In my continuing quest for authenticity, I’ve been looking at photos from the late nineteenth century in British Columbia. Here is a sampling.
This is a photo of Mrs. Friend of Atlin. B.C. taken near the turn of the twentieth century. High necked blouses and flared skirts were the order of the day. Note the detail in the lace of the blouse shown on the right, and the decoration on the skirt on the left. There is an almost “mannish” appearance to these two women, but the feminine touches are there if you look.
This photo of the Esquimalt Ladies Cricket team is in the B.C. Archives and dated 1890. Can you imagine playing cricket laced up that tight?
This one of women gold seekers in the Yukon in 1898 shows more work-a-day clothes than the cricketers, but those long skirts would be caked with mud and heavy.
Cecelia Spofford had her picture taken in 1890. Notice the puffs at the shoulders. Of course, these professional photographs would show women in their best attire, not what they wore in the kitchen or the field. Also, only persons of wealth and standing were likely to have a formal portrait taken.
This one of Windimere Pioneers is dated 1890. I find it useful because Windimere is off the beaten track – not a leader in ladies fashions. Still, the women are well-dressed and out numbered. When writing of this era in the interior of British Columbia it is well to remember that men grossly out-numbered women. If a girl had a yen to marry, she’d not be short of proposals if she headed for the hinterland.
Finally, here is a page from the Eaton’s catalogue of 1897. Since women in even remote situations could order from a catalogue and expect the goods to be delivered, even if it took weeks to reach them, those with enough money could dress like this. Note that Eaton’s is now selling attire for more active young women like those who rode a bicycle.
Still laced tightly at the waist, but those puffed sleeves would allow for a little more movement than the narrow ones of a few years previously.
Ginger Rogers is famously believed to have said, “I do everything a man does only backwards and in high heels.” Well, in the Canadian west, women did everything men did, only they did it in corsets and long skirts!