I have tracked down several photos of women in the 1890′s to have a look at what they were wearing. Here’s what I found:
This is a photo of an unknown regular woman at work, churning butter near Long Branch, Ontario in 1893. Collared “shirtwaists” like the one this woman is wearing became common for working women and everyday use. Skirts often fell from the hips and had an A-line shape. This woman may have an apron of some sort over her skirt.
Here we have the family of the first premier of Alberta, Alexander Cameron Rutherford. It was taken December 17, 1898, and his wife, Mattie (Birkett) Rutherford is also in a collared, tailored shirt, this time with puffed sleeves and a fairly narrow A-line skirt. She also has short curled bangs, which were started to go out of fashion around this time. Her daughter Hazel is shown in another common type of sleeve – puffed or ruffled at the top and tight-fitting for the rest of the sleeve. As the wife of the premier, Mattie Rutherford would probably have been considered well-dressed but not ostentatious.
This is a photo of an Ojibwa woman from the Red River settlement in Manitoba in 1895. She is well-covered in a light shawl and a simple full-length skirt.
These Doukhobor women are winnowing grain in Saskatchewan in 1899. As an aside, the Doukhobors were persecuted in Russia for their pacifist and non-conformist views, and a large group of approximately 6,000 of them moved to Canada in 1899 with more following in subsequent years. Approximately half of the cost of their passage across the Atlantic was paid for by the author Leo Tolstoy. These ladies sport head coverings and full skirts.
These nurses are in uniforms with puffed sleeves and cinched waists at the General Hospital in Montreal in 1894.
A church picnic in North Vancouver for the First Presbyterian Church of Vancouver, in July 1891. Some great hat action in this photo. The ladies have collars, cinched waists, and narrow sleeves slightly puffed or frilled at the tops.
Dog Child, a North West Mounted Police scout, and his wife The Only Handsome Woman in a traditional outfit, in Gleichen, Alberta around 1890. They were members of the Niitsitapi/Blackfoot Nation.
Some women in more practical hats at the marché Montcalm in Quebec City around 1890.
Unknown woman churning butter – W. Braybrooke Bayley (1857-1939), in the public domain because its copyright has expired, available from Library and Archives Canada under reproduction number PA-126654 and MIKAN ID number 3364597
Rutherford family – photographer unknown, in the public domain because its copyright has expired, this copy accessed through Wikimedia Commons and was scanned from the book “A Gentleman of Strathcona: Alexander Cameron Rutherford” by Douglas R. Babcock and originally obtained from the Provincial Archives of Alberta.
Ojibwa woman and child – Humphrey Lloyd Hime (1833-1903), in the public domain because its copyright has expired, available through Library and Archives Canada under MIKAN reference number 3192431
Doukhobor women – photographer unknown, in the public domain because its copyright has expired, available from Library and Archives Canada under reproduction number C-008891 and MIKAN ID number 3193407
Nurses at General Hospital, Montreal – Wm. Notman & Son, in the public domain because its copyright has expired, available through the McCord Museum under the access number II-105877
First Presbyterian Church of Vancouver picnic – photographer unknown, in the public domain because its copyright has expired, published in 1925 in the Vancouver Sunday Province newspaper.
Dog Child and The Only Handsome Woman – Trueman & Caple, in the public domain because its copyright has expired, available through Library and Archives Canada under reproduction number PA-195224 and MIKAN ID number 3559482
Women at the Montcalm market in Quebec City – photographer unknown, in the public domain because its copyright has expired, available though the McCord Museum unter the access number MP-1977.182.1