How did Albertans dress for the cold 100 years ago? Layering like crazy

For as long as people have lived in Alberta, they've had to dress for the biting cold of winter.

Over 100 years ago, however, there were no down-filled parkas or top-of-the-line thermal boots — so what did settlers in the province don for winter drudgery?

We've dug up photos from the Glenbow Archives to show what Albertans wore to face the freezing cold.

Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary

"One thing [you'll see] is a lot of wool," said Meg Furler, a costume designer at Heritage Park who has studied anthropology and material culture.

"Your base layers — the layers closest to your body — would be all cotton or linen, sometimes wool … you're looking at adding a lot of layers to your body, because the more layers you add on that traps in that warm, warm air that your body is giving off."

On a typical day, a man or woman would wear around three base layers with their clothes on top of that, Furler said.

A man would start with breeches, wool stockings and a shirt.

Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary

For women, it would get more complicated, with stockings, a corset, corset cover, dresses and a petticoat.

"You could have a wool petticoat. Honestly, I would highly recommend that on a day like today," Furler said. "Having worn one, it's basically like having a wool blanket. It's very cozy and lovely."

Boots were made from leather, perhaps with a rubber sole, and maybe even oiled up to be made waterproof.

Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary

Fibbing about fur

Fur featured heavily in the 1900s Albertan wardrobe. Whether you were rich or poor, there were offerings at different price points.

"You could order a new fur coat through the Eaton's catalog and have that shipped to you," Furler said. "It's very accessible at different price points."

Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary

Much like in fashion today, people may have fibbed about the quality of the clothes or fur they wore. 

"You could have a lovely squirrel stole … but you probably wouldn't tell people that it was squirrels," Furler said.

"There's just nothing new in fashion. We look for different ways that we can make things look nicer and feel like we got a really good deal on them."

Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary

Scandalous zippers

Clothes were constructed to be held together by buttons, snaps, hooks and eyes or simple ties.

Metal zippers did exist at the time, but were prone to breaking, and were typically used in work clothing or for children's apparel.

Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary

"It was really considered indecent for a lady to have a zipper on her clothing, because then she could remove it too quickly," Furler said.

Tune in live to The Homestretch at 4:45 p.m. to hear more from Heritage Park costumer designer Meg Furler on Albertan winter fashion in the early 1900s.

Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, University of Calgary