Regency Mourning Fashions



Regency Dress

During the Regency era, black was considered the proper color to be worn for mourning for both the young and old. Mourning attire was a protection against thoughtless and painful inquiries; it showed at once to all friends and acquaintances that the wearer had recently lost some near and dear friend, and warned them not to jar upon a sad mood with a merry one, nor to ask careless questions. For genteel women, fashion went so far as to symbolize the gradual change from the depth of affliction to a state of cheerfulness by a gradual return from black to gay colors through the intermediate hues of purple and violet, which were recognized as "second mourning." The time to wear mourning varied, according to the degree of relationship of the deceased, from a week to a year, the latter being the period fixed by custom for a widow.

Image: The child’s dress is a simple frock of black crape muslin, tucked small, and worn over a cambric skirt. There is a plain net-lace tucker and cap en suite. The child wears grey kid slippers with black clasps.

The above fashion plate from 1809 features a lady and her infant in slight mourning clothing. The woman’s dress with a demi-train is composed of black gossamer net, or imperial gauze, worn over a white satin slip. The short French sleeves are edged with a rich Vandyke lace. A cestus or belt of white satin is edged with gold bullion and finished in front with a rich cord and cone tassels that are suspended from topaz studs. She wears a pearl necklace and bracelets with topaz snaps. Her hair is in the eastern style with a Spartan diadem and a comb of topaz or gold. A Circassian scarf of grey Spanish silk, with a Tuscan border in black embroidery and tassels is confined on one shoulder with a topaz broach. The shoes are of grey satin with clasps of jet or rosettes of black bugles. The accessories include white gloves of French kid and a fan of black crape with gold spangled devices.

Regency Dress

In “deep mourning”, this dress would be formed of black crape and worn over black sarsnet. All ornaments and trimmings would be of bugles or jet, and the shoes of queen’s silk. The scarf would be of black crape or imperial silk, spotted and bordered with bugles.

Following the death of England’s Princess Amelia in November 1810, British lady’s magazines gave advice on the proper attire and accessories for mourning. La Belle Assemblée acknowledged that fashions should be “necessarily somewhat curtailed … The metropolis is thronged, there is neither gaiety nor bustle in our streets, and go general is the mourning that fashion is no where to be found.” Black was not only the entire color but it was also the color of the times.

Image: Mourning Evening Dress, 1810
A convent round robe of black gossamer gauze with a demi-train and short sleeves is ornamented round the bottom, up the front, and on the bosom and sleeves with a checkered trimming of black bugles, or steel. This dress is worn over an under-dress or slip of black sarsnet. The head-dress consists of a carmelite veil of white net, bordered with black bugles or steel, and finished with correspondent tassels. The hair in disheveled curls, beneath a neck-chain and convent cross of jet, with earrings and bracelets to correspond. Accessories include Spanish slippers of black queen silk with jet clasps or rosettes of bugles, gloves of black or white kid, and a fan of while crape with a mourning border and medallions in black foil.
Regency Dress

The December 1810 edition of La Belle Assemblée provided suggestions for morning dresses for this period of national mourning. Short pelisses in black bombazine were worn over a petticoat of the same, made to fit tight to the shape with a stomacher front and buttoned with jet clasps. The pelisse was ornamented with the Elizabeth ruff and crape cuffs fluted with broad hems and buttoned with jet. This style was referred to as the “Lady Jane Grey's” dress, it being a near resemblance of the manner in which she was dressed in several old paintings.

For dinner or afternoon dresses, the style remained the same but the color was changed to colors of mourning. They were made high in the neck, with laced stomacher fronts and ornamented round the throat with a filling collar of deep antique vandykes, broached or tied with black silk cord, finished with jet tassels. Bombazine and velvets were the most used fabrics. The sleeves were worn long and the trains were moderately short.

Image: Carriage Costume, 1810
A black bombazine or sarsnet round robe with a high bosom and long sleeves with white Spanish weepers trimmed round the bottom up the front and round the bosom with a cable chain of crape. A white crape habit-shirt with a high collar and a Spanish frill round the throat. A cardinal mantle of black or grey cloth is lined and trimmed with white fur or ermine. Prussian helmet composed of the same materials over which is frequently thrown a veil of black lace. Black jean slippers or half-boots of kid leather. The gloves are of black or grey kid.

Regency DressFor full or evening dress, the gowns were designed to be worn just above the rise of the bosom, and formed so as to sit perfectly square, and give as great a breadth to the bosom as possible. The backs of the dresses were worn high, laced, or in the frock style. Black crape, white or black bombazine with striped or figured gauze, over slips of black sarsnet, were the most prevailing fabrics. Velvet was also worn in the fullest dress, made up to the throat, and worn with a crape falling collar with a monastic necklace and cross. The under-dresses were likewise of black silk. No mixture of grey whatsoever was allowed during this period of mourning.  

These ensembles were accessorized with black kid shoes with jet roses and plain black or white silk stockings. In regard to jewelry, every species of jet ornaments were worn; plain rows of large beads appeared to have the preference above fancy necklaces. Other jewelry worn included Maltese crosses, cameos in rings, brooches, combs, and crescents.

Image: Second Mourning Evening Full Dress, 1810
A white satin slip, ornamented round the bottom with gold, over which is worn a black net dress with short sleeves. The dress is sloped up at the bottom in the front, and trimmed with a broad scallop lace; it is entirely edged round with a rich joining lace, and ornamented with gold buttons. The Tarragona hat is composed of black velvet and lace, ornamented with gold, and a gold spray in front. The hair is styled in curls divided on the forehead. Accessories include a necklace and earrings of gold, white kid gloves, shoes of white satin with gold rosettes, and a shawl of French grey silk. This fashionable evening costume was the creation of Miss Blacklin of New Bridge Street.

Rudolf Ackermann's Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics was a monthly publication (1809-1828) that focused on fashion, social, and literary news.  A pair of hand-colored fashion plates were incorporated into each issue, in addition to tipped-in fabric samples. It is rare to find an original issue with the real cloth samples still attached to the page, but when discovered, they provide a window into the colors and textures of early 19th century fashions. Featured below are original Ackermann's fabric samples available in 1810 for lady’s mourning attire.

Antique Fabric


No. 1. A silver grey figured poplin for an evening dress during mourning to be worn with ornaments of black velvet and trimmed with black lace or appliqués of bugled crape up the front. Also could be worn with black crape Grecian aprons thickly studded with bugles. Pelisses and spencers may also be consistently formed of this article.

No. 2. A honey-comb gauze, adapted for evening or full dress. This article is worn over a black gossamer satin slip, and trimmed with rolls of black velvet satin or jet beads. Will also have a most light and pleasing effect when worn over slips of grey gossamer silk or white satin with pearl brilliants or satin-bead ornaments.

No. 3. A rich satin striped gauze designed for evening robes. It is worn over black slips and trimmed with steel or bugles. Also appropriate and elegant when extended over white, and ornamented with white lace, beads, swansdown, or pearl.

No. 4. A Merino crape, which is calculated for the domestic order of mourning habits. Black velvet, black lace, or satin ribbon of a correspondent shade with the crape, are the most becoming and appropriate trimmings for robes composed of this material.

Antique Fabric


Nos. 1 and 2- A printed cotton, lace pattern, particularly adapted for half-mourning dresses for morning or domestic wear.

No. 3- A silver grey embossed satin, particularly adapted for slight mourning.
With robes of this article every order of black trimming, and bugle or jet ornaments, are consistent. The robe should be constructed plain, with a short Grecian sleeve and demi-train.