M972.123.11 | Mourning bonnet and veil

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Mourning bonnet and veil
About 1904, 20th century
Fibre: silk (crepe, bombazine ?, grosgrain), synthetic
10 x 94 cm
Gift of Mme Armand Mathieu
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Bonnet (14)
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Keys to History

This widow's bonnet must have been worn for a certain time after the death of the husband. In fact, the white trim on the black ribbon likely indicates that this was not worn during deep mourning.

In the 19th century, mourning dress was very codified. The first phase, called "deep mourning" was very austere: only crêpe and black were permitted. After this period, the severity of the clothing was reduced and details of ornamentation and other colours were gradually reintroduced.

About two years after the death, the period of half mourning began, and, after six months, grey, lilac, violet or black and white clothing and accessories were considered appropriate. Queen Victoria (1819-1901) had a strong influence on her period by remaining in mourning for her husband from the age of 42 until the end of her life. Of course, not all women had the means to dress according to the rules of etiquette, whether they were in mourning or not.

  • What

    Crêpe, a silk fabric, symbolized mourning for centuries.

  • Where

    The length of the veil indicated whether it was an indoor or outdoor bonnet. Indoor bonnets had very short veils.

  • When

    This type of mourning bonnet, with its point in the front, was very popular from the 1820s to the 1900s.

  • Who

    Only a minority of women had the means to wear the latest fashion in mourning clothes and shop in specialized shops.