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JessK's avatar

What did working-class people wear in the 1820's-1840's (pioneers)?

Asked by JessK (599points) June 20th, 2011

We’re going on a pioneer trek and I want to make a dress that is accurate. This would be made out of cotton fabric and suitable for walking a LONG way. Pioneer women would probably wear something like this when they were out working in the farm. I’ve looked it up, but all I can find is high fashion for that age. Pictures, books, websites, etc. would be fantastic. Thanks!

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11 Answers

squirbel's avatar

1820s to 1840s were not the pioneer days?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

A belated welcome to Fluther!

After doing a quick search on the internet, I see what you mean by it being difficult to find anything other than fashion listed for that time period. If I were in your shoes, I’d call on the people at the Frontier Culture Museum in Virginia. It is essentially a ‘living museum’ where original housing and farming structures have been relocated. Community members who study the history of Virginia’s pioneers dress up and act out different roles representing the settlers’ daily activities.

Here is a link to some information on their 1820s American Farm. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show any photos of the dress styles, but contacting them should provide some additional information and/or resources.

JessK's avatar

@squirbel Well, educate me. What were?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@JessK Here’s another site you can check out for 1840’s stuff: or if that doesn’t work look for it under farmer’s museum, Cooperstown NY.

squirbel's avatar

The pioneer days refer to the days when the United States were being settled – not just after the Constitution was instated. The 1600s and 1700s were the pioneer days.

creative1's avatar

Old Sturbridge Village is a take on New England between the times of 1790–1830 they dress in period costumes and work the farms and do everything exactly as they did in those times here is a link to their site, I hope it helps you in your quest.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@creative1 That is a helpful site. It took a bit of digging, but it includes a link to some videos that show clothing worn during that time period.

zenvelo's avatar

Here are some descritpions and patterns for pioneer clothing.

@squirbel The 1600s and 1700 was the Colonial Period. Pioneer days refers to the settlement of the Western Frontier. That would be the opening of the West via the Oregon Trail, the California Gold Rush, and the Mormon migration to Utah.

The frontier continued to the early 1890s if you agree with the Turner Thesis.

JessK's avatar

@squirbel The migration to western US is what I meant. Sorry, I should have made that more clear.

BarnacleBill's avatar

When you mean westward migration of people, do you mean across the Appalachian Mountains to KY, OH, IN, Louisiana Purchase, or do you mean from St. Louis, west to the Pacific? If you mean the first westward migration, that’s 1800 – 1840, which takes you into the settling of the TX Republic. If you mean across the Plains to CA, WA, OR, that would be from 1850 – 1880.

There were no zippers. Everything had button closures or hook and eye. Women’s clothing would be out homespun linen, woven from flax, or cotton chintz. the skirts were very full with petticoats, and the bodice of the dress very fitted. Often the top was as short fitted blouse that buttoned up the front. Women wore bonnets that were made of cotton for working in the fields or riding in the wagon. Men’s clothing was generally wool, because it was durable, with a coat and vest. Shirts had no collars and full sleeves. If a collar was worn with a tie, it was a detachable collar for dressing up. Men wore hats. Generally people only had one or two outfits, because clothing was stitched by hand. All laundry was done by hand so clothes were often not very clean.

Conner Prairie has all sorts of links to pioneer life in Indiana.

fundevogel's avatar

A bootprint on their back. Sorry, that’s 19th century factory workers, coal miners and railroad workers.

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