Women embarking on long westward journeys generally wore simple dresses, hats and sturdy footwear, but sported nice dresses and accessories for social functions. Thousands of female pioneers crossed from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast during the mid-1800s. The task of making clothing lay primarily with women, who sewed garments for themselves and family members.
Despite hailing from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, American pioneer women dressed in similar fabrics, colors and clothing styles while traveling from the East Coast to the Pacific Ocean. They dressed primarily for practicality and comfort rather than fashion. Pioneers packed lightly for the voyage, and often wore one outfit during the week. To keep dirt and debris from showing on outer clothing, women sewed dresses and accessories from fabrics in dark colors like black and navy blue.
Women crafted protective and functional hats and shawls for traveling, too. Hats offered protection from the sun while shawls added warmth during the cold winter months. Women wore heavy cloaks to ward off the cold, too, and kept feet warm and dry with utilitarian boots. Women made clothing mostly with linen and wool. Wool provided insulation while linen kept travelers cool and dry in the heat. These fabrics proved sturdy, readily available and cost much less than expensive fabrics like cotton and silk.