Northern Threads: Mourning fashions

Bradbury family mourning dress, Standish, ca. 1845

Bradbury family mourning dress, Standish, ca. 1845
Item 105816   info
Maine Historical Society

During the mid-19th century, silk crepe (crêpe or crape) was a preferred mourning attire fabric. Crepe was imported from England, created by skilled weavers. The yarns were dyed black by experienced artisans, using complex recipes and ingredients. Yet, older black crepe often faded to brown.

The condition of this garment indicates the owner, probably a widow, wore this dress for a long time. Crepe was not washable. Replaceable linings helped with soiling from lengthy wear and perspiration. This bodice is linen lined, and indigo cotton patches line the skirt hem and cuffs.

Associated with the Bradbury family of Standish, the exact wearer is unknown. For the average family, economic solutions helped with mourning observances. In an immediate situation, mourning attire could be shared with family and friends, or old garments dyed black at home, with expensive crepe fabric limited to trimmings.

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