Monday, October 12, 2015

More Mourning Etiquette

"To go to the opera, or a dinner, or a party, before six months have elapsed, is considered heartless and disrespectful. If one choose, as some do, to wear no mourning, then he can go, unchallenged, to any place of amusement, but if he put on mourning he must respect its etiquette." – Scarlett O'Hara seemed to be in mourning through a third of the film, "Gone with the Wind," yet she still sought amusement at social gatherings.
The duration of a mourner’s retirement from the world has been much shortened of late. For one year no formal visiting is undertaken, nor any gayety. Black is often worn for a husband or wife two years, for parents one year, and for brothers and sisters one year; a heavy black is lightened after that period. Ladies are beginning to wear a small black gauze veil over the face, and are in the habit of throwing the heavy crape veil back over the hat. It is also proper to wear a quiet black dress when going to a funeral, although not absolutely necessary. Friends may call on the bereaved family within a month, not expecting, of course to see them. Kind notes expressing sympathy are welcome from intimate friends; and flowers, or any similar testimonial of sympathy, are thoughtful and appropriate.

Cards and note-paper are put in mourning, but very broad borders of black are in bad taste. A narrow border of black is correct. The use of handkerchiefs with a two-inch square of white cambric and a four-inch border of black is to be deprecated.

Mourning which soldiers, sailors, and courtiers wear is pathetic and effective. A flag draped with crape, a gray cadet-sleeve with a black band, or a piece of crape about the left arm of a senator, a black weed on a hat, are in proper taste.      
Advertisement for mourning attire from a Victorian publication
Before a funeral the ladies of a family see no one but the most intimate friends. The gentlemen, of course, see the clergyman and officials who manage the ceremony. It is now the almost universal practice to carry the remains to a church, where the friends of the family can pay the last tribute of respect without crowding into a private house. Pall-bearers are invited by note, and assemble at the house. They, accompanying the remains, after the ceremonies at the church, to their final resting-place. The nearest lady friends seldom go to the church or to the grave. This is, however, entirely a matter of feeling, and they can go if they wish. After the funeral only the members of the family return to the house. It is not expected that a bereaved wife or mother will see any one other than the members of her family for several weeks.

All the preparations for a funeral in the house are committed to the care of an undertaker, who removes the furniture from the drawing-room, filling all the space possible with camp-stools. The clergyman reads the service at the head of the coffin, the relatives being grouped around. The body, if not disfigured by disease, is often dressed in the clothes worn in life, and laid in an open casket, as if reposing on a sofa, and all friends are asked to take a last look. The body of a man is usually dressed in black.

The custom of decorating the coffin with flowers is beautiful, but has been overdone, and now the request is frequently made that no flowers be sent.

No one in mourning for a parent, child, brother, or husband, is expected to be seen at a concert, a dinner, a party, or at any other place of public amusement, before three months have passed. After that one may be seen at a concert. But to go to the opera, or a dinner, or a party, before six months have elapsed, is considered heartless and disrespectful. If one choose, as some do, to wear no mourning, then he can go, unchallenged, to any place of amusement, but if he put on mourning he must respect its etiquette. –From How to Behave and How to Amuse, by G. H. Sandison, 1895


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