Victorian Lifestyle on the Western Plains with guest Velda Brotherton

One of the most enjoyable tasks I faced when beginning my trilogy The Victorians, was finding clothing for the women. They quickly learned what they should dishoop skirt (1)card of these layer upon layer dresses to live in Victoria, Kansas in 1875. As the book blurb states, Victorian dresses weren’t meant to be worn to a kidnapping. This is quickly proven when the outlaw who does her bidding and kidnaps her to prevent an unwanted marriage, throws her on his horse wearing all her Victorian garments. The horse decides to upend Wilda in a creek because her hoops bob up and down in a frightful way and prevent good vision. The outlaw’s solution? Make her strip off her soaked dress, underskirts, and the awful hoops leaving her in what he calls her unmentionables.

redingote for ridingWomen who settled on the prairie quickly learned that too much clothing prevented them getting the work done that was needed in the wild west. However, for a long while, women didn’t ride “clothespin.” It was considered wicked to straddle a wild animal. Besides, it really wasn’t easy to ride astraddle wearing a long dress, even a simple one. Eventually, women of the Victorian age developed riding outfits, but most continued to ride side saddle.

My grandmother was a second generation Victorian. Her mother’s family came to the United States and settled in Iowa. Just at the end of the Civil War my great-grandmother was born, and when she was 13 the family moved west to Winfield, Kansas in a covered wagon. I remember by great-grandmother well because I was 16 when she died at the age of 97. She was a short, stout woman who enjoyed reminiscing about her childhood while we children skirt-frontierfront-lrg_thumbnailcrowded around. How I wish I had listened more closely to her stories of going west.

She met and married Daniel Gregg, who was one of the first policemen on the force and at least a foot taller than she. They had four girls. My grandmother, the eldest, was a staunch Victorian, as was her next sister. The next however, went to work for the local newspaper, practically unheard of in those days, and shamed the family further by getting a divorce. The youngest was a rebel of a different sort. I remember a photo of her as a young woman dressed in a leather Indian style dress, her black hair in braids and the scoop neck showing plenty of cleavage. I can only imagine her lifestyle.

camisoleYear round my grandmother wore cotton stockings fastened to a corset with garters. Her dresses never were shorter than calf length, her undergarments, while no longer the old style of bustles, crinolines or the like, were layered, beginning with a cotton undershirt, a slip, a camisole and then the dress

After we moved back to Arkansas, where my mother was raised and I was born, I met an old friend of grandmother’s. Her tales were different from the family’s, almost as if grandmother led two lives. Her friend Gladys told me that grandmother was well known for her wildness. She rode sidesaddle all over the county, and braved wild creeks and narrow trails that wound through the Ozarks. I learned after her death that she carried a .22 pistolknickers as well and it was found in her belongings.

In writing The Victorians, it was a pleasure to draw on these women for the heroines in Wilda’s Outlaw, the upcoming Rowena’s Hellion, and the yet unwritten Tyra’s Cowboy.


Velda is giving away a Kindle copy of Wilda’s Outlaw to the winner of the drawing!

WildasOutlaw_TheVictorians_w7621_750 Wilda Duncan is pledged to marry Lord Prescott to keep her family together in this new land, the American West. Her plot to be kidnapped by sexy outlaw Calder Raines could put her in more danger than the arranged marriage. when his gang decides she can help them rob a bank. Calder has other plans for the beautiful red haired Victorian lady.


new Velda








Velda Brotherton has a long career in historical writing, both fiction and
nonfiction. Her love of history and the west is responsible for the publication of 15 books and novels since 1994. But she’s not about ready to stop there. When the mid-list crisis hit big city publishers, she turned first to writing regional nonfiction, then began to look at the growing popularity of E Books as a source for the books that continued to flow from her busy mind. Those voices simply won’t shut up, and so she finds them a home.


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34 thoughts on “Victorian Lifestyle on the Western Plains with guest Velda Brotherton”

  1. I am m very interested what was worn then. I wonder what was their unmentionables make up. Were ladies bloomers long?

    • Hi Connie, thanks for visiting and commenting. Sorry to be late, just slid in from an all day conference and no chance to check comments. But here I am now. Yes, bloomers were long, but not to the ankle. Most I found came well below the knee. Some were made of two separate legs that tied around the waist to make it easier for women to relieve themselves easier. Appreciate your checking out my blog.

  2. I love reading about clothing styles from other eras. We are so fortunate to be able to wear lightweight clothing and few layers. For medical reasons I wear long elastic stockings and sleeves and the heat of a Nebraska summer is at times unbearable. Thank you for sharing your story. How fortunate you are to have had first hand accounts I will look forward to reading your stories.

    • Thanks, Connie for your nice reply. I’m sure long stockings and sleeves in the summers in Nebraska is very uncomfortable. I lived in Wichita, Kansas for a long while and high plains summers are unbearable of themselves if we wore next to nothing. Yes, I will never forget my grandmother or her mother though they have been gone a very long time now.

  3. I’ve hear it said that wealthy ladies would change clothes two or three times a day and this would take them about 30 minutes each time. And the corsets would cause broken ribs from being tied too tight. I love looking at vintage clothing and reading the storied, but I don’t think I would have liked living in that era.

    • Carolyn, I agree wholly with you. Though it’s fun to write and read about those times and make them seem romantic, there are certain situations none of us would be able to tolerate. Women had fainting spells often because of the tight corsets. Yes, indeed 30 minutes would barely cover changing clothes. Most women, though, had to tolerate the same clothing for several days at a time. They nor their clothing was washed as often as we enjoy. Thanks for the comment and for checking out my post.

  4. I wonder who invented the ridiculous hooped skirt. So impractical! I can’t imagine pioneer woman dealing with it. I’m sure they quickly converted to calico dresses.

    How funny that your story starts with an abduction of a woman wearing one of these skirts. I can see why it was quickly dispensed! Love your story idea. I’d like to read the outlaw, Calder, and the (Lady) Wilda’s love story!

    Velda, your so lucky to have memories and stories from your great grandmother and grandmother!

    • Thanks for commenting, Laurie. Yes indeed those skirts were ridiculous. It was told they become so voluminous that only two or three women could crowd into a room and they swept surrounding tables clear in one pass through the room. I had fun with that scene because I saw right away what it would be like to try to kidnap a woman dressed in hoop skirts. I hope you get a chance to read Wilda’s Outlaw, which is available on Kindle and Amazon.

  5. Hi Velda! Welcome back to P&P. Great to have you visit again and share your knowledge about the Old West. I love seeing what the women wore back then. Much was impractical for life on the frontier and they quickly found that out. It’s strange to me that men dictated what women wore. The designers were men and they set the rules. I fear I would’ve been a rebel if I had lived back then. Just too many clothes. I read somewhere that all those layers made the clothing extremely heavy.

    Love the cover of your book. It sure speaks of the Old West. And Calder and Wilda sound like they liven up things a lot. Wishing you much success!

    • Thanks so much, Linda. I always enjoy visiting this blog focused on women in the west. Yes, frontier women quickly shed all that clothing, and it was extremely heavy. Tyra, who is a cousin of Wilda’s is the rebel in the family. While Wilda did run off with an outlaw, Tyra rebelled almost from the moment they stepped off the train in Victoria. Hope you enjoy Wilda’s story and the upcoming story of her sister Rowena and her wild lover, the hellion Blair Prescott. Then will come Tyra and her lovable rascal of a cowboy.

    • Thank you Chelley, for taking the time to read and comment on my post here. I wish I had listened more closely to my great grandmother’s tales to us children who crowded around her when she rested in the evening and told of the trek west, which she remembered well since she was 13 during the trip.

  6. Isn’t it fun to research clothing from the 1800s? I’m fascinated with that time period too. I’d be one of the first to shed layers and hoop skirt if I was moving west! Sounds like a great book series and I’d love to win Wilda’s Outlaw!

    • Linda, good luck in winning a copy of Wilda’s Outlaw. Thank you for taking the time to comment here. I had so much fun writing the first two books, the second of which, Rowena’s Hellion should be out within a few months. It deals with men who suffered from the trauma of war and explains the early actins of Lord Prescott, who seems such an irascible man in Wilda’s Outlas.

  7. Velda, welcome to the Junction. What a fun take on women’s clothing in the Old West. I love that you didn’t gloss over the problems women faced and made your heroine suffer a bit, before caving into practicality. GREAT premise!!!

    • Thank you, Renee, I’m glad you enjoyed my poor suffering heroine. This book is lighter than I most usually write about the west, but it was so much fun to have Calder kidnap her in all that clothing, I couldn’t resist showing the funnier side of the situation. I appreciate your comments.

  8. Loved hearing about your grandmothers. My grandmother always wore house dresses that was below the knees. I never remember seeing her in anything else.

    • Quilt Lady, Thanks for your comment. In the summer when I wear shorts I often understand why so many women wore dresses even a couple of generations ago. They are easier to manage in the heat and you don’t have to wear a bra. Most of them didn’t. Funny story. While working my grandmother used to bend over forward, grab the back hem of her dress and pull it upward between her legs, pinning it at her waist, thus creating a bloomer type pair of pants which she wouldn’t have been caught dead in.

    • You would have liked her, Goldie. Thanks for commenting. She had a huge laugh and would pound her thighs along with it when something struck her fancy. My mother said she was very strict raising the girls, while grandpa remained in the background unless she went too far. My mother was a daddy’s girl, and she and her mother didn’t get along. I, however, thought my grandmother quite a lot of fun, though she had some strange quirks.

  9. Hi Colleen, Thanks for reading and commenting. I can’t imagine it either. I don’t think we can imagine much of what women put up with in those days, and while I like writing about it, I would want no part of living then.

  10. I apologize to everyone for being so late with my replies. I’m so pleased you all enjoyed the post as much as I enjoyed writing it. We were so tied up all day at the conference I scarcely had time to look up. What would women do today who enjoy such freedoms do if they were cast back into the 1870s? That’s something to wonder about, isn’t it. Thanks to everyone and I look forward to awarding a copy of Wilda’s Outlaw to the winner tomorrow afternoon. I’ll check back in the morning to see if I need to reply to any more comments.

  11. Thank you for such an interesting post. My daughter does Civil War reenacting and the layers we must deal with when dressing can be daunting. During summer in the south, it is rather uncomfortable. It has been interesting watching OUTLANDER and seeing the layers involved in dressing in the 1740’s
    It seems layers have evolved rather slowly until maybe around the 1920’s and the days of the flappers, when they wore a whole lot less.
    Each period’s clothing has its own charm, but I would not like to have to wear it every day. I cannot imagine wearing a hoop skirt while trying to ride a horse. I think I would be tempt to take them off. I am sure they would bother me as much as they bothered the horse.

    • Hi Patricia, Enjoyed your comment and thank you for taking the time to read and post here. Your daughter has a fascinating career or pastime, whichever it is. I too can’t imagine wearing all that clothing, but if we grew up with it I suppose we’d just shrug and put on all those layers. Too bad they couldn’t see into the future at how little women would be wearing in the 21st Century.

  12. The difficulty with living on the West coast seems to be that I arrive too late to enter giveaways. Still, I can comment.

    Great post, Velda! I’m with everyone else, even though it may not seem like the anecdotes you have from your grandma are extensive enough, they’re still extremely valuable and better than a lot of the research materials available to the rest of us.

    While disadvantageous in many ways, one perk to the ladies’ Victorian fashion for us Western writers is that hideaway guns were so much more easily concealable. Off the top of my head, I’ve heard of derringers being hidden in garters, bustles, corsets, gloves, and pockets. There was even a small double-barreled pistol that was so often concealed in a woman’s muff that it was nicknamed the “Muff Pistol.” I think this gun was used by the character Lily Bell on AMC’s Hell On Wheels. For men, attempts to hide a gun were limited to sleeves, shoulder holsters, or boots.

    Thanks Velda!

    • Indeed you are correct about places to hide guns of all sorts. Thanks for the reply that added a lot to the post. I do believe you’re right about Lily Bell on Hell on Wheels hiding a small derringer. Can you imagine living in a town like that one and not being armed? Especially ladies of the night who were in danger all the time.
      I think you are in time as they aren’t supposed to draw for the winner until this afternoon.

  13. Thanks Sherri, She was, and tough as nails. In her eighties, unknown to us she climbed up a ladder to fix something on her roof then came back down unscathed. We only learned about it after the fact. She also chopped her own wood for her heating stove through her eighties.

  14. I wish someone had let you know before publication that no Victorian man (gentle otherwise) would say that his mother died of the pox. Smallpox, maybe, but in those days the pox was VD.

    • I’ll admit it’s been a while since I wrote that book, but I don’t recall anyone, Victorian or otherwise, saying anything about smallpox, but I’ve slept a lot since then and I could have used the word pox. If I did, I hope it was the only grand error I made. Thanks for pointing this out, though.

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