Mourning the dead is not like it is now. There were very strict and formal rules for those in mourning. By the 19th century mourning behavior in England had developed into a complex set of rules, especially with the upper class.
For women, the rules included wearing heavy, concealing, black clothes along with heavy veils. They called it the “widow’s weeds”. Special caps and bonnets sometimes were worn. They had special mourning jewelry. Here is a link of an article we did on Mourning Jewelry. Often jewelry was made of the deceased hair.
Here is the kicker…widows were expected to wear special, black clothing for FOUR years. To not wear mourning clothes for the complete four years was disrespectful to the dead.
Sometimes the friends and acquaintances were required to also wear mourning clothing, but for a lesser period of time. I suspect a lot of people wore black as deaths were certainly more frequent during that era.
For the first year of mourning a widow could not be a part of social society for at least 12 months. They did not attend dances, parties or social events.
Men were also required to wear mourning clothes and be avoided as well. Mourning clothes consisted of black trousers and a black mourning coat.
If you have ever watched Gone With The Wind you see when Scarlet O’Hara becomes a widow at a very young age and she doesn’t want to wear the black mourning clothes and she breaks the rules by dancing at a fundraiser social event with Mr. Butler. Scandalous!!!! 🙂