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Some Klondike Clothing

It is just as well to disabuse peoples minds right here and now upon the subject of the dressing of the human animal on the Klondike.  A great deal of the prevalent misinformation out in the states and provinces regarding what we wear, is due in a large measure to the miners themselves.

A Klondiker who finds himself invited to sit in with a winter group for a photograph considers it quite the proper thing to borrow a lot of fur clothing for the purpose - garments that he never wore in the country in a residence of years.  We have seen ladies getting ready for an outdoor group and deliberately pinning up the long skirts which they have worn in Dawson all winter with comfort.  The result is, the mail will carry out pictures which will be seen by hundreds of people, some of whom will eventually find themselves in Dawson with thick fur coats, or short skirts according to the sex.

Let us set it down at once for the guidance of strangers, that people in Dawson dress very much like people elsewhere, with the exception perhaps of cap, mittens and footwear.  Any old veteran will tell you that it is suicidal to wear too much clothing.  Around town, however, and in driving horses a long fur coat is sometimes tolerated, but there are plenty of Seattlites of means who wintered in Dawson in the same overcoat, ordinary coat and vest and shirts they worse on the streets of Seattle in previous winters.  However, it is wise to adopt heavier underwear than the common variety.

Remember that the face, hands and feet must be petted and watched like helpless children, but the body rarely suffers.  Travelers on the creeks or workers in the open air, whether men or women, wear parkies, a loose garment of bed ticking or denim, without seam or opening, and slipped on over the head.  A capacious hood, faced with fur, is provided, on the parkie to slip over the head and cap in very clod weather, or if the wind should start to blow.  The hood stands well out in font of the face as a wind break, and even without the puckering string with which it is provided the fur trimming will keep out the wind and provide comfort for the wearer.  The parkie is the garment par excellence for "mushing" or traveling, undoubtedly.  The "musher" generally strips down to his shirt, dons the parkie and carries his coat on the sled.  The movement of the body is unconfined, and, as the parkie is long enough to meet the German socks below the knees, the wearer is indifferent to cold winds as in the shelter of a tent.

Ladies' parkies are sometimes made of light skins, such  as the Alaska squirrel, and thus cater to appearance as well as utility.  A divided garment of hood and jacket is also often seen in town, and does very well though the parkie is preferable.  Remember, in cold weather there is virtue in having the hood stand out well in front of the face.

Mittens for both sexes are mostly of fur, of the gauntlet variety, and also lined inside with fur or soft wool.  The palm of the mitten should not be as heavy as the back to avoid perspiration.  Caps are worn, which, if needed, provide a flap to cover chin, neck, ears and sometimes the nose.  The flaps for the chin should meet that important gastronomical appendage underneath as it is very sensitive to frost and the jowl is often the first thing to freeze.  The chin pieces should also come well forward over the cheeks for as many faces get nipped there as at any other point.

Foot wear usually consists for both sexes, of woolen socks, German socks and moccasins.  Some variations are allowed to individual taste in the use of insoles and sheepskin inside moccasins.  A foot covering rapidly growing into public favor is a felt shoe - entirely of felt, but the elastic sides which clasp the ankles and keep out the light dry snow.  The merit of the shoes is stoutly maintained by all who wear them, which they generally continue to do throughout the season.

The absence of any heel in a moccasin is a subject for rhapsody by many of the thoughtless ones, many favoring it as nearer a state of nature.  They argue that the inch heel of leather shoes causes a concussion on the setting down of the foot which communicated to the spine and thence to the occiput with injurious results.  A ten mile walk on an ice trail convinces the moccasin wearer of the error in the conclusions of these wise ones, for until one gets accustomed to the absence of the heel, the shock on the neck is almost unbearable.

It is doubtful if frozen feet ever occur until they get wet.  An extreme cold temperature will not only make the ice of the rivers and creeks extremely brittle, but will make it shrink, causing it to crack and let the confined waters leak through and spread underneath the snow covering the surface.  Most travelers carry extra socks and moccasins, and immediately on stepping into water, proceed to dry ground and make a quick change of footwear.  Unless this is done there is usually extreme danger of freezing.  The direst results happen to pedestrians who break bodily through the ice and get their clothing wet unless a handy cabin is quickly discovered.

A number of ladies who reached Dawson in 1897 and 1898 found themselves in very much of a predicament.  Following the advice of newspaper correspondents they had fitted themselves out very nicely with knee high dresses and neat half-boots in red or black.  On the trail they patted themselves on the back for their sageness in procuring the costumes for they were undoubtedly a great convenience.  But imagine their chagrin upon making for the first time a tour of the populous streets of Dawson, to find themselves the only ladies, out of many others, wearing short skirts.  There being no bicycles in Dawson, the sight of short skirts is much rarer than even upon the streets of Seattle or Chicago.  The writer knows several ladies who had never even given the conventional bicycle abbreviated skirts the sanction of their approval, and yet who suddenly found themselves the observed of all the observed from the awful brevity of their garments.  It is needless to say that, even at Dawson prices, the ladies proceeded at once to lay in a stock of ordinary wear.

Source: The Klondike Nugget, November 1, 1899.



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