The American West has left an indelible mark on fashion trends on both sides of the Atlantic. Few periods are more distinct than the styles that emerged as civilization came across America and newly-established towns created an environment where ladies could once again aspire to dress as they had when they still lived in the East. Of course, as Hollywood was always fond of pointing out, there were ladies, and then there were “ladies” Women on the still-wild West seemed to fall into two categories, either the respectable wife and mother, or the “Shady Lady”. During the 1800’s any woman who did not live at home and confine herself to a domestic life was considered “shady” even if she was not a prostitute. Thus an actress, a lady who supported herself in a trade, the schoolmarm, and especially any independent single female, were all shady ladies.
In the Old West, your style of clothing was dictated by your status in society. Married women took that status from their husbands – ergo that ever-present goal of “marrying well”. If you were a society lady, you often wore silk and finer fabrics, and your clothing might come from France, or at least be made by a local seamstress who was adept at copying a design from the most recent ladies magazine. If you were a townswoman, your clothing might be a bit more practical – made up in cotton or wool. If you were a farm wife, your clothing was probably home-made of simple cotton goods. Still, all aspired to be fashionable.
The influence of Indian and Spanish culture also had an impact on fashion in the Old West, and both men and women often wore silver and turquoise jewelry. Clothing might also have fringes, or be embellished with beadwork. Notable examples would be the flamboyant styles presented by William F. Cody “Buffalo Bill”, and his contemporary, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, who made all of her own clothing.
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