Pioneer Clothing

Dressing as pioneers has a tremendous impact on the spirit of a handcart trek.  To help develop a love and appreciation for our pioneer heritage, all who participate are strongly encouraged to dress as our pioneer forbears did. The article Why Dress Like a Pioneer? will give you more information on how to dress like a pioneer.  It also includes ideas for the various levels of dress you might be interested in wearing. (Please note some of the guidelines in this article may be different than Cedar Mill Trek 2023 requirements)

Your next question is probably, “Where am I going to find clothing for Trek?”  On this website we have included information and links for the various sewing patterns available at major retail stores.  We have also included several free pattern resources.  However, you don’t have to sew to go on Trek. Clothing for trek does not need to be brand new. Check local second-hand stores like Goodwill or even borrow clothing.  Many have had this wonderful experience before us and would be willing to share what they wore on Trek. (Please check that these things meet the current guidelines)

Our Fashion Show from 2015 is still relevant for our 2023 Trek, and can be found here: Descriptions & Pictures .


General Clothing Tips

  • Hiking/Walking Shoes (Not New) —  Comfort is most important!  No open-toed shoes will be permitted on the trail—NO SANDALS OR FLIP FLOPS!  Shoes should be broken in by walking a total of at least 10 miles in them prior to Trek.
  • Water shoes — Old sneakers, water shoes, or sandals with a strap for crossing river. NO flip flops – they can easily wash away in the river.
  • Socks — Good quality socks are a must.  Socks with a high wool content or sport socks with “wicking” fabric will help reduce blisters and keep feet more comfortable.  Please avoid socks with a high cotton content.  Having an extra pair or two of socks for changing into at night is also recommended.
  • Sleepwear — To be worn in tents only!  Nightwear need not be period style, but is required and must be modest.   Although it will be warm during the day, nights can be cold on the mountain. Please consider bringing sweatpants and a sweatshirt for sleep wear.
  • Bandanas/Neckerchiefs — These are highly recommended for keeping trail dust out of your nose and sweat out of your eyes.  24”x24” is a typical size.  Colors vary but white is most common for women.

Men's Clothing Tips

  • Undershirts — Please look for undershirts that specifically state “wicking” fabric.  These shirts are useful to prevent chafing.
  • Pioneer shirts — Shirts should be loose, button down, and long-sleeve.  Collars are appropriate and common on pioneer shirts.  Plain colors, stripes and small plaids were all typical for men’s shirts.  Light colors will be cooler in the late July sun. 
  • Pants (Cotton, Canvas or Wool) — Chino-type pants are best if they are a “relaxed fit” through the crotch and thighs to add comfort in walking.  Dockers brand works well.  Good-sized pockets will be helpful to carry items along the trail. Pioneer pants were also worn loose and made from corduroy, twill, cotton, and linen.  Colors included blue, black, gray, brown, tan and beige.  NO DENIM, SPORT TYPES, CAMOUFLAGE, OR SHORTS!
  • Hat — Men’s hats should be “western style” with a wide brim.  Straw hats with wide brims will be the coolest.  A chin strap or tie for under the chin are recommended.  Please make sure that your hat has a wide brim around the entire hat for safety to avoid sunburn and heat stroke. NO BASEBALL CAPS!
  • Suspenders (optional) —  Pants were held up by suspenders. They're really cool when you get used to them. Belts were less common, however wearing a belt it preferable to saggy pants.
  • Vest (Optional) — For pioneer men a vest was everyday wear.  Most men considered themselves undressed without one.  For Trek, this is a fun extra touch.

Women’s Clothing Tips

  • Bra/Camisoles/Chemise —  Please remember you will be hiking and doing other active things.  Sports bras may be more comfortable than your regular bra.  In addition, a tank top, camisole, or chemise to wear under your dress will help prevent chafing.
  • Bloomers/Drawers — Bloomers (called drawers by the pioneers) can be worn underneath the dress and were normally white. They should be just below the knee to mid-calf in length. Pajama bottoms, scrubs or yoga pants can be used but should have a crotch high enough to prevent chaffing.  
  • Dresses or Skirt/Blouse Combos — Dresses & skirts should be bottom-of-calf in length. Dresses should have long sleeves and a neckline similar to today’s jewel or crew neck style.  Skirts should have a circumference of 90”- 140” to allow young women to take a safe stride.  Skirts narrower than this can cause the fabric to tear and/or injury to occur. Pockets in dresses are handy for carrying different items along the trail.  Long sleeved button-down blouses, and long skirts can also be used for Trek.  Pioneer dresses matched the taste of the woman.  Some were plain, other contained ruffles and trim. Fabrics included wool in solid colors or cotton. Plaids, stripes, dots or organized prints were common. A variety of colors were available, including bright blues, yellows, and reds.
  •  Aprons —  The standard apron was six to twelve inches shorter than the skirt length.  It gathered at the waist and tied.  Aprons may have been made of old dress remnants, white fabric was also common, as it was easy to boil clean.  For trekking today, large, deep pockets are important to be able to carry different items along the trail. 
  • Sunbonnets —  Women wore bonnets or sunbonnets when they were outside, for trek Sunbonnets are appropriate.  Sunbonnets must have ties and a long back ruffle to protect the neck.  At the request of our medical team, this ruffle/curtain must be long enough to at least touch the neck line of your dress.  They could be white, plaid, or a print, but they seldom matched the fabric of the dress.  Please remember the darker in color the fabric is the more likely the sun is to “cook your brains.”
  • Hats - Hats were considered higher fashion for pioneer women.  If you wear a woven or straw-type hat it must have a wide brim to cover your neck and face and help shield you from sunburn. It must also have a ribbon or other means of tying it onto your head.  

Sewing Patterns and Ideas

You’ve decided to try your hand at making some or all of your clothing for Trek.  So now what?  You’ve come to the right place.  Below are some links for items you may want to make.  Note:  Some of the commercially made patterns may need modification to meet Cedar Mill Stake requirements.  Where possible we have made note of these modifications.

Men’s Patterns

Simplicity 2895: Men’s Frock, Vest, and Shirt — While this pattern is not historically accurate, the shapes do give the “flavor” of pioneer men's wear and the shirt is plausible for the 1850’s.

McCalls 7003: Men’s Costumes —  Again this pattern will give you the flavor of pioneer menswear.  Looking at pioneer images can help you adjust it for a more “Step From the Past” feel.

Women’s Patterns

Free Pattern for Chemise.  This chemise can be worn under your dress to help protect your skin from chafing. 

Free Pattern for Skirt or Petticoat. This pattern is for petticoats but also makes a great skirt for those who want a skirt/blouse combination.

Free Pattern for Drawers.  This pattern is for custom fit split drawers.  Check out the Step from the Past section on why you may want to consider this option.

Free Pattern for Sunbonnets.  This pattern is the one recommended by the medical personnel as being appropriate for Trek.  Other commercial patterns will need alternation in order to have the curtain an appropriate length.

Free Pattern for Apron.  This pattern does not have a pocket but patch pockets are easily added.

Simplicity 2890: Corset, Chemise, and Drawers — These are actual historic shapes. The corset needs to be very specifically fitted to the individual figure to be safe during Trek, but it will also make a huge positive difference in comfort and back support!

Simplicity 9769: Corset, Chemise, and Drawers — These are actual historic shapes, and the same notes as above. This corset is all shaped seams, and is quite simple for an intermediate seamstress to adjust properly for individual figures.

Simplicity 3723: “Pilgrim” Dress — Dress View B, removing collar and all trim. Add another panel in the skirt to meet Trek requirements and hem to lower calf for teenagers. This sunbonnet does not meet Cedar Mill Trek requirements.  Same notes on the children’s pattern version, 3725.

Butterick 5831: Dress & Petticoat — This dress is actually good for the mid-century shaping. There’s no need for sew-in interfacing in any portion of it, and make the petticoat plain at the hem, with gathers at the waist. Be sure you’re using at least three full-widths of fabric for the dress skirt and petticoat. Cut all the skirts shorter, lower-calf length, for teenage girls.