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Fashions Wear Out the History Books

During World War I women sacrificed their corsets; the steel supports were needed to build battleships. Clothes immediately became more comfortable, and corsets - - tight-fitting, abdomen-hugging pieces used to shape the waist and hips - - were never worn again. Just as history has changed the way we live, it has changed what we wear.

Costumes of the 1870s and 1880s were tight and restricted movement, reflecting a woman's place in society ; and, since their wardrobes were limited, much ornamentation was lavished on one gown.

Most pioneer women had at least one good Sunday dress.

Note: These period fashions are on display at the Bush House Museum, an 1878 Victorian mansion with original furnishings, gas lights, wallpaper, and 10 mantle fireplaces.

Bush House Museum,
600 Mission St. SE, Salem, OR 97302
Phone: 503-363-4714

Purple velvet dress with white lace
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Green dress with black trim
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Velvet dress
Velvet Dress
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There is only one male outfit - a wedding suit. men’s clothing had changed very little, even in the last 150 years.

Mens coat with tails
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Statesman Journal newspaper, March 1, 1991

Photography by Monica Mersinger of textile collection at Bush House Museum, 2002


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Trunk featuring unmentionables

Unmentionables from Bush House historic clothing collection
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Grey dress on seatee at Bush House

At the turn of the century, elaborate skirts were replaced by more simple forms. This gray dress and cape might have been worn to the opera.
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Evening cape
This beautiful fur trimmed cape made an evening special.
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Satin dress
Elegant dress of satin and laces
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Green dress
Green sitting dress
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