Posts Tagged ‘mourning clothing’

Carved jet bracelets from the mid-1800s. Image from Jet Jewelry and Ornaments, by Helen Muller (Shire Publications). How chic it would be today to where two or three of these at a time.

I have been collecting jet jewelry for decades. I learned about it through my mother who was an antique jewelry dealer. I’m attracted to the feel of polished jet and I appreciate its long history. I have beads, several brooches, a bracelet, and a fabulous carved jet ring. It’s getting harder and harder to find now, even in the UK.

Jet is a type of coal, a fossilized wood of an ancient tree that covered the earth in the Jurassic period (about 180 million years ago). Jet was used as a jewel and talisman by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Later in England and Europe, it was used in religious jewelry. In America, jet was found in Utah and Colorado and used by the Pueblo people in their jewelry.

Jet is black, lightweight, and although smooth, it has a bit of a tacky feel. Polished it reminds me of patent leather.

It was in Victorian England that jet became associated with mourning. Prince Albert died in 1861, after which Queen Victoria went into a deep and long period of mourning. She wore nothing but black, including jewelry. And with that, jet jewelry was all the rage.

Part of my collection of jet jewelry.

When my mother died in April, I searched my mind for a way to reflect my grief. In our modern world, there is no way to indicate one is in mourning. There used to be traditions – only black clothing for the first year, then mauve in the second year. Everyone wore black to funerals. Now no one does. A black band around the arm was an indication of mourning.

(I did notice that after Queen Elizabeth’s recent death, broadcasters in the UK and of course the royal family immediately started wearing black and some British citizens sported black bands.)

I thought about jet and how it had once been more than just lovely pieces of jewelry. Jet was used as a symbol. I pulled out my collection, chose a brooch and pinned it on to my dress. Every day since, I wear this jet brooch on my right shoulder as a reminder that I have lost someone important to me. No one knows what it means, but I do. The practice of pinning it on every morning is part of my grieving process and I find it comforting. I plan to wear it every day up until the first anniversary of my mother’s death.

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There’s no reason not to be chic about our Inauguration Day Black.

Many Americans are dreading the upcoming Inauguration Day on January 20, 2017. The idea of Donald Trump as our president is … sickening.

So what are we to do? How can we cope?

Since this is a fashion blog, let’s talk about what to wear.

As far as I’m concerned the inauguration of Trump as our 45th president (it hurts to write that) is a day to mourn the loss of sane, rational, and fair leadership.

One way to communicate our sorrow and disagreement is to wear black.

Sporting black during periods of loss and grief dates back to Roman times. But it was the growing middle class in the Victorian era that made it an art form with lots of added rules and protocol. Queen Victoria remained in mourning wearing primarily black clothing and jewelry for decades after the death of her husband Prince Albert.


Go casual chic in black a la Audrey Hepburn.

What black can do for us on January 20th is provide a quiet but visible sign that we DO NOT support Trump and his nasty agenda. I think the image of people going about their day in all black – at work or perhaps protesting – will be a very powerful bonding experience and it is a way for all of us to participate.

Additionally what can we do on the day? Many people are working and I think that’s the best thing. Be productive! Otherwise:

  • There is a call to boycott all media covering the inauguration. Trump loves attention and high ratings – don’t give it to him!
  • Write a check to an organization under attack. I will support independent radio station, KPFA.
  • Volunteer for a local organization.
  • Go for a walk and show off your black ensemble.
  • Create art.
  • Read.

Please share this post on FB and elsewhere. Spread the word, tell all your friends.

Come on, let’s take a stand together and paint the day in black!



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