Using black clothing to demonstrate mourning a person who has died. Not only at the funeral service, but also any time she is visiting their 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 their 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, or with a widow cleaning her husband's grave of weeds. Or a widow carrying THOSE kind of weeds (or growing them). Its sole purpose is to communicate nonverbally that someone has died.
In other cultures, the traditional color of mourning may be other than black.
- As could be expected, the Scottish Widows insurance company made a lot of this effect in its TV advertising, using a striking woman in full Victorian widows' weeds to illustrate that catastrophe can happen to anyone anywhere - better be prepared for it by buying our insurance.
- 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." Seen here
- In the "Where Were You on the Night Batman was Killed?" arc in Batman, Catwoman wears widows weeds to the Joker Jury trial being held to determine who deserves credit for killing Batman. She dramatically whips the weeds off to reveal her costume when she takes the stand. Several villains object to her making a show of mourning the Caped Crusader.
- Ersatz: The woman at the beach momentarily pictures herself in these after the man dives into the ocean to catch a shark.
- Chapter 56 of Apartment Gensokyo has Yukari wearing these ("dressing like a widow" complete with the veil), however, she isn't mourning, just shy, wearing these while trying to avoid the gaze of a male kitsune who's smitten with her. She becomes more receptive to his affections when she realizes that she feels more confident while wearing this attire.
- In The Return-Remixed, when DEAR staged their mock funeral after Beth Phoenix surrendered the Divas Championship due to a concussion, all the members are dressed in black, but Trish Stratus was wearing a black skirt suit and a black hat with a veil.
- In Disney's Frozen, the king and queen leave on a journey. They perish when their ship capsizes during a storm, and Anna is shown wearing a black dress afterwards. Elsa is not, but she's so depressed she can't control her powers, so she can't even leave her room.
- 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.
- 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 buries two husbands and a child in Gone with the Wind and wears mourning on all three occasions.
- Sonia is wearing the standard black dress and veil at the beginning of The Merry Widow. This doesn't stop Captain Danilo from wooing her, but it does stop him from recognizing her when they meet again in Paris.
- In Flesh and the Devil, Felicitas is shown primping in front of a mirror. Then she puts on a veil, which is how the film lets the viewer know who won the duel between Leo and von Rhaden.
- In Stage Fright, Charlotte's insincerity and lack of remorse over the death of her husband is shown when she is primping and preening while putting on widow's weeds.
- Male variant in It's a Wonderful Life, with George and others at Bailey Building & Loan shown wearing black armbands after Peter's death.
- Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne's mother, wears these in Sense and Sensibility. The progress from all-black back towards lighter colors marks the progress of months. Her daughters also wear black accents initially.
- At one point in The Assassination Bureau, Miss Winter and a female antagonist have a montage showing them dressing in competitively glamourous mourning - both are rather too fashionable by the end of it for the intended sentiment to apply, but it's a very ironic movie overall.
- In They Died with Their Boots On, Libby is wearing the black dress and veil when she makes her dramatic appearance in the last scene, her husband George having been killed at the Little Bighorn.
- Kull the Conqueror: Queen Akivasha wears a black veiled dress after arranging King Kull's "death".
- In My Reputation, Jess is forced by her mother to only wear black dresses, but she eventually pulls away from her domineering mother and dresses normally.
- In Cinderella (2015), after the death of Ella's mother, little Ella and her father are shown wearing black as they walk across the field just before the Age Cut that brings us to the film's main timeline. After her father's death, a deleted scene shows the stepmother and stepsisters wearing lavish black gowns, but the increasingly abused Ella is only given a black ribbon for her hair.
- Implied in The Princess Diaries. After Amelia's dance lesson, Clarisse turns off the music. Joseph turns it right back on, then pulls Clarisse close to him, telling her, "You've been wearing black too long." She had buried both her husband and her son.
- 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 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.
- In the Circle of Magic universe, Traders (Family-based merchant caravans that travel on land or sea) wear red when loved ones die. Daja eventually adopts a red armband in memory of her family, instead of wearing the all-red clothes all the time. Sandry wishes she could do the same, but because she is a noblewoman, social expectations require her to wear full mourning for far longer than she likes; she thinks that her parents, who were fun-loving pleasure-seekers, would find it silly for her to be wearing all black for years after they died.
- Elemental Masters series:
- In The Serpent's Shadow, Dr. Maya Witherspoon is introduced as wearing a black outfit in mourning for her parents, who died a few months previous. It is mentioned that she intends to prolong the year of mourning as long as possible as a form of protection, as she is of mixed British and Indian descent and even a brute would hesitate to insult a woman of mixed race that is in mourning.
- In The Gates of Sleep, Marina Roeswood is, following the death of her parents, outfitted with a new and all-black wardrobe by her Aunt Arachne. Marina wishes at one point that her aunt didn't require her to be in dressed in the strictest possible interpretation of mourning, as normally young unmarried women could wear mauve, lavender, or violet during mourning without offending anyone. She even thinks to herself that she would end up looking like Queen Victoria or a would-be Gothic poetess before her period of mourning is over.
- Subverted in Their Eyes Were Watching God. Janie is expected to dress in mourning after the death of her second husband, but because he was abusive and possessive (such as forcing her to cover her hair and wear plain dresses for twenty years so that other men wouldn't look at her), she's all too happy to wear carefree colorful clothing again. This is mentioned in The Movie as well:
Phoeby: (sarcastically) What shade of black is that?Janie: The same shade you've got on!
- White mourning appears in Anne of Avonlea; Anne wears white dresses during the two years the book takes place, it being specifically mentioned that the green dress she wears toward the end is the first color she has worn since Matthew's death.
- In Playing Beatie Bow, one of Abigail's fleeting visions of the Bow family upon returning to the twentieth century is of a slightly older Beatie in black. She assumes it's for Beatie's sickly brother Gibbie, but it turns out to be for either her brother Judah who died at sea or her cousin, niece, and grandmother, who died in an epidemic.
- The undertakers' custom in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is to charge eighty percent of the insurance payout for the funeral, allowing the rest for mourning clothes. For Johnny's funeral, Katie gets herself a black hat and three-foot veil, according to Williamsburg custom, and Neely a black suit with long pants, as befitting his position as man of the house. Francie just gets the shoes she has been needing anyway and has a black armband sewn on her old coat. Francine is relieved rather than jealous, since she hates black and was afraid Katie might put her in deep mourning.
- In Mary Cary, Frequently Martha, Mary tells of a widow who wore a veil that reached the hem of her skirt after her husband's death, then cut in half after everyone had seen it enough, then discarded it for good shortly thereafter, and was ''gay as a girl."
- In the "Little Sister" spinoffs of The Babysitters Club, the old woman who lives next door to Karen's father, Mrs. Porter, dresses like this. Karen thinks it means she's a witch.
- In The Secret Garden, Mary Lennox usually wears white. She is officially in mourning for her parents, but her guardian insists an all-black wardrobe is too much for a child.
- In the Discworld spin-off Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, Nanny describes the various stages of mourning (from all black to adding grey and lavender, to being allowed to wear white with black trim, a process that takes three years). Nanny's view is that it's fine to just wear black underwear, and if she'd waited around for three years after her husbands died, she'd never have got anywhere.
- The male version occurs in Persuasion with Mr Elliot. Enough time had passed that he wasn't in full mourning, but he maintained a black crepe around his hat. The conversations about his (inevitable) marriage to Anne tend to involve the phrase "after a decent interval," even though it's also well-known that he and his late wife were unhappy together.
- In The Goblin Emperor, protagonist Maia arrives at court after his father's death in ill-fitting second-hand clothes that have been dyed black after having been another color originally. This unflattering outfit is one of the many signs of how his father, the late Emperor, neglected him. All the courtiers he meets wear black, if the colour of their clothes is mentioned. The late Emperor's widow, who is not much older than Maia, wears an excessive amount of black jewels.
- In Les Misérables, the first new clothing that Jean Valjean gives to little Cosette when he adopts her is black mourning garb to honor her dead mother Fantine.
- 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.
- In The Golden Girls when Dorothy's cross-dressing brother dies, several heavily-veiled, black-wearing women appear at the funeral. They were the guys from his poker night.
- Blanche subverts this by wearing red, though this isn't in disrespect—she wears it specifically because she sincerely (and probably correctly) believes, "Phil would have liked this dress." And she modifies it with several touches of black anyway—hat, gloves, purse, etc.
- Parodied in a The Kids in the Hall musical segment, "Terriers." During the instrumental break, Bruce McCulloch comes across two veiled women in black bikinis, dancing beside a grave. He asks them politely to leave because "You're scantily clad and have nothing to do with the narrative; therefore, it's sexist... Wow. That hurt."
- The Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Night in Sickbay" had Archer having a Dream Sequence where he and T'Pol were all dressed up in traditional earth mourning clothes for Porthos's funeral.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- In "Innocence" after Angel turns evil, Buffy has a dream that she's at a funeral, during which Angel draws her attention to a woman wearing the mourning veil, which she lifts to reveal Jenny Calender, tipping off Buffy about her being The Mole.
- In "Villains", Buffy changes into a black shirt after finding Tara's body. Willow has already done a black makeover, albeit for entirely different reasons.
- And then when a redeemed Willow visits her grave in season seven, she's wearing a long-sleeved black dress.
- In Deadwood, Determined Widow Alma Garrett is often seen in black, and when she eventually wears other colors they're still subdued, like dark green.
- Murdoch Mysteries is set in Victorian-Edwardian era (late 19th and early 20th century) Toronto, Canada, so many characters who have deaths in their families observe this, and many widows keep their mourning black for years after the deaths that prompted the clothing change. Just after her husband Dr. Garland is murdered in "Crime and Punishment", Dr. Ogden doesn't immediately adopt black clothing, and during his interrogation of her, Giles calls her out on it: "How very modern." Julia does wear widow's weeds after this, particularly when she's planning to meet Darcy's parents at the train station and in court during her murder trial.
- AI Natasha of Other Space dons these to mourn the passing of Art the robot.
- Downton Abbey: Lady Mary wears them in Series 4, after Matthew dies.
- Servalan, the Big Bad of Blake's 7, was a Woman in White, but changes to black after "Children of Auron" where she tries to have clone children created, only to lose them during the events of that episode.
- Daredevil (2015): Karen wears a black dress when she goes with Matt and Foggy to Grotto's funeral. She does change into a brighter print dress later in the day, prior to having her first kiss with Matt in the rain.
- The Punisher (2017): That Karen is mourning Matt is made clear by the fact that her wardrobe is primarily made of blacks, blues, and muted red clothes.
- The Twilight Zone:
- "Come Wander With Me." As Mary Rachel narrates the events via the lyrics of a folk song, it becomes apparent to Floyd that he is stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop. She begs him to stay with her this time. He leaves, but he turns to look at her one last time. She is draped in a black shawl. He knows he's screwed.
- "The Hunt." Hyder Simpson and his dog have suffered an accident while hunting. He can't understand why nobody is answering when he speaks, until he sees his wife wearing a black dress.
- Ellaria Sand of Game of Thrones switches to all-black outfits and cuts her hair short after her lover Oberyn Martell is killed. Tehcnically they were never married, due to Ellaria being a bastard while Oberyn is a high prince, but they clearly considered themselves married in all but name. The trope is conspicuously averted during the first season when Cersei Lannister continues to wear her usual bright colours despite the death of her husband, King Robert Baratheon, probably because she didn't actually love him and covertly arranged for the Hunting "Accident" that killed him.
- "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." Overlaps with Black Widow since it is suggested that the women teamed up to take revenge on him after discovering his two-timing.
- The Mars Volta: Referenced in a hypothetical context in "Cassandra Gemini."
- The Beatles recorded "Baby's in Black," about a man pining after a woman who "dresses in black" long after her lover's death.
- "Whiskey Lullaby" by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss. In the video, the guilt-ridden ex-fianceé of the deceased is shrouded in a black shawl at the gravesite. Another woman, presumably his mother, is shown wearing a black veiled hat.
- 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
- The rpg Unhallowed Metropolis features the Mourner character class. These members of the Mourner's Guild, usually women, are hired to watch over the bodies of the deceased until the funeral. During this time they must be ready to instantly decapitate the corpse should it re-animate, a common occurrence in the Neo-Victorian setting of the game. As part of their profession, female mourners are expected to dress in modified mourning wear at all times.
- In Hamlet, the title character traditionally spends the whole play wearing black in mourning for his father.
- 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: In both the Franco Zeffirelli film and the Baz Luhrmann film, Juliet's mother wears a black veil during Juliet's staged funeral. In the final scene of the Zeffirelli film, all the Capulets and Montagues alike wear black during the real joint funeral of the two lovers.
- In Street Scene, Rose changes into a black dress after her mother dies. Her father notices.
- In The Adding Machine, Mrs. Zero wears a black dress ("I always look good in black," she says) and a heavy veil while visiting her husband on the eve of his execution. He scolds her about the cost ($64.20): "You'll be scrubbin' floors in about a year, if you go blowin' your coin like that."
- In Analogue: A Hate Story, *Mute describes doing this when a dear friend of hers passed away.
- In Persona 4, the Death Social Link is Hisano Kuroda, an old woman who always wears black mourning outfit. The Social Link revolves around helping her get over her husband's death.
- Never explicitly noted, but heavily implied with Almedha in Fire Emblem. Almedha was once a concubine of the Mad King Ashnard, Path of Radiance's Big Bad, and became queen dowager of Daein in the aftermath of the Mad King's War. She dresses in dark robes, is almost always seen with her veil up, and is noted to be quite fragile as an effect of all she's suffered through, to the point of going the God Save Us from the Queen! route for the sake of her beloved false son. Ironic considering that Ashnard never felt anything for her or their child (especially since it was discovered that their half-Dragon Branded child possessed no powers Ashnard could use to further his own ends).
- Barbara Jagger from Alan Wake wears widow's weeds, most likely in honour of her dead boyfriend, Thomas Zane.
- In The Sims 2, Mrs. Crumplebottom wears this, complete with pillbox hat. She's also quite bitter, and seems to be particularly upset by Sims interacting with each other romantically, as if she were jealous.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Spirit of Justice, Beh'leeb Inmee, the widow of Case 3's victim, Tahrust Inmee, wears a black veil while carrying around a funeral photo of her husband. The game establishes that they both loved each other dearly, and she is even pregnant at the time of Tahrust's death. By the time the case is over, Beh'leeb takes the veil off, having said her goodbyes to her husband and deciding not to let the rebellion happen around her anymore, with her taking an active role instead.
- In Seven Kingdoms: The Princess Problem, red is the traditional color of mourning in Revaire, and Revairan widows are expected to wear red for a suitable period after their husband dies. When generating an Ambitious Widow character, the player may choose whether she followed this custom, gave it lip service by wearing red only in public, or ignored it altogether.
- In Girl Genius Her Undying Majesty Queen Albia of England shifts her outfit to a long sleeved modest dress and a black veiled hat upon hearing that her sister queen Luheia, the immortal god queen of Skifander, has long since fallen in battle.
- Parodied in Something*Positive. Attention Whore Kharisma Valetti attends theatre bigwig Avagadro Pompey's funeral in an outfit consisting of a sheer negligée over black cloth bands which barely cover her private parts.
- Rocko's Modern Life:
- Dr. Hutchison's mother, the Widow Hutchinson is always seen wearing a black dress and veil. Subverted when it's revealed that her husband isn't actually dead.
- In another episode, "Old Fogey Froggy," Bev puts these on when holding a fake funeral for Ed, who's refusing to get out of bed due to a midlife crisis.
- Justice League: When Superman is presumed dead in "Hereafter", the other Leaguers (except Batman, who refuses to believe that he's really dead) wear black armbands at his wake.
- Victorian tradition gives copious 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. And it's not just one set of clothes either, middle-class etiquette dictate a set of 3 to 7 dresses, from full black crepe to shades gray to finally blue (just because her husband is dead does not excuse his wife from flaunting his wealth). It got to the point where the largest clothing store in London is solely devoted to selling mourning clothes. If your are poor, you can make do with dying your regular clothes black (that's how dyers in Victorian England made most of their money) or you can borrow mourning weeds from family (it's the Victorian Era, someone's always dying somewhere).
- For Victorian men, a black hatband is usually sufficient
- Queen Victoria herself wore mourning for the rest of her life after the death of her husband Prince Albert.
- That's part of the reason it went out of fashion in the 20th century.
- 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.
- Mary of Scotland wore white mourning clothes after the death of her first husband, as that was the custom for French Queens at the time. While she eventually put off her mourning clothes for state occasions or other times the Queen of Scotland needed to dress to impress, she wore her full white veil for her second wedding, allowing the guests to each cut a piece off.