The Met’s Costume Institute, ushering in Halloween and perhaps nodding to the gothic drama of its own Alexander McQueen show, has announced a fall exhibition exploring mourning fashions in the century between 1815 and 1915 — an epoch associated with the Industrial Revolution, the advent of photography, and chaste Victorian standards.
“The veiled widow could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances,” said curator Harold Koda, who’s pulling primarily from the Costume Institute’s permanent collection. “As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order.” Most often dictated by sitting royals (i.e. Queen Victoria), mourning attire and its cultural implications will be highlighted through the progression of appropriate fabrics and the introduction of shades of gray and mauve.
Death Becomes Her is the Costume Institute’s first fall exhibition in seven years, a return to two special exhibitions a year: a major spring show and a smaller fall show. Approximately 30 ensembles, many of which are being exhibited for the first time, will reveal the impact of high-fashion standards on the sartorial dictates of bereavement rituals as they evolved over a century.
Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, October 21 – February 1, 2015, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center