oldrags:

Cabinet photograph by Evelyn & James, 1885 Wandsworth (London), Manchester Art Gallery

Full length portrait of a seated woman in mourning dress. Plain interior backdrop with a table to the left with a fur throw and a black dog. The woman wears her hair in a chignon with a brimless straw hat with a velvet band and bow. She is wearing a black wool and crepe dress with a fitted bodice with centre front buttons extending to a point and full length fitted sleeves with crepe cuffs. The bodice of her dress is made up of crepe with a bolero style front and a high standing collar. She has a bustle and her skirt is made up of crepe inserts and black silk.

Written on reverse in pencil “Mary Le Neve Foster / 1885 – or 1886 / In Mourning dress for her mother”

Someone asked what makes this a mourning gown (can’t reply to the ask specifically): it’s the use of crape. That particular kind was used only for mourning, not for fashion. There are many kinds of crepe but when you can see that very strong ripple effect even in these old photos that is a clear signal of mourning. 

LACMA example of a mourning veil showing how sheer and rippled it was.

She would have more crepe if it was her husband, and possibly a veil as well. I’m not entirely sure how ingrained morning rituals were below a certain class level where you could actually afford to go through the various stages of colour…

Also other fabrics were suitable for deep mourning, the duller the surface the better, but the crape is the definitive mourning fabric- then you could slowly add in satin and polished jet etc. as you passed through the stages.

ETA: WHOOPS! That’ll learn me 😉 The asker was not referring to this photo at all- scroll further grasshopper… 😉 Sorry Kate and asker 🙂  Leaving the info up for general info