Reality and Romance of Missouri’s Western Dress (2012)

Western dress includes design details that originated in the West or were transported there for trade among its inhabitants. Hispanic and Southwest Native influences such as bright, woven textiles, silver buttons, and conchos, as well as fringed leather garments, were adopted by frontiersmen like Daniel Boone, one of Missouri’s own. Fur traders based in St. Louis carried mass-manufactured beads, silver ornaments, and fabrics to forts along the Missouri River, influencing clothing worn by the Native Americans living there. Cowboys, whose occupation, along with some forms of dress that originated in Spain, have had the greatest influence on western design. Their clothing was functional but carried features to please their desire for cowboy style.

As apparel technology advanced, more fanciful elements such as metal studs, painted leather, decorative stitching and metallic trim appeared on play clothes, dress-up clothing and evening wear, characteristics many associate as “western” despite their decorative, non-functional purposes. Collection artifacts displayed in this exhibition were researched and installed by Textile and Apparel Management students in honor of Dr. Laurel Wilson, former curator of the MHCTC who retired in 2012 after a life-long career committed to the field of historic dress. An additional collaborative exhibit with Women’s and Gender Studies titled “Woman in a Man’s Western World” was installed in Ellis Library in the spring. Click on the link below to watch Dr. Wilson’s 2012 presentation “How Western Dress Became Western” or browse the exhibit catalog.

Laurel Wilson Installs Exhibition

Click images to learn more. Historical and donor information will appear.

Silk American Royal Evening Gown by House of Bianchi; c. 1963; Gift of Hunter-Braguglia

American Royal Gown Back

Leather Jacket and Skirt; c. 1976; Loan of Stephens College

Leather Jacket and Skirt Back

Men’s Western Ensemble with Leather Chinks; c. 1930s and 70s; Gifts of Marshall

Girl’s Felted Wool Cowgirl Ensemble; c. 1950s; Gift of Arnold

Boys Western Ensemble with Sheepskin Vest; c. 1960s; Gifts of Walker and Wilson

Boy's Ensemble Back

Western Style Ensemble with Riding Pants; c. 1948; Gifts of Barnes and McCleary

Western Shirt and Felt Hat; c. 1955; Gifts of Marshall

Men's Western Ensemble; Late 1970s; Gift of Marshall, Collection Purchase

Navajo-Inspired Dress with Metallic Trim; c. 1950; Gift of Finke

Women's Leather Boots; c. 1968; Gift of Rogers

Leather Roper Boots by Acme; c. 1960s; Gift of Marshall

Women's Leather Boots by Hyer; c. 1963; Gift of Hunter-Braguglia

Leather Roper Boots by Acme; c. 1958; Gift of Marshall

September 2012 Exhibit Installation with Dr. Laurel Wilson and Textile and Apparel Management Graduate Students

TAM Graduate Students Install Exhibit

Laurel Wilson Installs Exhibition

Laurel Wilson and TAM Graduate Student Install Exhibit