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PhD student receives funding to research jewellery

Posted on 4 August 2020

Kate Morris received funding from BAVS (British Association of Victorian Studies) to carry out research on Victorian mourning jewellery

Kate Morris


The 19th century arguably represents the first time that a dedicated material culture of grief was available to the majority of the population. This proliferation of mourning goods was fuelled by the adoption of mass production and globalised trade, as well as, the innovators of the fashion and retail industry. However, for some women, the creation of mourning products remained deeply domestic and personal.

Hair jewellery, produced by braiding and working human hair, forms an important part of performative mourning rituals in the Victorian period. Hairwork represented the imperishable bond between loved ones, which could not be broken by death, as well as acting as a tangible object of private grief and memory.

From the mid-19th century, magazines and instructional manuals, providing guides on the production of hairwork, became increasingly common. However, neither the practicalities of creating this hairwork at home, nor the experience of this kind of private mourning behaviour have been readily considered.

This project will take an experimental approach, producing hairwork based on instructional patterns available to women in the later 19th century, in order to provide insight not only into how women interacted with homemade hairwork objects, but also into the overlooked area of women’s domestic crafts.