Death Becomes Her, Or is it That Fabulous Veil?

Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin Willis
“Death Becomes Her,” the fall exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center presents a stitch-by-stitch account of what the well-dressed widow was wearing a century or two ago.

There were rules for such things, naturally, and we can thank high-profile mourners, such as Queen Victoria and her daughter-in-law Queen Alexandra for elevating the social importance of mourning attire. (Mourning gowns belonging to each woman will be part of the exhibition.)

Yet according to Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, mourning wasn’t always seen simply as a bereaved wife’s dedication to her departed spouse. “The veiled widow  could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances,” he says. “As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order.”

Just who was she peering at through her long black veil?

Death Becomes Her” runs from October 21, 2014 to February 1, 2015, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

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