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How to Choose Pioneer Patterns

For a printable PDF of this article, click  How to Choose Pioneer Patterns.

Everyone has a different level of interest in wearing historic clothing. If you are excited by the idea, and daydream about using your pioneer clothes over and over, you may be most interested in highly accurate clothing from the skin out. If you’ll be dressing as a pioneer only once or twice, and don’t really consider yourself the “time travel” sort, you can get a good pioneer flavor without worrying over every historic detail—and without being so obviously modern that you’re visually jarring for others.

You can use the free patterns in this digital book, as well as on-line at to create many easy, accurate pieces of a pioneer wardrobe. Every free article and pattern on the site is copyrighted with full permission granted to freely share and photocopy for personal, ward, stake, or site educational use.

Right now, it’s not possible to give full dress, trouser, vest, and coat patterns to print at home, so you’ll want to choose some commercially published patterns for those items. Please keep in mind that purchased patterns are protected by copyright and licensing rights, just as these free patterns are. It is important to observe the Church’s policy on use of copyrighted patterns, as well as the copyright restrictions from each publisher. In general, for any of the patterns listed below, plan for each family to buy their own patterns. Making photocopies or tracings of the patterns listed below, or copying the instructions or illustrations, violates US copyright law, even if you are not selling the copies. Continue reading

How to Host a Work Day

For a printable PDF of this article, click How to Host a Work Day.

While pioneer clothing uses only basic shapes and techniques, many people may not have confidence in their sewing abilities. Organizing a group sewing day is a great way to teach sewing skills, boost confidence, and complete historic clothing projects quickly. Use a sewing day for a young women’s activity or Relief Society Activity Group. Plan for a two-hour session; this is long enough to complete a sunbonnet, or an apron, or a petticoat. To do all three in one day, plan for a Saturday, midmorning to mid-afternoon. Continue reading

How to Dress as a Pioneer Man (Or Boy)

For a printable PDF of this article, click How to Dress as a Pioneer Man or Boy .

Dressing a young man (age 12 or up) is so similar to dressing an adult man, we’ll cover them together in one article. Most of the layers will be familiar; men’s clothing hasn’t changed a great deal in 160 years!

This article is only the briefest overview; within any 5 year span of the pioneer era, there are many, many style and use details for all classes of people. Head on-line to for links to some great on-line picture archives; seeing the real people in their real clothing is a tremendous help to many. Continue reading

Overlander Foods

For a printable PDF of this article, click Overlander Foods .

When planning meals for a trek experience, keeping some key concepts in mind can enhance the experience for all. Focusing on historic food items that are pleasing to the modern palate, you add another dimension to the trek experience.

Good Taste
First on the list is good flavor! You’ll want to plan menu items that taste good, andare familiar enough to satisfy the taste buds without upsetting the digestive tract. Beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner may be one historic option, but the sudden addition can be traumatic to the digestive system of many! Plan tasty, fairly-familiar dishes.

The trek experience generally involves a lot of physical exertion, and in some very challenging climates. Hot weather plus exertion can cause a person to work through their nutrients and electrolytes more quickly than they otherwise would. Rather than falling back on chemical preparations, plan foods that help replenish the body. You’ll cut down on the gear burden, and improve health. Continue reading

Why Dress Like a Pioneer?

For a printable copy of this article, including suggested clothing charts, click Why Dress Like a Pioneer.

During the mid-19th century, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dressed very much like their non-LDS counterparts. Their lives, too, were very much like any other life of similar location and livelihood.  Their personal tests and trials may have been different from our own today, but there are many similarities, and much we can learn from their tragedies and triumphs, and most particularly, from their faith.

Dressing in historic clothing is one way to form an immediate connection to the past. When we take on their clothing, we get a better feel for the physical conditions of their lives. We step outside our own known world, and enter theirs, for just awhile, setting aside our daily worries and distractions. We can have some wonderful “time travel” moments, when it feels as though the veil is very thin, and our pioneer friends are standing right beside us, encouraging us in our personal journeys.

Not everyone wants to play pretend to the same degree of immersion, however. This dressing plan allows for multiple stages of historic clothing, from the basic flavor of the past, to a fully authentic wardrobe. By setting an expectation of participation at the basic level or above, a variety of personal preferences and budgets can be accommodated without compromising the “time travel” moments of those who prefer a more immersive experience. Continue reading

Make Drawers for Women

For a printable PDF of this project, click Make Drawers for Women.

Drawers are an optional garment for your pioneer or emigrant wardrobe 1840 to 1865, as not all women of the mid-19th century wore them.  (If you use a cage or hoop, wear drawers; the handcart era is pre-hoop.)

Mid-century women’s (and teen girl’s) drawers have an open crutch seam to facilitate bathroom use; however, there is significant overlap and generous fabric around the hips; this is a very modest garment as a result. Wearing drawers over the modern temple garment is optional, as they serve a similar purpose: they make long walking a lot more comfortable!

With a few basic measurements, and a few period sewing techniques, you can make your own pattern, without going to the expense of purchasing a pattern that you’d still have to alter!  Techniques used for drawers construction are: straight or running stitch, flat-felled seam, gathering, stitching a band, narrow hemming, and tucks (optional). Continue reading

Make a Shawl

For a printable PDF of this project, click Make a Pioneer Shawl.

The simplest outer wrap for a mid-19th century person is a wool shawl.  Infants, small children, girls, women, even men might wear a wool shawl to keep warm! Your pioneer shawl can wrap around your shoulders when its cool out, be drawn over your head when its misty, or spread out on the ground for a picnic blanket when the sun is shining.  It doesn’t take up much packing space, and has so many uses that you’ll find it’s an indispensable part of a pioneer wardrobe.

Continue reading

© 2012 Elizabeth Stewart Clark. All Rights Reserved.