Vintage Find: Edwardian Mourning Attire

I recently traveled to Hillsborough, North Carolina to visit some family and while everything is apparently closed on Mondays, I managed to find some antique stores. While I don’t generally shop in antique stores for my finds, this one was have antique half thrift and they didn’t know what they had. I found this Edwardian Era jacket from roughly 1900.

What really made me pick up this piece and give it consideration was first, the pleating placement and second, the inside boning structure. As I inspected the overall shape of the jacket, I had made the conclusion it was Edwardian in addition to the color. Black was not a  popular color until 1900 when black became a symbol for mourning loved ones (like we do today). To learn more about the mourning rituals during this time, read about it here. So I purchased the top with an 80/20 feeling it was authentic while the woman in the store just kept calling it a strange looking top.

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The Edwardian Era in fashion was 1901-1910 during the reign of King Edward VII. The silhouette of women’s clothing changed quite drastically. The 1800s were filled with full bodied skirts (the bigger, the better) but come the turn of the century, the skirts became much slimmer. The corset also became flatter so the overall shape of the woman changed and became known as the S bend. Standing collars also became a prominent detail in fashion with much more ornate bodices. It was a transitional period between the Victorian era and what was about to come in fashion. Learn more about the fashion of the Edwardian Era, here.

The overall silhouette of the jacket was consistent with the Edwardian era. It’s half machine sewn and half hand sewn, which makes sense for the inexperience with the new sewing technology. This jacket also has two types of fabric, as seen in the picture above. This is before synthetic fibers, so this piece is made of bombazine and crepe.


The inside construction of the garment is also beautifully done but worried me. I knew the boning could not be plastic but I couldn’t figure out what it was while I was in the store so I brought it home and did my research. During the Edwardian era, corsets were made of baleen boning which comes from whales. There was a slight rip in the cotton muslin around the boning and I was able to see it was the perfect shade of shiny brown. There is also a bow on the inside which I believe is actually a belt to pull everything in and create a small waistline.


The shoulder pads also interested me. The manufacture name is slightly smudged but there is a date that looks like it reads 1878. Their placement is really what interests me. They aren’t on the shoulders, they’re more in the armpit. Weird, right? But through further research I discovered that the purpose of this placement is to absorb sweat.


The front of the jacket has beautiful pleating to create a lapel look. There is also beautiful pleating in the back and creates somewhat of a tail.

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The front is beautifully decorated with buttons down the front, a decorative one at the collar and rope-like trim around the collar. The trim is falling off a bit (which I now sewed lightly to restore the beauty) and the buttons are pretty beat up. It all adds to the character of this jacket.

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The sleeve has gathering at the shoulder, creating a bigger upper arm and then in becomes more fitted at the forearm. This is called leg o’ mutton and was very common in the Victorian Era as well.

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The overall quality isn’t pristine, but this jacket has a story. It survived 100 years and contains so much history. Until now, no one took the time to preserve it and care for it. It makes an amazing addition to anyone’s vintage collection. Check it out here!

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