Hillary Kelly muses on an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum:
Mourning clothes—along with other facets of grief—were highly regimented in Victorian England and nineteenth-century America. As the curator’s note explains, “Mourning through sartorial display, a duty chiefly assumed by women, followed a series of stages marked by changes in fabrics and colors.” Exacting codes defined which fabrics and colors were acceptable at particular stages of grief: For the first months after a death, only “lusterless” black dresses were acceptable. As time passed—and for a widow one expected to wear mourning clothes for a full two years—the strictures slowly loosened, and the severity of the attire deceased.
The loss of such traditions has its drawbacks: