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Bellevue House National Historic Site of Canada

A Guide to the Gardens

Gardeners' Clothes

Male gardener in period costume Male gardener in period costume
©Parks Canada / Brian Morin

The gardeners wear costumes typical of working people in the 1840s. The man's broad-brimmed hat is cool and shady against the summer sun. Warmth is provided by the vest, which is often very decorative. The thick cotton trousers are durable but can be very warm in the summer. They are supported by a pair of leather suspenders.

The boots are very comfortable- the all-leather construction quickly moulding to the shape of the foot. Hobnails stud the soles to prevent the leather from wearing too quickly. Finally, the scarf protects the neck and absorbs excess moisture.

The woman's wide brimmed sun bonnet completely hides the face when seen from the side. The bonnet has a large curtain or bavelot across the back to protect the wearer from the sun. Sometimes a day cap was worn under the bonnet in an attempt to keep the hair clean and in place.


Female gardener in period costume
Female gardener in period costume
©Parks Canada / Brian Morin

Often a neckerchief or scarf was worn about the neck to help keep the dress clean and protect the wearer from the sun. A sun tan was very unfashionable in the nineteenth century.

The dress followed the typical silhouette of the 1840's. Trimmings were minimal and althougth work dresses were made of cotton , they were still tedious to wash.

An apron would be worn by women in the garden. The apron could be tucked over the waistband at front to form a large pocket to hold gathered produce. It was also usual for women to pin up the hem of their work dress under an apron to protect the dress from soil.

When the hem of the skirt was pinned up, the dress was kept cleaner, while the apron and petticoat bore the brunt of the soil. It was far faster and easier to wash a petticoat than to wash a dress made of yards and yards of fabric. Quilted petticoats were often worn in inclement weather.

Sturdy boots would have been worn by lady gardeners. Like most footwear of the 1840s, the boots would have square toes and straight lasts; that is, they were not shaped for a left or right foot.