Created By: BradyLady on May 3, 2013 Last Edited By: Paradisesnake on December 8, 2013
Troped

Widow's Weeds

A widow, or any woman close to the deceased, wears a black dress and veil to show mourning.

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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.


Examples:

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."

Film
  • 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.

Literature
  • 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.

Music
  • "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
    Later,
    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."

Poetry
  • 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

Theatre
  • 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.
Community Feedback Replies: 41
  • May 3, 2013
    Stratadrake
    What do "weeds" have to do with widow attire?
  • May 3, 2013
    Duncan
    ^ "Widow's Weeds" was a widespread term in the 19th century, but is somewhat antiquated. It's from the Old English "Waed" meaning "garment".

    • In Twelfth Night, Olivia wears black and a veil due to the recent loss of her brother.
  • May 3, 2013
    henke37
  • May 3, 2013
    BradyLady
    Duncan answered the question about "weeds." I called the trope this for Added Alliterative Appeal. When I did the initial search on the trope, originally the closest I could find was Black Widow, and that's something else altogether.
  • May 3, 2013
    Sackett
    We might need a more workhorse like redirect: Widow Clothes
  • May 4, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    • In Persona 4, the Death Social Link is Hisano Kuroda, an old woman who always wear black mourning outfit. The Social Link revolves around helping her get over her husband's death.
  • May 4, 2013
    Arivne
  • May 4, 2013
    BradyLady
    You mean renaming the trope Widows Wear Black? I'm good with that.
  • May 4, 2013
    BradyLady
    Or we can call it Long Black Veil, with the song as the trope namer?
  • May 4, 2013
    Goldfritha
    One notes that in other cultures the color may be different for mourning.

    Literature
    • L Frank Baum's Oz books:
      "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.
    • In Louisa May Alcott's Little Women,
      • at a visit to Aunt March's, Amy is shown her jewelry, including "the jet mourning rings and pins." (Jet is black, and allowed to be worn during mourning.)
      • when Laurie and Amy meet again in Europe, it is shortly after Beth's death, and Laurie notes how poignant Amy looks, partly because of her mourning: "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.

    Poetry
    • 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;
  • May 7, 2013
    BradyLady
    Ready to launch yet?
  • May 11, 2013
    Goldfritha
    Literature
    • 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.
  • May 12, 2013
    X2X
    Woman In Black should probably be mentioned as a compare/contrast trope.

    Video Games
  • May 17, 2013
    Synchronicity
    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.
  • May 17, 2013
    robinjohnson
    This doesn't apply only to women. Suggest Mourning Dress for a what-it-says-on-the-tin title, or Mourning Wear for a slight pun.
    • 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.
  • May 17, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Film:

    • 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.
  • May 18, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • 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...she's a man, baby!
  • May 18, 2013
    DarkLiterati
    Film

  • July 2, 2013
    KTera
    • Barbara Jagger from Alan Wake wears widow's weeds, most likely in honour of her dead boyfriend, Thomas Zane.

    ...Also, why wasn't this ever launched?
  • July 2, 2013
    StarSword
    It needs cleanup, for starters.

    Film:
    • Scarlett O'Hara ends up burying two husbands in Gone With The Wind and is shown wearing these on both occasions.
  • July 4, 2013
    AgProv
    In the Discworld, it is hinted that female graduates of the Guild of Assassins wear widow's weeds for advertising purposes.
  • July 12, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Literature: 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.
  • July 18, 2013
    Dawnwing
    Music:

    • Carrie Underwood's song Two Black Cadillacs is about the funeral of a man and the two women he wronged: his wife, and the woman he was dating who was equally unaware of his dual life. One line in the refrain mentions how "the women in the two black veils didn't bother to cry".
  • July 19, 2013
    hevendor717
    Referenced in a hypothetical context in The Mars Volta's Cassandra Gemini.
  • August 18, 2013
    XFllo
    This looks good. Motion to launch? The OP is still active?
  • August 18, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    Does this need to be limited to widows? Wearing black as a mourning color is pretty common.
  • August 18, 2013
    DAN004
    I'm so gonna launch this. :D

    BTW what indices will this trope go into?
  • August 18, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    First, we should establish the definition. Is this limited to widows, or this the a general trope for wearing black while in mourning? And if the latter, the name should reflect that, as the current one is pretty archaic.
  • August 18, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    @ DAN004 Off the top of my head: Costume Tropes, Death Tropes, Colour Tropes

    @ DragonQuestZ I skimmed it, and the only non-widow example was David Copperfield. The description could contrast the men's armband-only (black suits for men need not be mourning-specific) with the women's full mourning kit (I suppose that would be the Spear Counterpart). I rather like the Added Alliterative Appeal, personally, and I suppose there's a bit of a Double Standard that a distinction would make clear.
  • August 18, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Mourning wear actually followed rules in some cultures (even society in the 19th century), so you should look it up, not just rely on examples for the definition.
  • August 18, 2013
    DAN004
    Where's the fifth hat? D:
  • November 9, 2013
    BradyLady
    Glad to see there is still some interest in this. It's my first attempt. Can someone with more experience than I have help with the cleanup and launch?
  • December 6, 2013
    BradyLady
    Doing a cleanup, but still not enough hats, so I will bring this up in Ask the Tropers for further advice.
  • December 7, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Italicized and namespaced a bunch of examples + did some other formatting.
  • December 7, 2013
    Sandbylur
    The alliteration in the name is kinda nice, but the term is so obscure that you can't know what the trope is about unless you know 19th century slang. I recommend changing the name to something else
  • December 7, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ Since the first occasions of this trope are in 19th century, I think it's okay...
  • December 7, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    The title is fine.
  • December 7, 2013
    Bisected8
    I agree that the title's fine. It's hardly an obscure phrase and using "Widow" as part of the title removed any ambiguity.
  • December 7, 2013
    Bisected8
    @69BookWorM69: If wikipedia's to be believed, men had to follow the same tradition of wearing black mourning clothes as women (black armbands was reserved for servants and people in the military or who otherwise needed to wear uniforms) and had a specific style of "mourning suit".
  • December 8, 2013
    Arivne
    I did not recognize the term Widows Weeds and also think it's too obscure, at least outside of the United Kingdom.
  • December 8, 2013
    BradyLady
    Launched. It's my first-born trope. Thank you for the assistance with formatting, everyone. If troperville feels strongly about it, I am open to calling it by a different name.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=xxsp89tleg0n2atswsqkxhca&trope=WidowsWeeds