Civil War Mourning Dress: 5 Fascinating Facts

During the Civil War era, women adhered to elaborate rituals for a period of mourning after the loss of a loved one. Men, not so much—they wore black armbands or a pin. Here are 5 interesting things to know about Civil War mourning dress for women:

  1. The length and stages of the mourning rite depended on the person’s relation to the deceased.
  2. An entire industry was built around women’s mourning clothing. There were dresses, collars, cuffs, veils, caps, jewelry and more, which could be purchased at special mourning clothing stores.
  3. At deepest mourning, a woman wore all black and dark colors, including purple, often without sheen and without much embellishment or decoration. As time passed, she transitioned into grays, lighter shades of purple, mauve and white.
  4. Widows’ mourning was the deepest, with the most restrictions and longest period of time.
  5. Photographs from that era often depict grieving family members in mourning dress holding photos of their deceased loved ones.

For more on mourning fashions, including pictures, advertisements and more, see Chapter 7 of  my book, Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album. Learn more about 19th-century fashions in companion volumes Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900 and Hairstyles: 1840-1920. If you are looking for someone to speak to your group on this topic, contact me here.

Example: Girl Holding Picture Of Father

Civil War photographs, Civil War family history, Civil War mourning dress

This young girl holds a picture of her father wearing the uniform of a cavalryman. The bows on her shoulders and her solemn expression suggest this is a mourning photo.

– Collection of the Library of Congress.