Independence Rock, WY, 2015. Photographer: Megan Huelman

Trail Factors and Function

This is not the first and surely not the last study of clothing worn on the Overland Trails. The purpose of this project is to look specifically at dress in the terms of the environmental context and the way the trail affected the types of clothing women wore. The functional garments and women’s ingenuity were directly related to the environment through which they were traveling. Of also interest is the way that women were willing to go only so far in the name of function. Many did not step past the bounds of female propriety and social standards.

The Overland Trail crossing took an average of five months. This spanned the late spring, summer and early fall. Pioneers dealt with many weather extremes and all without any cover beyond their covered wagons. The clothing-related diary entries and letters used for this project are graphed by month. Most pioneers left in April or May and arrived at their destinations in September or October. Some pioneers wintered over in Salt Lake or Denver and wrote letters back home. These account for the late fall and winter tallies on this graph. It seems clear the weather and environmental trail factors were seasonally related as well as geographically.

Graph based on diary entries found in Diary Archives. Created by author.