Clothing in the 1800s
In early Indiana, most settlers made their clothes instead of buying them at the store. Clothes were usually made by the women in the family. This took a lot of time because sewing had to be done by hand. (The sewing machine was not patented until 1846.)
Some people still wove their own fabric while others bought fabric at stores. Stores sold fabric produced in factories in the United States and other countries including England. Common fabrics were cotton, wool and linen.
Men and women did not dress alike. In the early 1800s, women wore dresses and aprons - you would not see a woman wearing pants. Women and girls also wore “daycaps” on their heads to keep their hair clean and out of the way. Men wore shirts, trousers, vests and tailcoats. Older children wore similar clothes to the adult clothes. However, children under the age of 6, both boys and girls, usually wore dresses!
Some clothes such as scarves, mittens and stockings were hand-knitted using yarn. Stores sold yarn, but many people produced their own yarn by raising sheep. After the wool was sheared from sheep each spring, it was cleaned and carded (combed). Then the settlers spun the wool into yarn. Sometimes they would dye the wool different colors. Just like today, many people in the 1830s liked to wear bright colors and patterns.
As you tour 1836 Prairietown, take notice of the clothing worn by the townspeople. Most are wearing basic outfits as they do housework, gardening or a trade. A few may dress a bit fancier than others. If you would like to see how you look in the 1830s-style of clothing, you are welcome to try on clothing at the McClure House in Prairietown.