Rodeo busted Victorian modesty wide open.
Eschewing the bustle for the hustle, rodeo cowgirls donned long, wide-legged split skirts and modified bloomers (the latter was first adapted by trick rider and bulldogger Tillie Baldwin).
Even so, these bottoms were still more difficult to compete in than the trousers worn by men.
Then trick rider Vera McGinnis donned revamped flannel trousers for an event, some 13 years after she had discarded her cumbersome corset in 1912. Her bold move scandalized the world of rodeo but made her more flexible and, thereby, more competitive. “I like to wear them, so then I can kick up my heels as I like,” she said. Before long plenty of women were kicking up their heels in trousers and jodhpurs in rodeo arenas—and in the stands.
Many of the looks adopted by these Sweethearts of the Rodeo are enjoying a resurgence in popularity—the oversize hats and scarves, the beadwork and embroidery, and even the long, split riding skirts over tall boots with eye-popping detailing.
Cattle Kate, Patricia Wolf and Back at the Ranch Dick Stanley ran a Wild West show with Bud Atkinson in the early 1910s and 1920s that featured the likes of silent screen cowboy stars Hoot Gibson, Art Acord and Jack Hoxie … and cowgirl Agnes Stanley. Her fringed gauntlet gloves, adorned with a Texas Star and silver studs, are popularly worn today in both plain style (top, deerskin leather gauntlets by Cattle Kate for $56) and decorated (right, Black Desert Rose gauntlets with rhinestones by Patricia Wolf for $148). The Patricia Wolf gloves would look lovely paired with the calfskin cowboy boots with blue rose inlays (above) by Back at the Ranch that sell for $2,098.
Ariat The Python cotton shirt by Ariat features snap front, diamond-shaped snaps, a Western yoke and built-in greater arm mobility for freedom of movement; $41.95.
Baldwin Custom Hat & Boot Co. and Double H Custom Hat Co. Grosgrain brim and hat bands are another stylish option, such as those found on hats by Baldwin Custom Hat & Boot Co. (very top) and Double H Custom Hat Co. (above). Boss of the Oregon Trail hat by Baldwin is made of 100-percent beaver fur and features a 61⁄2-inch crown with a beige grosgrain brim binding and hat band, which is finished off with a brown harness leather cinch; $665. The 50-percent beaver fur blend hat by Double H Hats features a black grosgrain bound edge and matching ribbon and bow; $540. This hat is also available in 100-percent beaver for $790.
Double D Ranch Wear Beadwork and silver studs and conchos were the “bling” of the early rodeo cowgirl heyday. They decorated hatbands, yokes on shirts, buckskin vests, gloves and gauntlets, belts, buckles and spurs. Fancy embroidery, overlays and cutouts were also widely used, such as those featured on the vest worn by 1917 bronc riding champion Prairie Rose Henderson (inset) and the Flokati Vest made of suede with faux fur by Double D Ranch Wear; call your Double D retailer for pricing.
Jaxonbilt Hat Co. Whipstich laced brims are a popular way to add flourish to your hat these days, such as those found on hats by Jaxonbilt Hat Co. (above) and SunBody Hats (next picture). The Fancy Loops hat by Jaxonbilt also has a six-inch Gus crown crease with a kettle roll brim style and an optional beaded crown band; $385.
Lucchese Rodeo cowgirls often look stylish both on and off the arena. While traveling from rodeo to rodeo, their boots are the first sign of high fashion that grabs the attention of most folks. Many of the early-day cowgirls wore boots featuring designs that are similar to the hand painted and hand tooled floral designs on these 12-inch destroyed Pink Goat boots by Lucchese; $2,700.
SunBody Hats The Moab hat in Guatemalan standard palm by SunBody has a 51⁄2-inch Gus crease crown and a beaded hatband with horse hair tassels; $135.
Patricia Wolf Miss Rodeo Texas Celesta Harvey is our modern-day Vera McGinnis, all clad in Patricia Wolf apparel: Palm straw hat ($180), Buckaroo chinks pants ($650), Vaquero vest ($390), Flower Sack print blouse ($116) and tooled fringed gloves ($136).
Ranch and Royalty Red Western shirt by Ranch and Royalty is customized with white and brown leopard accents and stars on the front, back and collar, and cuffs decorated with rhinestone stars; $150.
Rockmount Ranch Wear Rockmount Ranch Wear’s Western shirts feature smile pockets with finely embroidered arrows and floral designs embroidered in Chenille on the front, back, collar and shotgun cuffs with piping. The women’s shirts are tailored with darts front and back. (Top) Purple Companion Rose embroidered two-tone shirt, $94; (left) black Floral embroidered shirt, $86; and (right) white Companion Vintage embroidered two-tone shirt, $88.
Sweethearts of the Rodeo These stylish rodeo cowgirls must be at the cusp of the changing fashions in the 1910s. Hazel Padgett (cowgirl #1), Vera McGinnis (#4) and an unknown cowgirl (#7) don jodhpurs, Dell Jones (#6) wears gaucho pants and Dorothy Morrell (#2), Dolly Mullins (#3) and Alice Braham (#5) wear wide-legged split riding skirts.
–Historical images True West Archives; Fashion images courtesy Manufacturers–
Scully The pewter alps buttons run the length of the Scully Riding Skirt and allow the skirt to convert from a full-length Gibson Skirt (top, in brown) to a split center Riding Skirt (left, in black, and right, in tan). The skirt is made of brushed twill cotton to give it a soft “sueded” hand; $72.50.
Covey of Quail The pioneering women in rodeo often made their own clothes to wear and to stand out in the arena. Rodeo cowgirls began wearing high-peaked hats with sombrero-sized brims, bright satin shirts with enormous neckerchiefs and high-topped, high-heeled boots embellished with elaborate stitching and artistic inlays and overlays on the shafts. In the full-page photo, Vera McGinnis wears all of these, plus a fringed vest as well as trousers like the ones she wore that shocked the rodeo world in the 1920s. Covey of Quail offers wild rags, including the multi pink abstract charmeuse silk scarf ($47), with a Sterling Silver slide ($65) shown in the inset.