When Death Becomes Her

On sunday the exhibition Death Becomes Her, a century of mourning attire at MET Museum’s Costume Institute closed its gates.

Costume institute Death becomes Her Mourning MET New York Victorian mourning black
My favorite. An opulent dress with scalloped train, little cleavage and a slight sheen in its silk fabric signaling together with the subsequently added white trimming and fringe a state of half mourning.

It had a great line up of frocks and dresses showcasing various states of mourning. It was much more complicated back then. Which added to the difficulties for the mourner as to maintain etiquette a certain wealth was required. Black dyed fabric was not easily achieved in production and therefore expensive. And let’s not even talk about how expensive treatment of silk was in order to acquire the demanded texture.

Costume institute Death becomes Her Mourning MET New York Victorian mourning black
A wedding dress, 1868. In response to the many losses of Civil War the colors were muted. The description read further: Gray silk wool poplin, black silk faille, black and white silk cording and fringe.

Costume institute Death becomes Her Mourning MET New York Victorian mourning black

Costume institute Death becomes Her Mourning MET New York Victorian mourning black
Well, these are full mourning. Love these finest fabric veils. Honestly it looks totally badass. If I were a Saudi Arabian noble woman of today I would wear my veils like this.

Costume institute Death becomes Her Mourning MET New York Victorian mourning black The collection even showed gowns of Queen Victoria (she was a small creature. Very very small) and Queen Alexandra! I was amazed how well curated the exhibition was and in what great condition the gowns are. I mean, I could not detect one single flaw! Either there must be a hell of a conservator or up there in New York they just know how to preserve fabrics from the beginning like no one else. It was a life time wish for me to visit the Costume Institute but at first I was a little disappointed for there was not a more current exhibition. There is nothing comparable here in Germany concerning fashions. I had seen here and there a court dress or so being part of bigger exhibitions about Napoleon or the period of Louis XVI. and had hoped to see some iconic YSL or Mcqueen when I would finally be able to visit NYC. At closer look then I became glad though, because of the aforementioned great condition. If it happens that original clothing of by gone eras gets included in exhibitions here, they very often have a more raggedy appeal, the silks all lackluster and white frills already in hues of decaying yellow. I don’t blame anybody as fabric is really hard to maintain. Till today it is the case that during the life of the owner and after his death clothes are mostly not considered worthy of preservation.

Costume institute Death becomes Her Mourning MET New York Victorian mourning black
Believe it or not! These are also mourning gowns from 1902. Court dresses worn by Queen Alexandra in a period of half mourn a year after Queen Victoria’s death. Splendid sequins embroidered on silk tulle with deep cleavage announcing the shift to more fashionable clothing after years of frumpy black attire of Victoria’s. Both gown were created by French couturiers, the brighter one by Henriette Favre.

Costume institute Death becomes Her Mourning MET New York Victorian mourning black My visit was a great experience and I examined each piece eagerly.

Costume institute Death becomes Her Mourning MET New York Victorian mourning black Kunstdruck art print
A fashion plate. Showing readers the newest mourning fashions and advising her.
Costume institute Death becomes Her Mourning MET New York Victorian mourning black brooch
Circular shaped brooch with lovely interweaved hair of the deceased in the middle. Covered by a clear convex lid of glass, I suppose. These pieces had equivalent functions to a touchstone… Reminder of the loved ones.

Especially the accessory and jewelry corner, curated by the iconic Iris Apfel and her husband Carl (a sweet article in German click here) was a delight. It’s a long time I am fascinated with Victorian era hair jewelry and this was my chance for a close look. Above a true piece of beauty and craftsmanship in gold and pearls.

Costume institute brooch hair Death becomes Her Mourning MET New York Victorian mourning black
Black enameled Victorian brooch depicting a weeping willow which was a common part of the era’s iconographic mourning program and also used to embellish the entry to this exhibition (see below). Here the branches softly lean above an idealized urn containing real hair of the deceased visibly displayed.
Entryway to the exhibition. Emblem and painted weeping willow. ©Metropolitan Museum of Art
Entryway to the exhibition. Emblem and painted weeping willow. ©Metropolitan Museum of Art

Enjoy the pics dear readers as the chance to take a look by yourself won’t be possible for now. Or head over to the MET site for photographs in high res and further information including an interesting lecture about this subject held by assistant curator Jessica Regan in video. // All images by me unless otherwise stated and made with Iphone 5. Thanks goes to the MET Museum for that it is allowed to take pictures in this free manner.

One thought on “When Death Becomes Her

Kommentar verfassen - Be nice!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s