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
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
Source: The Klondike Nugget,
November 1, 1899.