The dress, consisting of a separate bodice and skirt, is made from black silk taffeta and embellished with black lace and black silk mourning crepe. The bodice is lined in fine black silk, with baleen (whalebone) boning at the waist. Squares of woven wool covered with cream silk have been stitched inside the dress at the back of the neck and sleeves, presumably to provide extra warmth.
Queen Victoria went into deep mourning after her husband Prince Albert died in 1861 and wore dark clothes for the rest of her life. In 1872 she wore white ermine bands on her dress at the Thanksgiving service held for the Prince of Wales’s recovery from typhoid fever. After that she began to wear small amounts of white lace, pearls and diamonds for official functions as her grief slowly receded. She was buried in a white dress and her wedding veil, as she had requested previously. This dress was worn late in the 19th century at the end of her life when she had shrunk in height to below 5 foot, and expanded in width (waist measurement 111 cm). Attempts have been made to accurately date Victoria’s dresses by her height and waist measurements.
After Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 many of her clothes were given to members of the Royal Household. The clothes belonging to Queen Victoria at Storiel were donated by a variety of people and the dress was given to the Museum in 1952 by Mrs H. V. Hughes from Liverpool.
The dress is on display in Gallery 4 until 2020.