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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Anne Stapp

Dressing for the Trail

For most of the way west in covered wagons, the weather was hot. Because wool breathed and afforded better protection against the sun than cottons or linens, pioneer women were advised to wear light-weight wool dresses with the hems raised 2-3 inches above the norm for easier maneuvering, and to sew lead shot into the hems to keep the full skirts from billowing in the prairie winds. For headgear they wore sunbonnets, an expanded version of their smaller muslin day caps. Sunbonnets protected their faces from sunburn, but at the same time severely limited their peripheral vision, because the brim that circled around the face from ear to ear, stiffened with heavy quilting or flat slats of wood, projected beyond the wearer’s face. Wings or flaps stitched at the sides and back covered the neck. The ladies were also advised to pack bar soap for laundering clothing, large needles, buttons, good linen thread, a paper of pins, and a thimble. #emigrantwardrobes #sunbonnets

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