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 often occurred to the young, due to illness, accidents and hard work - it was a regular part of life in rural Victoria.

Mourning outfits were 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 The original skirt may have been replaced by the one that is now part of this outfit; the skirt is all machine-sewn, unlike the jacket and petticoat.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 full-length black silk tailor-made skirt is one of three pieces of a ladies’ Edwardian mourning outfit. The skirt is made from black silky fabric. The garment has only two seams; at the side closure and the centre back. The whole skirt has sunray pleats; narrow pleats at the waist that fan outwards towards the hem. The top of the skirt is finished with a waistband that is shaped as an upward V shape in the centre. The side seam is closed with four self-fabric buttons with silver metal backing. The shirt has been machine sewn.