December of 1903 was
the ninth coldest December in Chicago's history.
When people dressed for that day's
outing to the city, it was four degrees below zero.
They had to travel by train and/or carriage to get
to downtown Chicago. Once there, many then had to
walk one to two blocks from the train station to the
theater. Since they were going downtown and to the
theater, fashion would have been a consideration,
but warmth probably took precedence.
1903 there were fur muffs and scarves atop outer
coats and/or suits, atop dresses, atop petticoats,
atop corsets and stockings, and for some, atop union
suits. One report estimates the average lady wore an
amazing thirty-seven pounds of clothing.
There is no way to know how many Iroquois matinee
attendees checked their outerwear but, based on
witness testimony and the
pile of garments collected after the fire, it is safe to say that
for many, escape was made more difficult by a
reduction in agility caused by ankle-length
garments, extra weight and
bulkiness. In their struggle to survive,
audience members left behind and shed hats, coats,
muffs, even shoes.