College Park, MD funeral homes

The History of Black Being Worn at Funerals

The custom of wearing black for funerals at College Park, MD funeral homes has rich history in the western world. Special clothing to acknowledge death of a love one can be traced back even to ancient biblical times, where we can see Jacob wearing sackcloth to mourn, what he believes, is the death of his favorite son, Joseph.  

The custom of wearing black, though, seems to have originated in ancient Rome. Romans mourned their dead by wearing a special dark wool toga known as a toga pulla. They also wore this toga when they were protesting a government decision.  

However, the black mourning attire that we’re more familiar with emerged in Europe during the Middle Ages. Europe, at that time, maintained a rigid, immobile class system. Fashion mirrored this social hierarchy, and only the most wealthy and powerful Europeans could afford to buy black or white crapes (made of silk), accompanied by long flowing trains and hoods to show they were in mourning. The rest of the people wore plain, dark clothing to mourn their dead. It was also during this same period that women whose husbands had died began to wear veils known as “widow’s weeds.”  

As political revolution spread through Europe in the 1700’s, social revolution followed closely behind. The merchant classes began to rise in affluence and influence in both Europe and America, which translated into a wider range of people who invested time and money in mourning attire. For some people, this meant buying an entire new black wardrobe. Still, however, the wealthiest people took mourning attire to another level, adding mourning jewelry such as rings, brooches, and necklaces.  

By the time British Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, died in 1861, Queen Victoria opted to wear her black widow’s weeds, made of heavy crape, until her death in 1901. British society followed, and black mourning attire that approximated Queen Victoria’s became a status symbol of financial wealth.  

It was also during Queen Victoria’s reign (known as the Victorian era) that rules were established in the Europe and American for how long mourning attire should be worn. The rules did not apply equally to men and women. Women who’d lost their husbands were expected to observe a year of “full mourning,” which meant wearing black clothing and a veil when going out and avoiding parties or any kind of enjoyable activities. In the second year of loss, widows were expected to be in “half mourning,” during which dark, but colorful, clothing could be worn as well as modest jewelry.  

Parents and children of the deceased were also expected to wear mourning attire for two years, although heavy, black clothing was required for the first year only.  

Men, however, who’d lost their wives operated under a completely different set of rules. They wore black suits and gloves for just a year, after which they were free to move on with their lives and new marriages.  

The rules for funeral dress and mourning dress have relaxed considerably over time, especially in the time following burial or cremation, but the remaining vesture is that it is still customary, and preferred, to wear black to a funeral.  

If you’re interested in knowing more about funeral customs at College Park, MD funeral homes, our knowledgeable team at Donald V. Borgwardt Funeral Home, P.A. can guide you. You can visit us at our funeral home at 4400 Powder Mill Rd., Beltsville, MD, 20705, or you can call us today at (301) 937-1707.