Bustles & Prairie Fires & Why We Wear Pants

Is this really only a hundred and twenty-five years???? We’ve come a long way, baby! 


The whole idea of puffy dresses and prairie life became a GREAT part of my intro to “Second Chance Christmas“, the second novella of “The Sewing Sisters’ Society” collection, and part of the overall Prairie Brides series…

Because claim shacks were small.

Folks didn’t always allow enough safe room around wood stoves and/or fireplaces.

Bustles made skirts wider.

In a world governed by mathematics and physics, A + B = C.

And C = skirts catching fire!

For practicality’s sake women in the west had to adjust their longing for European and Eastern fashion and slim down their skirts.

Tapered, not bustled….

Slim, not voluminous….

And then… shortened….

And then shortened some more….

And then…

Wait for it:

Skirts and pants…..

By the mid 20th Century a World War changed so much… Men went off to war.

So did women.

Women couldn’t wear skirts in all areas…. so they were issued trousers….

Women at home went to work manning the manufacturing processes…. and wore pants.


Today’s school teachers don’t look like this, do they? And yet… there’s something absolutely fetching about this look!

And a new shape was born from necessity, from self-reliance, from role reversal. And it’s never gone back, has it?

Here’s a great article about women and pants and how Calamity Jane set the Western tone for horse-ridin’ women:

“Women in Pants…”

When we look back and see how for millennia women wore dresses… That it would have been considered out-of-this-world in-your-face to dress down… 

Even into the 20th century…

Suffragists didn’t just fight for our long-awaited right to vote. They set a bar for an equality that we can never take lightly… but not at the expense of our respect, right?

I love getting dressed up. I love pretty dresses. But the other side of me is so totally down with blue-jean-casual… when I’m writing a story or running a power saw or cleaning a donkey pen or painting a house or room… or making jam to sell at our roadside stand.

So tell me, what’s your fashion fave and why? Is it how it makes you feel? Or how you like to be seen by others?  Or would you just love to go back, back, back and dress in those ladylike fashions once more?

No right or wrong answers here, and there’s a Kindle copy of my new full-length historical

“A Most Inconvenient Love for one lucky person today. Leave a comment below… 


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39 thoughts on “Bustles & Prairie Fires & Why We Wear Pants”

  1. I remember in college, wearing pants still wasn’t much of a thing. Walking to class or around town in knee length skirts when it is well below freezing was no fun. I did manage to get a case of frost bite on my legs one time. I certainly wear slacks, jeans, shorts to work around the house and yard. I do prefer to wear long skirts, however. It doesn’t have to be dressy, I just enjoying the freedom and comfort of them.
    Hope you are starting to thaw out. I was up along northern Lake Champlain 2 weeks ago and winter was still very much in control. Have a wonderful Spring.

    • Patricia, I like long dresses, too. But I do love my blue jeans. And anything scrubby to wear on the farm!

      The thaw has come but we’re expecting legions of cold rain this weekend, so it’s a perfect time for the guys to keep an eye on the NCAA March Madness tournament.

      We’ve got $5 on it!!! 🙂

      And yes, I’m about three hours west of Champlain and winter was still rugged two weeks back… but peepers are singing today and the sun was shining and there is hope in the air!

    • Oh, Jerri, that made me laugh. My Beth was like that when she was young, but she’s come around as a grown-up. 🙂 I had a struggle on my hands.

      But I hear you! Comfort isn’t a bad thing!

  2. Goid morning Ruth. Great article, WOW, We have come a long way, Baby!!
    My comfort wardrobe is also my dressed up wardrobe. Starched Jeans, a beautuful too, my belt and boots, it gives me my true personality and boosts my confidence. I do love to dress up every now and then and love a nice pair of pressed slacks and my dresses boots.
    Thanks for visiting and I want to wish you an Early Happy Easter.

    • Great post! Thank you for sharing! I love comfort and dress that way the majority of the time. On Sundays I always dress up.

    • Tonya, I want to see this outfit. I think I would love it!

      I love boots.

      Tall ones. Short ones. Ankles…

      And strappy shoes.

      Another favorite… 🙂

  3. Great Article! Good Morning!! I love to dress up occasionally but give me jeans and T-shirt mostly

    • Glenda, I think that will be the most common answer… unless one is working in a job that requires skirts or suits. And I do love a sharp-looking suit with stockings.

      Now how fun and old-fashioned is that????

  4. I have to dress in dress pants and nice clothes all week long for my job. I can’t wait for end of day to get home and put on my favorite blue jeans and sweatshirt/ T-shirt. The older I get the more comfortable I want to be. The thought of wearing all those layers of clothes women had to wear, honestly hid never make it !!

    • Oh, Rose…. I can understand that!

      And I expect they were used to it, right? It was the thing… and we all tend to fall into line.

      And you would scandalize your family if you broke protocol!!!!

      Those first shortened skirts…. scandalous!

      Now we need to talk about skin-tight legging pants someday… because they can be scandalous, for certain, Rose!!!

    • I know. You’re right, of course. But I still like to put on a pretty dress and go places… even just to church. And I still wear stockings because the world is not ready for these legs after six kids to be without some sort of cover. 🙂

  5. When its warm, I really like wearing dresses. Now only are they more comfortable, but they look nice. In the cooler seasons, I like leggings or stretchy jeans with a long top.

    • I am in love with my new stretch jeans. They’re the best. They fit at the waist and hip and that’s so unusual, right? I have no leggings, Janine… None! I am so out of step.

      But I love sundresses in summer. My fave!

      • I think leggings are a step up from sweat pants. So comfy. And, you’re right about stretch jeans. They do fit everywhere. Regular jeans never fit in the waist for me.

  6. I am in for comfort jeans, sweat pants, hoodies and such. I am not a dress up kind of gal and I get worse the older I get.

    • I think that’s okay, don’t you? I won’t call that “worse”… I’m just going to call it smart! The older we get, the wiser we become, dear Quilt Lady!

  7. Welcome Ruth. From the time I can remember, I have always loved to dress up. Skirts, lace, ribbons, the whole nine yards. Now as an adult, I still love to dress up, weather going to church or going to the store. I just feel so feminine. But there are times where I am more comfortable in my jeans or slacks. When I lived on the farm, it was jeans and boots unless we were going to school or into town, etc. Then it was more of a cowgirl dress up.

    • Lori, isn’t that such a good feeling? I love the occasional looking good moment, not to show off, but just because it does feel feminine. Although I walked into a local restaurant a few years ago to grab a pick-up order… and I’d come from a meeting or something and I was dressed nicely… and a sad and drinking woman followed me out the door and said “I used to strut like you, honey. Back when. Walkin’ in like you own the place…”

      That was an interesting moment. It taught me that maybe I walk proud when I know I look good. Gave me something to think about. That walking proud might not always be a good thing.


  8. I’m not into dressing up much, just for church on Sunday. I’m into comfort for the most part! I don’t subscribe to fashion trends at all! I just like what is comfortable but that doesn’t mean it has to be ugly either!!!

  9. I agree with you about the need for wearing pants for doing household or outdoor work, but the last few years I’ve found myself wanting to wear dresses more. I just haven’t figured out a way to keep my legs warm in the wintertime.

    • Linda, the longer skirts give us the option for Cuddle Duds or something similar… but it’s tough with shorter skirts. I do buy Vera Wang tights. They’re thicker than stockings and that’s a help. And they last forever. Something to consider….

  10. I’m definitely into comfort dressing at this stage of my life. In my 20’s & 30’s I was into everything, dresses, jumpsuits, shorts jeans, mini & maxi skirts and dresses that was what was so great about the early 70’s. Everything was fashionable.

    • They have the cutest jumpsuits out again now… They make me wish I was taller and leaner! Dagnabbit!


      Younger, too! 🙂

  11. I rarely dress up except for special occasions. I used to when I was young since women wore dresses everyday and suits. Now I wear jeans and shorts. I love sundresses in the heat.

    • I am totally with you about the past, the suits and dresses. They looked so stylish.

      Now folks are showing too much skin way too often, and that’s way too far for the pendulum to swing in my book.

      Sundresses rock!

  12. I think that life is too sloppy now. People go out and look dreadful. I dress up and feel better when I do.

    • Anne, what a good point. I do see some sloppy looks these days, as if the grunge thing never went away.

      And pajamas….

      Although I remember my mother’s generation going out in curlers. 🙂

      Kind of funny, right?

  13. When there is an event I love to dress up. Otherwise very casual. I do not follow fashion trends at all. Instead I wear what suits me.

    • Laini, clever woman… we should all do that. Some things folks call fashion are simply tawdry. And some are absolutely awful.

      Events aren’t as common in my life these days, but I did buy a really cute dress for the 2019 Christy Awards Gala this fall…. Because I saw it in a shop window last fall and decided right then and there that I’d be at the gala wearing that dress even if I don’t final. 🙂

      Sometimes a lady has to plan her own events, LOL!

  14. I love my jeans and boots they are comfortable and can still be dressed up. For me dresses are for church or a family party.

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