Some things on the American Frontier were hard to come by—especially clothes. Store bought cost too much and even if the wife sewed, she had to buy fabric. They mostly made do with just one or two changes of outfits, always reserving the best for Sundays.
Most women wore dresses of muslin, calico, or gingham. Only the wealthy wore silk and satin. Lace wasn’t that easy to come by either so most dresses were plain.
Due to the constant wind, the ladies would sew rocks or small pieces of metal into the hems to hold their skirts down. Can’t have the men seeing anything—not even ankles. Ha! On the plains, most women wore one simple petticoat. They didn’t want their clothes catching on fire when they cooked over an open flame.
Flour sacks provided material for underwear, dishtowels, children’s clothing, and lots more.
My mom used to tell us about one of daddy’s sisters who was real prissy. She was crossing a street one time and a gust of wind blew up her skirt. Everyone saw her flour sack underwear and emblazoned across her rear were the words: America’s Best. I always thought that was so funny. My prissy aunt really got kidded a lot I’m sure.
Now for the men—-
They usually owned just one extra set of clothes. They slept in longjohns and most wore them year round. In the summer, all the men needed to put on was a pair of pants (usually made of wool,) letting their longjohns serve as a shirt.
Denim came on the scene in 1873 when miners and others needed very sturdy pants. The designer was Jacob Davis and the popularity of his pants made it difficult to keep up with the demand. He contacted the Levi Strauss company and the rest was history.
Men’s shirts were usually made of broadcloth, muslin, or maybe twill. Flannel or wool in winter. Rich men wore lawn, silk, and poplin. They were usually collarless. You bought the collars separate and they were made of linen bonded to paper. They stood up around a man’s neck. You just threw them away when they got dirty. Also, most men wore vests back then.
A man’s hat set him apart from others. He could shape it however he wanted. A good Stetson was invaluable. Boots were a must and a lot of cowboys stuck their pant legs down into them.
Women added various little accessories to their dresses—gloves, fancy handkerchiefs, and things that didn’t cost a whole lot. Every woman wore a hat or bonnet and they ranged in price. Shawls were an absolute must.
Weddings were not very elaborate for the most part. The bride and groom wore their best. The wedding gown might’ve been made of muslin and she’d have worn it afterward as a Sunday dress. Seldom were they white like they are now. I just wrote a wedding scene in my new book and she had on a plain yellow dress. I don’t think I would like to have worn gray. Nope.
Things were simple back then. Nothing could interfere with work and they toiled every day from sunup or before to sundown or after. There was so much to do.
Which article of clothing caught you by surprise? Anything?
I’m giving away a copy of TO LOVE A TEXAS RANGER to three people who leave a comment.