Monday, November 8, 2010

Mourning Costumes in America

Life in this world has an interesting post begining with "a sign at a historical site in Baton Rogue" — Family Scholars - Mourning Costumes. "Mourning, during the 18th and 19th centuries, was governed by a strict set of cultural rules," the sign informs us:
    Clothing, in particular women’s clothing, was strictly dictated by cultural customs of the day. Women had the misfortune of having to abide by clothing rules so strict that they dictated the specific dates at which one could switch from all black clothing to white and black prints and shiny black clothing. For the first year after the death of a spouse, a woman wore matte-black dresses and often covered their faces with veils. After a year the woman could wear the aforementioned shiny black fabrics or white and black prints. In the last stage of mourning, women could begin to wear lavenders and grays to signify that they were close to exiting the mourning period. Where women’s clothing was tightly regulated by mourning customs, men’s clothing was less so. Men wore black hats and black arm bands as their public display of mourning. Even children and children’s toys were not free from the cultural norms expected of those in mourning. Just as adult women, little girls were dressed in black, carried black fans, and even dressed their dolls in black garments. Clothing prescriptions went on for up to two years and in some cases women wore mourning garb their entire lives as a sign of absolute devotion to the deceased.
The blogger points out the obvious similarities with the Confucians' "very strict three year mourning period," during which time only course clothing could be worn. Returning to modern America, one of the most jarring spectacles I've seen in recent years was of the shirtless buffoons watching the funeral procession of Ronald Wilson Reagan, many of whom probably thought themselves "conservative."

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.