Independence Rock, WY, 2015. Photographer: Megan Huelman

Analysis Overview

Based on the trail diaries (viewable in the diary archives), several patterns emerge regarding what women wore on the trails west. The long and arduous journey was expected by many but its clear the trail took its toll on emigrant's clothing. Some of the women write in their early journals what they started the journey wearing and others note their dire need for more appropriate clothing, more comfortable clothing, and simply more clothing as garments literally wore out.

For clarity, this section is divided into three sections. WHAT DID WOMEN WEAR? is an overview of clothing and accessories as well as where or how they acquired clothing along the way. In conjunction with the map, TRAIL FACTORS AND FUNCTION looks at the environmental factors that affected clothing choice. Weather patterns, climate, and location play a part in whether the clothing women wore was appropriate, comfortable and sturdy enough for different portions of the trail. Lastly, SOCIETAL FACTORS looks at the still influential role of society's standards of dress on the uncivilized trails west.

This word cloud illustrates the most common words written in clothing-related diary entries (found in the diary archives). The results can not be considered stereotypical of all trail diaries as the specific entries selected are mostly women's and only the entries referring to dress in particular. It was actually very uncommon for women to mention their clothing in respect to the trail but the few rare glimpses into their attire show a fascinating mixture of ingenuity and practicality while upholding societal mores.

The most popular clothing related word is simply "dress." This is not surprising as dresses are a 19th century woman's main article of clothing. The smaller and therefore less frequently used words show several related terms: shoes, clothing, moccasins, calico, and wear. Terms like miles, road and water show the top priority of daily trail life.