Madeleine and Her Clothes

Mar 20, 2000
A medley of Astor sartorial trivialities:

Women's Wear Daily, 13 January, 1912.
"Gowns Representing Many Nations and Periods at Charity Costume Ball" --

" ... a number of very elegant and effective costumes were worn at the fancy-dress ball given at Sherry's for the benefit of the Living-In Hospital ... Among the most beautiful was Mrs. John Jacob Astor's Oriental costume of turquoise and blue satin veiled with cloth-of-gold and worn with a turban of similar material, her jewels being sapphires and diamonds ... "

Women's Wear Daily, 22 May 1912.
"New Vogue for White Mourning" --

" ... Mrs. John Jacob Astor has purchased several all-white crepe mourning dresses and others in dull-finished white crepe meteor ... "

Colors in Madeleine Astor's trousseau for her marriage to William Dick, 1916 --

Pervenche blue, candy pink, ecru, cerise, violet, lemon, jade, and the bride's signature black and white mixtures.

Tracy Smith

Nov 5, 2000
South Carolina USA
Sounds like some very nice clothes, especially that first outfit you mentioned.

Do you know if anyone else at that time wore white for mourning, Randy? I was brought up to believe that white or a pastel shade (such as the light blue that JFK's children wore to his funeral)was the appropriate mourning color for children. Indeed, even at the age of nearly 14, I was not allowed to wear black at my mother's funeral in 1971. As a compromise, I was allowed to wear a hunter green dress.

Getting back to Madeleine, have you ever seen a picture of her in her later years? I'd be curious to see how she aged.
Mar 20, 2000
Hi Tracy,

Yes, I thought the Oriental costume sounded fun. She and J.J. must have sailed for Europe soon after that ball.

As to white mourning. Yes, it has always been an acceptable alternative to black, just not as commonly used. I am not sure of mourning pastels for children but you must be right. Jackie Kennedy was a stickler about style, so it had to have been the "done thing."

I am sorry you lost your mother at such an integral age. My own grandmother lost her mother when she was 15. From her, I know how hard it was.

A touching story she told me about that time was how, not long after my great-grandmother died (1928), my gran had her hair "bobbed," something she had been forbidden to do by her mom. She had such a feeling of independence as she walked back home from the beauty parlor that day, but as she came into the house and saw her reflection in the mirror in the entryway, she burst into tears and ran to her bedroom. It had suddenly dawned on her how disappointed her mom would be if she could see her. She said always that losing her strict but loving mother at that time of "coming-of-age" gave her such guilt about enjoying the freedom she suddenly had.

As to photos of Madeleine as an older woman. No I haven't seen a picture of her older than, say, 30, in about 1923 or so. Phil Gowan has some very good images of her and I'm sure has later ones, too. The ones I have are of her in the years of her early widowhood and during her engagement to her second husband. There is the most ethereal look about her, yet a sadness that always strikes one.

Kris Muhvic

Jul 3, 2001
Yes, do please share! I remember looking in the NYT at Madeleine's obituary and it showed a photo (as best as a grainy newspaper could) taken later on...not much different as what we're used to seeing her, just some cute jowels around her always-sad-mouth. Maybe you'll find a photo in archival Florida papers? (unabashed hint...sorry!).

I am most intrigued by the mourning-white; I know Eastern cultures used white at funerals, but other than men's (black) waistcoats trimmed in white piping, never heard of an alternative other than the later, "second-mourning" use of deep purple. Gosh, I don't know if this belongs in "mourning customs", "fashion", or what! Forgive me!

Take care all-

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