Historical information

This Edwardian era mourning outfit was worn by a wealthy woman from the rural area of Willaura, southeast of the Grampians. It was inherited by the donor from his mother, who had purchased it from a clearing sale in the 1960s. The jacket has a peplum or flounce below the waistline, a fashion that was seen in the 1860s and is still around in the 1900s.

The outfit represents the female mourning fashion and wardrobe from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Such garments were a necessary inclusion as death occurred often to the young, due to illness, accidents and hard work - it was a regular part of life in rural Victoria.

Mourning outfits were a part of a person’s wardrobe and often passed from one generation to the next. This particular outfit appears to have been adjusted at some stage to allow for a wider waistline. The original skirt may have been replaced by the one that is now part of this outfit; the skirt is all machine-sewn, unlike the jacket and petticoat. The fabric of the skirt may be silk or it could be a synthetic fibre such as artificial silk or rayon; both were available in the 1800s,but nylon wasn’t invented until the 1930s. This skirt has sunray pleating, which was advertised on skirts for sale in the 1890s, and 1909, and was part of a fashionable bridal gown train in the 1930s.

The mourning of death was part of both family and community life, particularly in rural and remote areas. People were bonded through work, religion, disasters, tragedy and social activities, supporting one another. They came together from near and far on such an occasion, giving each other the care that was needed and showing respect for the member who had passed away.


This three-piece silk Edwardian mourning outfit is significant historically for its connection with rural Victoria and the social and religious customs surrounding the death of a family or community member.
The high-quality outfit is also significant for representing the financial management of the times, being tailored by a dressmaker for a person of means and then adjusted to fit at least one different-sized person.

Physical description

The black silk tailor-made jacket is one of three pieces of a ladies’ Edwardian mourning outfit. It has long sleeves, a stand-up collar trimmed with appliqued black crochet lace, and pleated sashes on the left and right sides from front to back fastened at the shoulder and waist. The jacket has a peplum or flounce below the waistline. The front of the jacket has brass hooks and fabric eye fastenings. The back of the jacket has two tails. The jacket is lined and the shoulders are padded. It has been machine sewn and finished with hand stitching. A white card is tied with a ribbon inside and has an inscription. The poplin skirt on the jacket has been cut up to the waist at the side seams. There is an attached card with an inscription, handwritten in ballpoint pen.

Inscriptions & markings

“Jenny” and “Mrs Sheila Handscombe, Wallaura, Jenny”