Fatally Fashionable: Death Becomes Her at The Met

Fatally Fashionable: Death Becomes Her at The Met

Death is a part of life. So is mourning, and the world’s cultures have crafted varied ways of coping with the pain. For Western cultures in the 19th and early 20th centuries, mourning was partly about dressing the part, especially for upper-class women.

This curious crossover between high fashion and the final farewell is explored in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s (1000 Fifth Ave., at 82nd St., 212.535.7710) exhibit Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire (Oct. 21-Feb. 1), where some 30 dresses dated between 1815 and 1915—many of which have never been exhibited—illustrate an evolution of sartorial standards for outwardly communicating inner grief. The garments range from austere to ornate to Addams Family-esque. Black dominates the showcase (which forced designers to focus more on form and fabric than pattern and color), but as the chronological presentation reveals, shades of gray and mauve were eased into acceptance. One can only imagine that, when you’re expected to mourn for two years, draping yourself in sequined chiffon makes the whole affair a touch less grim.

Check out a sampling of the featured dresses in our slideshow below.