Saturday, March 12, 2011
Two or Six Petticoats? Which would you be?
Women living in the west in the 1800’s dressed in the silks, satins, and fashionable dresses for special occasions just like their sisters in the east. However, they also dressed decidedly different when facing the rigors of western living.
In the rural areas women’s clothing could be dated to when they first arrived from the east up to ten years earlier. Silk and satin could be scarce in the rural areas. In these instances they would make ball gowns out of gingham and calico adding all the extra flounces, bustles, and trains. Adding handmade lace collars and wool braid around the hems to enhance the garments.
They had one special dress they wore only to dances, church, and socials. A corset would be worn with their finest dresses to special occasions.
Traveling on stage coaches and trains linen dusters were worn to keep the dirt and coal dust off their clothing.
Three essentials of any western woman were their apron, bonnet, and shawl. An apron was a full length garment worn while cleaning the house and cooking. It helped to keep their clothing clean, making less laundry. They called any type of hat a bonnet. Most had a sunbonnet with ties under the chin and a wide cloth brim reinforced with cardboard or thin slats of wood to make the brim stiff and keep the sun off their faces. They would also have a winter bonnet or hat. Some would even have a fancy bonnet to wear to weddings, funerals, and socials. The shawl was a quick wrap to throw on to greet company or make a trip to the outhouse. They usually had a special one to wear to social events if their family had the means.
Western women worked by their husband’s sides. To make their chores easier they shortened their skirts, wore split skirts and some even wore men’s clothing. It made walking and riding horses easier. They also were less likely to wear the tight corseted styles. They could do their work easier in loose-fitting garments.
My historical western Gambling on an Angel is set in the 1800's in the west, and can be purchased in e-book at a 50% discount at Smashwords today. March 12th.
This information was found in: The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West by Candy Moulton.