The Met has announced its first fall fashion show since 2007, and it’s very special. “Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire” focuses on the Victorian & Edwardian fashions of the bereaved between 1815 and 1915.

The exhibition will explore the aesthetic development and cultural implications of mourning fashions of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Approximately 30 ensembles, many of which are being exhibited for the first time, will reveal the impact of high-fashion standards on the sartorial dictates of bereavement rituals as they evolved over a century.

Featuring dresses worn by Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra, these items will showcase just how rich blokes dying influenced the fashion evolutions of all that black silk and lace. Co-curator Harold Koda explains:

The predominantly black palette of mourning dramatizes the evolution of period silhouettes and the increasing absorption of fashion ideals into this most codified of etiquettes. The veiled widow  could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances. As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order.

The dresses will highlight the contrasts between “restrained simplicity” and “ostentatious ornamentation” all against stark white backgrounds “amplified with historic photographs and daguerreotypes. “Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire,” Oct 21 – Feb 1, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Photo: Mourning Ensemble, 1870-1872, Black silk crape, black mousseline; The Metropolitan Museum of Art)