Final Thoughts

Through reformations in the craft of dressmaking during the late 19th century, frontierswomen, including Idaho women, were able to create more elaborate homemade dresses. While these women still maintained many of the customs specific to frontier society, such as owning only one “best” dress, innovations like the sewing machine allowed them to enhance and elaborate details like lacework, buttons and fabric variety. Some Western customs were maintained for practical reasons, such as wearing colored “best” dresses versus the fashionable white Victorian wedding gown and recycling these dresses (i.e., passing on to other women, reusing fabric scraps for other clothing, etc.) for various uses. The dresses exhibited on this page, worn by Idaho women during the late 19th century, express the unique balance Western women found between Victorian fashion and limitations of the Western frontier.