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Pioneer Trek Clothing

posted Jan 26, 2009, 7:39 AM by Edgar Tooley   [ updated Jan 26, 2009, 8:50 AM ]
by Jennifer Jones (492-9111)  
Dressing in pioneer clothing can have a tremendous impact on the spirit of the trek.
The following is a short description of what the pioneers wore as they crossed the plains. It also gives some hints for trekking in our day.  



Men’s shirts were worn loose. They had a narrow neck-band with no collar.  Plain colors were most common, but stripes or plaids were also used. For modern day trekkers, light colors will be coolest. Choose something larger than a regular fit, with long sleeves.  Authentic shirts may be ordered until February 15, 2009.
Pattern:  Butterick 4486


Men’s pants were also worn loose.  Wool or linen was used. Colors included blue, black, gray, and browns, especially beige and tan.  Trekkers in our day find that wool is too hot but that cotton, corduroy, twill, and canvas pants are good choices.  Choose styles that are rather loose fitting through the crotch and thigh area to add comfort in walking.  DI is a good place to look for pants. I have a pattern for those if anyone is interested.


Men’s pants were held up by suspenders that were buttoned on the outside of the waistband, and crossed in the back.  Contact Jenny Jones at 492-9111 if you would like a pattern.


Men’s everyday hats ranged from pilot caps, straw hats, wide brimmed low felt hats, or round crowned hat. Modern day trekkers should not wear ball caps. 


Usually these items were worn only on Sunday or when attending a meeting or social event. Ties were small, black, and silky, and were wrapped around the neck once and tied in the front with a square knot.  It might be fun to have one when we do our hoe down!



Women’s basic dresses were floor length.  It could be plain or have many ruffles.  The sleeves were full, and long, with buttons or bands at the wrist. Necklines were usually high, with buttons up the front. Fabrics were cotton in solid colors or small print.  Bright colors were popular (especially bright yellow).  Blouses and long skirts or jumpers could be used. Pioneer trekkers now have found that dresses and skirts should be mid-calf or above the top of a hiking boot in length (so the girls do not trip over their skirts while pulling). 
Patterns are:
Butterick 3992
McCalls 4548
McCalls 9423
Simplicity 3723


Skirts can be made out of cotton fabric using 3 yards of 44/45” wide and 1” elastic.  You can purchase fabric for $2.00 a yard at Wal-mart. Fold the fabric in half length wise and sew a side seam.  Sew a casing at the top for the elastic.  Measure for hem and cut off extra fabric.  The skirt needs to be middle to lower calf length to avoid tripping and stepping on the skirt.  Leave a 1” hem allowance.


Shirts need to be long sleeve, button down the front with a collar.  You  can check D.I. or Savers, or any of the second hand stores for shirts.


The standard apron was six to twelve inches shorter than the skirt length.  It gathered at the waist and tied. The bib attached at the waist and was pinned to the dress bodice at the top two corners, hence, the name pinafore (Pinned at two of the four corners!). Daytime aprons were made of calico remnants. Sunday aprons were made from white fabric and did not have a bib. For trekking today, large deep pockets are important to be able to carry different items along the trail.  Keep in mind that we will also have possibles bags too.  The easiest aprons are the Sunday aprons made from plain white cotton fabric. You will need 1 1/4 yards of white or off white cotton material for the aprons.


Women wore bonnets whenever they were outside. They were made of cotton with a deep stiffened brim and a back ruffle to protect the neck. They could be white, plain colors or a print, but they never matched the fabric of the dress. Today, bonnets or straw hats for the girls are important; they need to have something for protection from the sun.  Here is a pattern from


These were worn underneath the dress and were normally white. Their length was usually between knee and mid-calf. Modern day trekkers could use scrubs or pajama pants hemmed shorter.  Wearing pantaloons helps maintain modesty in trekking situations. They also protect the legs. DO NOT wear jeans under the dresses!

Shoes and Socks

Shoes for both women and men need not be “period” style. Comfort is most important. Do not wear new hiking boots unless you have taken at least two months to break them in. Bring two pair of shoes in the event that one gets wet or causes blisters. Pack clean socks for each day. Some people wear a double pair of socks, with a smooth, lightweight nylon stocking being closest to the skin. Bring mole skin for blisters.


Helpful items:

Sunscreen, chap-stick, sunglasses, insect repellent, lotion, work gloves, water spray bottle, camera 


baseball caps, t-shirts, tank tops, blue jeans, perfumes.