Women's Fashion in Buffalo Grove
Lots of Dresses
For the women living in Buffalo Grove in the late 19th century and into the 20th century, dresses were the fashion. No matter what you were doing, you were wearing a dress. If you were working on the farm, attending church, going shopping, or at your own wedding, you were wearing some type of dress.
The dresses varied in style and color depending on the event, but many dresses were worn for multiple things, since it was more practical and cheaper in the long term. Common dress colors were black and brown, and most dresses were made of cotton.
If you look closely in the tintype photograph above from about 1860, the women are wearing black dresses with some detailing. They probably wore a nicer dress since they were getting their picture taken!
For much of Buffalo Grove's history, there were less than 100 residents that lived there. That meant that everyone in the family worked on the farm. Women and children would help with the gardens, chickens, and milking all the cows. Women would also be sewing clothing and making food during the day. Despite a lot of manual labor, dresses were the style.
Take a close look at the photo on the left. In the background you will see Caroline Raupp [br. Wagner] feeding chickens on the farm. What is she wearing? A white cotton dress! Below are two other photos that also show women helping with the farming in Buffalo Grove, all while wearing dresses.
You might be thinking that weddings were a time when the women of Buffalo Grove got to wear something a little different. Well, although wedding dresses were a lot fancier than a day-to-day dress, they often didn't vary much from a dress they might wear at another special occasion. That is because they often did exactly that - wear their wedding dress at another special occasion. It wasn't until around the 1920s that we see many women in Buffalo Grove wearing white wedding dresses specifically for their wedding day. The above photo of Anna Schmidt on her wedding day in 1906 in a white dress was not common at the time.
Instead of white dresses, black or dark colored dresses were common for women in Buffalo Grove and most places around rural America in the late 1800s. You had a dress made or wore a dress you already had for your wedding, with the intention that it would be worn more than once. Ornate dresses were expensive. It was more practical to wear a dress in a darker color incase it got dirty or stained, and was cheaper in the long run.
Take a look below at some of the black wedding dresses, and other fancier black dresses worn for special occasions (like getting your picture taken).
Featured on the left is a silk taffeta jacket and skirt. This outfit dates to about 1910 and was worn for formal events. It is similar to dresses that would have been worn for the weddings pictured above!
Taffeta is a smooth woven fabric, usually made from silk. This jacket and skirt almost shine up close! The jacket has lace on the wrists and on the front upper collar. There are two buttons that tie to close the front. On both the jacket and skirt are corded designs.
While black was in style for Buffalo Grove women into the early 1900s, white did start to become popular and is much more common in the 1920s and 1930s. White wedding dresses became popular all over Europe and America a little while after Queen Victoria wore a white wedding dress in 1840 when she married Prince Albert. (Even Queen Victoria repurposed her wedding dress!)
After photography became more popular and less expensive, wedding dress styles were being circulated more widely. It didn't take long for the women of Buffalo Grove to catch on.
Pictured on the left are Clara and Mildred Weidner with their husbands, C. 1922. By the 1920s, white wedding dresses were in style in Buffalo Grove.
Pictured below is Caroline Nickol on her wedding day in 1927, and her wedding dress that is in the Raupp Museum collection today.