Why ‘Widows Don’t Wear Black’?

Before all this I had had limited contact with widows. If I had been asked to describe a typical widow the one I had stored in my head all these years was in her Sixties (at least), with a look of widow poster girl Queen Victoria and of course in head-to-toe black. If asked to describe a young widow. Well, she’d have looked like the old Scottish Widows advert. All windswept and stoic on a mountain top. Again all cloaked in black.
When Colin died I kept thinking “but I don’t look like a widow”. It was a very strange feeling. I didn’t feel like an authentic widow because I didn’t look like either widow option my head was providing, And I didn’t want to either. That’s when I decided I didn’t want to wear black to Colin’s funeral. I was going to show the world I was not a typical widow.
My wardrobe was a constant source of amusement to Colin. From my Africa top to my The Hills Are Alive dress he found my fashiony numbers hilaorious. But he also always said he was proud to be out with me when I glammed up for a night out. So I was determined to provide him with a reason to smile and be proud on the day of his memorial service at Temple Church.
Shopping for what to wear to your husband’s funeral is not easy. Northcote Road in London on a Saturday is not easy for me anyway as it was where we spent our last hours together. And it’s all happy family central. An army of smug marrieds and their offspring that I had been part of just seven days before.  So trudging through it with my sister Jo and my friend Liz with babies in tow I felt abnormal. I was sure the whole world knew I was a widow due to the large neon sign flashing ‘Widow’ I now felt hovered permanently above my head. But they didn’t.
I half heartedly looked through rails. Liz and Jo pulled a few dresses out here and there. Too much colour was wrong. Black was wrong. They both had a lot of patience. I finally found the one in Whistles. Navy was sombre enough that Colin’s friends and family wouldn’t think me inappropriate. The little printed pink triangles looked a little like hearts so it made me smile. And it was a bit flippy of skirt and had the look of an Eighties BA stewardess so I had the name Colin would have called it sorted. So all in all it ticked all the right boxes. But I needed accessories. Shoes, a jacket. And that’s where it went wrong. The poor woman in LK Bennett was just making conversation when she asked: “Is it for a special occasion?”. I had to tell her as nonchalantly as I could muster that yes, yes it was. My husband’s funeral. She was floored. Minutes before she’d been cooing over nine week old Isla and I could practically see her brain trying to compute what I was telling her. 
On the flip side I have never seen such excellent customer service from that minute onwards. She was perfectly nice before but now she was super-nice. My sister also spotted her wiping away a tear while I was in the changing rooms. Poor, poor woman.
I spent a bomb that day but it was like buying the armour I needed to get through one of the hardest days of my life. And it worked. I wore an old black dress to the crematorium in the morning. Dressed as near to the widow ideal in my head and then I transformed into Colin’s Eighties BA stewardess for the church service in the afternoon. And, although it all probably sounds quite shallow to be caught up in the aesthetic when your husband has just dropped dead, caring about how I looked that day made me feel good, safe, strong.

2 Replies to “Why ‘Widows Don’t Wear Black’?”

  1. I absolutely get this post. I too wanted to look good for my partners funeral. Unlike you though I used to wear a lot of black and his funeral was a very traditional affair so I had to find the perfect little black dress. I also used to wear trousers a lot and he loved me in dresses and short skirts so off I went to do exactly as you and trawl the shops looking for something he would love. On the day I curled my hair and did my make-up perfectly. I’m pretty sure I looked fabulous. I needed to look my best for him and do him proud. Strangely these days I very rarely wear black…

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