Give Thanks for Goretex: The Rain Gear of Yore


Are your feet wet? Perhaps you need some "rainy-day shoes from China-land."

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What is there even to say about this gem from The Day Book, a Chicago-based paper, published on February 23, 1915? Better to just provide the text here in full (in case you find it difficult to make out in the image above):

There's no "made in America" lavel on the new rainy day shoes which recently made their appearance in New York, but a daring young woman who introduced the style says they are better than galoshes and lots prettier.

The shoes which attracted so much attention when a young woman noted for her extreme taste in dress pattered for Fifth av. with them recently, are everyday where for Chinese women. They are gaudy little things, but they surely do keep the feet dry.

No rain gear in my travels through the Library of Congress's wonderful "Chronicling America" collection of old newspapers can top those rainy day shoes, but a few have their own charms to recommend them. 

For example, perhaps you have had trouble with your clothing in windy weather, showing "its cheapness mercilessly in a good March gale." Here, the Saint Paul Globe of February 5, 1899, recommends skirts that "are weighted around the foot and others are much stiffened." With the right rainy-day dress, a woman in New York could be counted among an elite society, such as "The Rainy Daisies," whose members wore their skirts fashionably and smartly short, thus enabling them to venture out even on Broadway, where windy canyons rendered umbrellas unworkable.


Similarly, a lady should be mindful of her top coat in ill weather. As readers of the Los Angeles Herald's Sunday Supplement were advised on January 13, 1907, "That day has passed when 'any old thing' was thought good enough to parade in stormy weather." Now a lady should find herself something well-tailored, made of a cloth that "will not be disfigured by rain spots."


Men too could find themselves more modern rain attire. An advertisement in the Novmeber 5, 1905 Bisbee Daily Review, an Arizona paper, urged men "to get one if you would be immune from chill and discomfort during the fall and winter months." 


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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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