Fashions of the 1870s to 1890s: All About the Caboose

The Golden Spike Celebration was in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad in Truckee. The implications of what a transcontinental railroad brought to the community were significant- from transportation to resource availability to even fashion! Hence, the caboose of the celebration featured a fashion show of authentic clothing of the 1870s to 1890s. Cherie Oliver and her Yesteryear models presented examples of what people would wear as they pioneered to the west and as they traveled by train. Cherie’s colorful commentary was filled with incredibly in-depth analysis and knowledge on the fashions left the audience laughing and truly appreciating the craftmanship. Before the railroad, only calico and bonnets were common. The railroad brought in new patterns and fabrics, ornaments like buttons and lace, and technology such as sewing machines. One big takeaway is that “it is all about the walkaway” in Cherie’s words. In women’s fashion, the bustle overtook the hoop but both designs were intended for the walkaway! The closing remarks were that we should not look at these fashions as backward, but instead as forward! Every one of these trends was innovative and brave. They were novel and went against conventions of the time. We can all learn a lesson from this, whether it is taking a closer look at fashions of our time (e.g., fast fashion) and the personal choices we make in terms of fashion.

A group shot of all the models. Cherie Oliver is fourth on the left-hand side.