Monday, February 20, 2017

Ready to Wear

New clothing was not overly accessible to most men and women in the west. When you needed a new set of ‘duds’ you had to go to a tailor or dressmaker and have them made. Very few merchants sold new clothing, however, many did sell ‘ready to wear’ clothes. These were outfits discarded by the higher class, or just those that had ‘out grown’ their clothes and needed a new set.

It wasn’t unusual for cowboys to wear suit pants and a vest (silk not leather) while riding the range, because the ‘fancier’ the clothes, the harder it was for the store to sell them. Therefore, the ‘fancy duds’ sold for cheaper. That also explains while chimney sweeps always wore top hats and tuxedos. Cheap wear for a very dirty job.

There was big business in ‘ready to wear’ clothes for all the people moving west, and entrepreneurs would scavenge the ‘castaways’ discarded by the wealthier set back east and drive wagons of clothing west, peddling their wares as they went.

Boots and shoes were also very difficult to come by. During the Civil War many cobblers and shoemakers were active in the army, creating a shortage of footwear that lasted after the war ended. Up until the late 1850’s there was no left or right shoe/boot and most footwear was of one width—slim. Wider widths were most usually special ordered. Breaking in a new pair of shoes was a long and often times uncomfortable.

There was certainly no need for walk in closets back then.

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