Just what was the well-dressed woman wearing in Tucson in 1902? If the fashion writers of the day had their say, it would be Japanese dressing gowns suitable for the family breakfast table.
For going out, cutaway coats were coming into vogue, although bolero jackets were very popular.
From the Arizona Daily Star, June 10, 1902:
Favorite Shape the Empire — Japanese Robes.
Pretty dressing gowns that may be worn at the family breakfast table are made of soft washing cashmere, lined with washing silk. The cashmere may be plain or flowered, but the lining should always be plain white or of some pale color which will not change color when washed. Instead of silk, thin cotton sateen may be used for lining if economy has to be studied. The favorite shape is still the empire, with its fullness gathered into a square yoke of torchon lace, lined like the gown itself. The hem of the gown may also be covered by an insertion of the same torchon lace. The sleeves are in bishop shape, the wristbands being of torchon lace and also frilled with the same lace. Red, white, cream and pale blue are the usual colors for the confortable and even necessary morning wraps.
Panne also makes handsome dressing gowns, almost handsome enough for tea gowns. The yoke and other trimmings may be of Irish lace or colored embroidery, as you prefer. Both are equally elegant, and both wash equally well.
Japanese dressing gowns, however, are the greatest "cry" just now. If made entirely of Japanese embroidery, however, they are too expensive for many purposes. But the gown itself may be made of some pretty, pale colored cashmere or silk, with the neck, pockets and sleeve bands of Japanese embroidery.
The ladies' tailor and the fashionable modiste are busy with spring gowns, and these are of the lightest coloring. Strappings are still in flavor, but narrow braid and fine silk cord are used with cloth strappings, which are wider than formerly, and cut or stenciled cloth arranged over velvet or silk of a contrasting color is very modish.
Cutaway coats with medium basques are shown, but the tailor believes that it will be difficult to introduce anything to check the career of the bolero, which seems as popular as ever. The Louis coats are fashionable and are so smart and chic that they are certain to be favored for spring wear.
A few ruffles are worn at weddings and smart at homes, and these are of silk, generally lace or taffeta, and have chenille ruchings or black velvet petals or, in some cases, frayed bias edges, which are really pretty when the ruffle is full.
It is a relief to know that cotton sateen could be substituted for silk if economy was necessary. Torchon lace was known to be stronger and more economical for the middle class fashionista than others.
This information on fashion for women came from such cities as Paris and, possibly, New York. It may have been difficult for women in the "Wild West" to keep up with the latest look. It would be expensive.
While many of the items were meant to be washable, it is supposed that they were meant to be washed by servants. And they would certainly require washing after a women spent any time near the dusty streets of Tucson.
From the same newspaper:
WHAT WOMEN ARE WEARING
Carriage Wraps — Dresden Silk Blouses.
Wraps for carriage and demitoilet wear are charming in white or pale colored cloth and are in sack coat form, with wide sleeves. Soft satin, much trimmed with chiffon and lace, is the up to date coat for evening wear, and all the newest models have openings at the sides to permit the skirt to be raised.
The new blouses are simply charming, and those for spring wear are in foulard, taffeta and silk and wool crepe. A delicate pastel blue taffeta had inlets of pompadour ribbon instead of the usual lace and a yoke of tucked white lisse powdered with little grelots of black lace. A demitoilet blouse of Dresden patterned silk on a white ground had pale blue strappings, with vest and undersleeves of cream lace striped with the blue de ciel straps.
Fringe reappears on some of the Paris models, and one lovely gown in black and white had an underflounce of plisse crepe de chine in white, the black upper skirt having heart shaped scallops.
Some definitions for the no-so-fashion-conscious among us: A basque is either a jacket with a short skirt attached or the bodice of a lady's dress with a short skirt. A bolero is a short jacket that doesn't quite reach the waist and often is worn open without buttons or fasteners. Foulard is a light-weight fabric often of cotton or silk.