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Costume: Home-made and traditional styles were steadily overtaken by factory produced alternatives.

Woman collecting water

The costume of country women lagged behind that of town dwellers until the middle of the nineteenth century when simplified versions of more fashionable clothes were increasingly adopted. For the poor, new clothes were often hand-made at home with cloth bought from both local shops and travelling salesmen. A large trade in second hand, and even third and fourth hand, clothes existed during this period. The wives and daughters of prosperous farmers however, sought as fashionable clothes as they could find. From the turn of the twentieth century the distinction between rural and town costume had virtually disappeared and country women dressed to suit their personal taste and what their pockets could afford. The country woman pictured is wearing a waist apron and a sun bonnet. Such bonnets were particularly popular between 1840 and 1914.

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The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, UK.
Email: merl@reading.ac.uk Telephone: 0118 378 8660