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Author Topic: Oregon/California and LDS  (Read 2900 times)
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Paula
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« on: July 11, 2009, 06:22:57 PM »

I'm not sure where to post this but think it might work here.

*I am a complete novice at research and that which I have done is very limited and am posting get the input of those of you who are more experienced.

As I have been reading about pioneers I have discovered there were two basic groups during the 1850's and 1860's.  Those who came to Oregon or California or other points west looking for land, wealth, freedom etc.  The other group being Mormon Pioneers.  As I have been reading, I realized that the differences between the dress/appearance of the two groups seem rather large and I'm curious to why that is.

In several sources I have been reading, for the life of me I can't remember which ones (Lesson #1 for future research- document your sources better  Tongue) there are references to the plain Mormon women and the dark/drab dresses.  I understood this to mean that they were significantly different than the other "trail" dresses.  Thus the need to mention the appearance of their clothing.

But why would they be so different?  Nauvoo was a very prosperous town prior to the Mormon's departure with a lot of river traffic.  With this in mind, one would think that access to dress goods and styles would be fairly current.  Nauvoo and later Salt Lake had a rich history of social events and theater so there would definitely be a reason for stylish apparel.  I can't imagine that everyone would say, "Oh here we go into the wilds so lets all make dark boring dresses that are so out of fashion that we will be noticed as plain, fashion misfits."

Understandably all trail clothing was much more work appropriate and plain than the fancy dress of the southern bells or trendy Philadelphia socialites but the Mormon clothing must have been more dramatic than the norm.

Just wondering about the whole idea.  Hope this made sense.




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Linda Trent
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« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2009, 07:04:41 PM »

As I have been reading about pioneers I have discovered there were two basic groups during the 1850's and 1860's.  Those who came to Oregon or California or other points west looking for land, wealth, freedom etc.  The other group being Mormon Pioneers.  As I have been reading, I realized that the differences between the dress/appearance of the two groups seem rather large and I'm curious to why that is.

It's difficult to tell what was implied without seeing the greater context.  My first thought is who did the comparing and what was his/her feeling toward the LDS membership?  Was the person making these comments a modern historian, or a person from the period.  Was the person making the comparison LDS or non-LDS, and if non, what were his/her feelings about the church?  What was his/her purpose for writing this?  Was it in a letter meant for folks back east?  Was it in a private journal?  Or meant for publication? Was he/she just sensationalizing the situation to try to make the Mormons look even more unusual? 

Another thing that comes to mind is that the Handcart companies were almost all poor immigrants hot off the boat from Europe.  In most cases they had very little.  I'd venture to say that most trail people during the handcart company days didn't see those LDS who came from Nauvoo and/or settled in SLC, as they had gone much earlier when chased out of Missouri.  Neither Nauvoo nor SLC were fashion misfits.  Though as always the Church did tend to lean conservative in dress, though one can dress in silk and fashion bonnets and still be conservative.  Grin

Sorry to answer your question with so many questions, but it's really the only way to figure out what was meant by those few simple words.  But an interesting question non-the-less.  I'd not heard this before.  Tongue


Linda.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2009, 07:10:03 PM by Linda Trent » Logged

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Muriel Carbiener
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« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2009, 07:48:14 PM »

Paula did your references specifically say that women who were coming to OR or CA were not plain and their dresses were not drab?  I really wouldn't think that there was one type of dress for Mormon Trail Women, and a different type for OR or CA Trail women.  It's all happening in the same time period.

Muriel
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Paula
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« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2009, 08:31:40 PM »

I wish I could remember where this came from.

 I know there was no reference to OR or CA.  I was just assuming (I know bad thing to do.)  Anyway it was also mentioned in the same instance as Mormons and more than one wife, so it could have just been the authors take on the whole thing.  Good point Linda.

I guess I was just wondering if there were any good sources that could be used as a comparison.
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2009, 08:33:02 PM »

Since I live out west, I do tend to study trails clothing, and I have a personal fascination with the early LDS church.

I've not found anything in my own reading, nor in looking at extant LDS clothing that made the trek out, that would lead me to believe LDS clothing was in any way different from non-LDS people's  clothing from the same social strata and base location... meaning, if you compare the clothing of an LDS convert and an Anglican "lifer", both working in mills in England, the clothes aren't going to be different from each other (aside from minor variations due to personal preference and budgeting.)  Or, compare farmers to farmers... pretty similar clothing.

In 1869 (remembering that this forum covers 1840-1865, so it's slightly post-period), Brigham Young called for "retrenchment" in fashionable clothing, urging a decidedly conservative leaning for women's fashions (keep in mind this is a man financially supporting a female population of something like 65 to 70, including wives and daughters, and daughters of wives who brought children to the marriage. That's a lot of girly clothes.) He didn't have a very easy time convincing them to give up their fashions, though--and the women's societies did undertake growing silk there in Utah (silk worms didn't do well, and the industry never really took off.)

The first few years in the Valley were excruciatingly difficult, and despite rapid growth, there were hardscrabble-poor people who did indeed dress poorly and in the most serviceable (plain, sturdy) clothing available to them, by their own needle or by way of used clothing.

There are multiple unique aspects about Utah settlement, however: not all of those arriving came across the plains--some came up the rivers, and some came by boat to California and then east (or, stayed in California!). Also, with the increasing traffic on the western trails, plus mineral boom traffic, Mormons were not isolated from fashion and commerce in any way... if anything, they capitalized on the traffic!

More later, I'm sure. This is a topic several of us are very keen on!
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Regards,
Elizabeth
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