Friday, October 4, 2013

Style Inspiration: Dale Evans Queen of the West

Dale Evans: Queen of the West circa 1950s.
I have always loved all things western. My maternal grandfather was born in 1907 and his family lived and worked on a cattle ranch. He lived a life like a movie. At five years old his own mother and father sent him to live in the bunkhouse with all the cowboys. I don't know why they would do this and I never knew my great-grandmother, but from all accounts she was not the most loving person. However, he said there was an old man who took care of him and taught him all about working with cattle. He even used to tell a story of when the great flu pandemic of 1918 hit, he was the only one who was well enough to go out and look after the cattle. So, at eleven years old, he rode out by himself in the snow, but passed out from the flu. He said his horse just took him right back home.
On their tv show in the fifties, which was obviously aimed towards children, she often wore this outfit. Even though it's cliche for western wear, I can't help but want to pair a circle skirt with boots now. Do you think I can pull it off? Hmm...
My dad and mom grew up watching cowboy movies, and my father wore boots, western shirts, and a cowboy hat when I was a kid. He worked as a musician, and I was sure at the time that he was a real singing cowboy. He is also of Native American descent (yeah, I know it doesn't show at all in me and my paleness and blonde hair). They both passed their love of western culture and cowboys on to me. My dad still loves to watch Gene Autry and Roy Rogers movies, and had half of his basement converted to look like a log cabin to display his collection of western memorabilia. He even has a large collection of "cowboy" guitars.

Ok, nothing supports her Queen of the West status more to me than this outfit, I only wish we could see her shoes more.  Gorgeous fur wrap? Check. Full skirt with crinoline? Check. Adorable tiny cowboy hat? Check. (By the way, isn't her hat way cuter than most cowboy hats for women available today?) Cowhide purse? Check. Oh my, Mrs. Rogers, oh my. 
Now I get to enjoy Roy Rogers movies with my own kids, and they love them, especially the Roy Rogers Show. I have to say that I also love watching them for the outfits Dale Evans wears. She goes from cowgirl cool, riding her horse Buttermilk at full speed pursuing the bad guys with her gun holstered on her hip, to cute and gorgeous aprons (she ran a restaurant on the show) and separates all with a decidedly fashionable fifties full skirt silhouette. I love that her wardrobe was feminine and practical with hints of western wear without always being over the top.

Even in casual/regular clothes, she looks so pretty. I would also love to find a pattern to make a sweater like this. Does anyone know of one, preferably free or cheap that looks similar? 
For the past two years my daughter has wanted to have a cowgirl theme for her birthdays. We don't have huge production parties, but a cowgirl theme for the cake, plates, and cups, and of course she dresses for the occasion, lol. She's also obsessed with having her own horse some day, and loves to play with toy horse sets. A great resource for buying kids toys with ranch sets for boys and girls that are very affordable is Tractor Supply Company (no I'm in no way affiliated with them, but would welcome free stuff from them anytime).
A perfect outfit! I love a thick waist band on a high waisted skirt, and this combined with a peasant top, chunky necklace and hair flower is perfection in understated and tasteful simplicity. 
My son also loves to play cowboy, and when at a family reunion for my mother in law's family this summer, found a cowboy hat, put it on, and told everyone he was Roy Rogers. The Roy Rogers show is a great show for little boys. They love the adventure, the violence is to a bare minimum, and there's always a lesson taught by Roy and Dale.

If you have your own comic book named after  you, then you can pretty much label yourself queen, too. A simple plaid shirt tucked in a high waisted skirt always says western, but isn't so blatant, especially if it's worn without boots. 
I do wear cowboy boots with skirts in the colder season, and actually should be getting some use out of them soon, but I think it requires a couple of things. Your boots must be really comfortable. So go to a large western store and try lots on, and buy a good pair, yes, I spent a lot on mine, but they're worth it. You also have to where them with confidence, as well. You WILL NOT look like everyone else if you're wearing cowboy boots, and you have to be okay with that. Add to the mix decidedly vintage pieces and you'll look even more different, but it can look amazing, so try boots with lots of outfits. 

If I ever have to work on a ranch, I would like to dress like this. I love that it's plain and simple, practical yet feminine. 
I am NOT a rhinestone kind of cowgirl. I do not wear a lot of jewelry or sparkly things ever. So, if I wear western it's more likely to be kitschy western than sequins and rhinestones. My boots are plain deerskin, and one neutral color. I don't go in for most modern western wear, and find it to be more than a little tacky and sometimes downright ugly and dare I say sleazy (a cowgirl doesn't mean a bikini with hat and boots).

This is Roy and Dale with four of their six children in the late fifties. Aren't they an adorable family? Their story of loss and adoption are truly inspirational, and Dale wrote a book about their daughter who died called Angel Unaware. They were amazing people on and off screen. 
And don't they make the cutest couple ever?
The sleeves and floppy bow at the neck are awesome, but the horseshoe pattern makes this top amazing for me. 
I had always wondered what colors they were wearing since most pictures of them are in black and white. What vibrant hues black and white photography and movies must be hiding!

I love everything about Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and I think she epitomized class, glamour, beauty, and everything lovely about being a cowgirl. Long live the Queen of the West!

What is your western inspiration?


  1. great post. thanks for sharing! i bought a book about 'cowboy / western'-culture some weeks ago ... i have to check if she is in there.

  2. Thank you! I think sometimes they're seen as simply a kids thing, but I'm really enjoying rediscovering Them withmy kids. And how cool is it that they dd their own stunts!

  3. Dale ranks really high up there on my list of vintage western wear inspirations, too - as do photos depicted women at, or who were a part of, yesteryear Calgary Stampedes. I also love seeing real world cowgirls and farm girls from the 40s and 50s - their way with denim and plaid never ceases to inspire me. Here in B.C., there isn't the same appreciation, by and large, for all things western related that there is in Alberta, so while there, I made sure to let my inner cowgirl out and sported western inspired looks on two days. It was so much fun and something I hope to do on future trips to Alberta, too.

    ♥ Jessica

  4. There's not a lot of western culture appreciation here, either. If you go west to Nashville, there's a lot of what I call kind of a trashy cowgirl look (super tan, thin blonde wearing super short cut off jeans and boots), but then I suppose that has more to do with girls trying to "make it" in the country music business (as someone who's worked a little in that industry I can tell you that how you look and what you're willing to do for a career is way too common for those who "make it"). If you travel to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, etc, then you find people who actually still work on cattle ranches, so it's more jeans and plaid still. I suppose Dale Evans is more representative of a dream of western culture, but if it's only a dream, then to somewhat quote Puddleglum of Narnia, Our dream world can beat your real world any day. I'd love to see Alberta someday. I've only ever been barely into Canada, and went to Niagara Falls twice, which I enjoyed. Y'all do need sweet tea and biscuits and gravy though ;)

  5. Agree with more wearing of Western feminine clothes is needed by cowgirls but some do look very cute and sassy wearing cowboy duds. I have a picture of Dale wearing her tailored version of Roy's sleek, fancy , masculine duds. Dale looks sexy wearing Roy's type pants tucked into Roy's style boots ! Jane Russell dressed in cowboy drag in " Son of Paleface " ; pistol whips Roy but fails to strip then wear Roy's fancy duds; Jane would have looked super " hot " being a naughty girl wearing the " King of the Cowboys " sexy , masculine cowboy outfit !

    1. I still love her in her skirts and boots best, lol. And I love even more the person she was in real life. The lives of Roy and Dale until they died were truly inspirational. I definitely don't like the modern cheap and trashy look of country music and cowgirls.