Widow's Weeds YKTTW Discussion

Widow's Weeds
A widow, or any woman close to the deceased, wears a black dress and veil to show mourning.
(permanent link) added: 2013-05-03 05:22:15 sponsor: BradyLady edited by: Paradisesnake (last reply: 2013-12-08 01:39:13)

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Not only at the funeral service, but also any time she is visiting his grave, a woman in mourning is shown wearing a black dress and/or a black hat with a veil. Usually this is the widow of the deceased, but it can be other close female relatives as well, such as his mother, sister, or daughter. Spear Counterpart is a man wearing a black armband to show mourning, since men wear black suits in other contexts as well.

According to That Other Wiki, black clothing and veils were colloquially called "widow's weeds" during the Victorian era, from the Old English word "waed," meaning "garment."

Not to be confused with Black Widow. Compare Woman in Black, but this is more specific and less vampy.

In other cultures, the traditional color of mourning may be other than black.


Comic Books
  • Josie and the Pussycats: In a "what if" Fantasy Sequence, Melody is persuading Alan M to let Josie help out more, instead of playing macho and doing it all himself. She describes a future in which Alan M and Josie are married, and Alan M works himself into an early grave trying to support her. "Before long, Josie is buying a dress she hadn't planned for." Josie is pictured in a black veil, shopping for the dress to wear to his funeral, while a sales clerk observes, "Basic black? We've been selling a lot of those lately."

  • In Jaws, a grieving mother angrily confronts an official because he didn't close the beach, and now her son is dead. She is wearing a black hat with a veil.
  • Averted in Still the Beaver, a Made-for-TV Movie showing June talking to Ward's grave, but not wearing a black dress or a veil.
  • In The Great Train Robbery, Miriam wears this as a part of the robbers' scheme to persuade the conductor that her supposedly deceased husband's coffin may travel inside the train's secure vault.
  • Subverted in Thunderball. While James Bond is watching the funeral of SPECTRE agent Colonel Jacques Bouvar, he sees that Bouvar's widow is wearing a black dress, hat and veil. Then he realizes that the widow isn't a woman at all...but a man, baby!
  • Scarlett O'Hara ends up burying two husbands in Gone with the Wind and wears mourning on both occasions.

  • L. Frank Baum's Oz series
    • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy thinks she has to go back because they can't afford mourning, among other reasons. "My greatest wish now," she added, "is to get back to Kansas, for Aunt Em will surely think something dreadful has happened to me, and that will make her put on mourning; and unless the crops are better this year than they were last, I am sure Uncle Henry cannot afford it."
    • In Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Dorothy sees, in the magic mirror, Uncle Henry and Auntie Em in mourning, thinking she had been killed in the earthquake.
  • In Charles Dickens's David Copperfield, after Dora's death, at one point David is asked about his mourning armband and informs the questioner that it was his wife who died.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott:
    • At a visit to Aunt March's, Amy is shown her jewelry, including "the jet mourning rings and pins." (Jet is black, the only color of jewelry allowed to be worn during mourning.)
    • When Laurie and Amy meet again in Europe, it is shortly after Beth's death. Laurie notes how poignant Amy looks, partly because of her mourning and "the black ribbon that tied up her hair."
  • In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, the heroine dreams of the court after the king's death. Another character realizes it was a true vision because she described the (heavily purple) formal mourning, which she has never seen.
  • In Dorothy L Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey novel Unnatural Death, a lawyer definitely realizes that a woman who asked him a question — for a friend — had actually asked for herself, when he sees her again, and she tells him that the woman she had asked about, purported a friend's great-aunt, had died, and she herself is wearing mourning.
  • In the Discworld, it is hinted that female graduates of the Guild of Assassins wear widow's weeds for advertising purposes.
  • In the Deryni novels by Katherine Kurtz, the widowed Queen Jehana wears all white (suitable to royal widows) for several years after her husband's death. Her quasi-nunlike apparel is also a form of protest against her son's open use of magic and his close relationships with other mages.

Live-Action TV
  • In Once Upon a Time, Regina starts wearing black after the death of her husband and "kept it" as she went public with being "the Evil Queen," saying it suited her.

  • "Long Black Veil" originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell. The woman mourning for her deceased lover, who died for a crime he did not commit rather than to expose their affair, wears the long black veil while visiting his grave.
  • "Ballad of Forty Dollars" by Tom T. Hall. A man watching from a distance, but not actually attending his friend's funeral, hints at a desire to comfort the widow when he sees how attractive she is. He notes:
    That must be the widow in the car
    And would you take a look at that?
    That sure is a pretty dress
    You know, some women do look good in black
    He's not even in the ground
    And they say that his truck is up for sale
    They say she took it pretty hard
    But you can't tell too much behind the veil
  • Carrie Underwood sings "Two Black Cadillacs" about the funeral of a man who had left both a wife and a lover. One line in the refrain mentions how "the women in the two black veils didn't bother to cry."
  • The Mars Volta: Referenced in a hypothetical context in "Cassandra Gemini."

  • Walter de la Mare's Widow's Weeds puns on the trope. A poor old Widow in her weeds/Sowed her garden with wild-flower seeds

  • In Twelfth Night, Olivia wears a black dress and veil due to the recent loss of her brother.
  • In The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack wears full mourning dress when he announces the imaginary death of his imaginary brother Ernest. Almost immediately, Algernon turns up pretending to be Ernest, and comments on what ugly clothes Jack has on.
  • Romeo and Juliet: Gloria Capulet wears this during Juliet's staged funeral.

Video Games

Real Life
  • Victorian tradition gives details for how a widow is expected to dress after her husband's death, and for how long. To cease wearing mourning too soon was a sign of promiscuity.
  • Jackie Kennedy Onassis at JFK's funeral.
  • Updated at the Michael Jackson funeral with the women wearing dark glasses instead of a veil. The purpose is the same, to obscure the face and hide teary eyes.
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