Much of the custom surrounding mourning came from following Queen Victoria's example. It became customary for families to go through elaborate and expensive rituals to commemorate the death of their loved ones as well as curtailing social behavior for a set period of time and erecting an ornate monument on the grave.
Mourning clothes are the families outward display of their inner feelings. The rules for who wears what and for how long is complicated, and outlined in popular journals and household manuals (i.e. The Queen and Cassell's).
The deepest mourning clothes are black, symbolizing spiritual darkness. They are made from a non-reflective paramatta silk or the less expensive bombazine. The dresses are trimmed with crape in a peculiar crimped shape appearance produced by heat. Crape was chosen for mourning clothes as it doesn't combine well with any other clothing. After a period of time, the crape could be removed and the color of the dress lightened as mourning goes on to gray, mauve and then white.
Men have it easy as they simply wear their dark suits along with black gloves, hatbands and cravats. Children are not expected to wear mourning clothes, though sometimes you will find girls wearing white dresses.
The length of time spent mourning depends on your relationship to the deceased and are dictated by society. Widows are expected to wear full mourning dress for two years; everyone else less--children mourning parents or vice versa one year, for grandparents and siblings six months, aunts and uncles two months.
Many shops cater to the trade for mourning clothes, the largest one is Jay's of Regent Street. Opened in 1841, Jay's provides every conceivable item of clothing you and your family could need and you are bound to be a repeat customer as it is considered bad luck to keep mourning clothes in the house after the period of mourning is ended.
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