is described in the magazine as follows:

“Fig. CXXVIII. The front hair dress low, and full upon the forehead; the hind hair turned up plain. Black and grey muslin cap, trimmed with pearls. Black and grey ostrich feather placed in the front, the black part set with pearls. Petticoat of lawn, richly embroidered in black. Robe of black muslin, trimmed round the neck down to the girdle with pearls; short sleeves with full tops, and white cuffs, trimmed also with pearls. Silver girdle. Black velvet riband, with a medallion, round the neck. Black-bead ear-rings. Grey gloves. Black shoes. Black bear muff, with two white roses in the front.

“Fig. CXXIX. The toupee and sides dressed very full. Chiffonet of white muslin, crossed with black velvet riband; band set with pearls; bell flower, and a rosette of white satin in the front; the hind hair turned up plain, the ends, as well as part of the toupee, drawn through the chiffonet. Dress of plain white muslin, trimmed round the neck, the waist, and the bottom, with a white and black satin riband; short full sleeves. Ruff of black lace round the neck. Gold ear-rings. Gold chain over the shoulders. White gloves and shoes. Opera shawl, lined and trimmed with fur.”

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