How the West Was Worn: Frontier-Inspired Fashion

Cowboys and Indians are forever linked, even in fashion.

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Special Issue
WWD Accessory issue 02/08/2010

There’s a scene in the 1950 musical Annie Get Your Gun in which star Betty Hutton, dolled up in a beaded turquoise tunic with splays of fringe flying around, professes her rapport for the Sioux. Though not exactly P.C., Hutton looks plenty engaging as she dances and sings, “I’ll have totem poles, tomahawk, small papoose.…I’m an Indian, too!”—supported by a chorus done up in Cher-tastic headdresses. Of course, Hutton, who plays sharpshooter Annie Oakley, spends the greater part of the film in cowgirl gear—which makes her as good a mascot as any for two spring trends: cowboys and Indians.

This story first appeared in the February 8, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.


The latter powwowed its way through the collections on runways as diverse as Gucci and Tory Burch. Off the runway, Hollywood starlets ranging from Lindsay Lohan to Ashley Olsen are turning up all over Tinseltown in their Minnetonka suede boots and tribal headwear, while accessories lines such as Fiona Paxton and Noir Jewelry created colorful collections of beaded baubles inspired by Native American culture.


Pamela Love, meanwhile, fell for the Native American way of life after road-tripping through Arizona and New Mexico. She is working with the Zuni tribe to create a line of stone inlay jewelry.


“The people out there are so connected to the land around them—it’s very inspiring,” says Love. “I love that idea of taking something rugged and Southwestern and dressing it up, making it feel special.”


Meanwhile, the battle cry for Western wear of the cowboy sort has been equally intense. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana led the fashion pack with their Deadwood-esque romp for D&G—studded boots, bandanas and eyelet bloomers—set against a mock-desert catwalk. Ralph Lauren worked a few Western accessories into his Thirties Depression motifs, while Anna Sui, Sigerson Morrison, See by Chloé and Jill Stuart served up their own renditions of the rodeo boots. This March, moreover, the spotlight on country-style footwear heads to a bookstore near you with the recently reissued Cowboy Boots: The Art & Soul book, by Universe Publishing. (Fun fact to be gleaned: There are 372 steps to making a cowboy boot.)


And the trend has no signs of slowing down, either. Aside from the fact that the popularity of country stars such as Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift continues to rise, June will see the release of Jonah Hex, which weds the Wild West with supernatural sci-fi and features a tarty Megan Fox as a frontier prostitute. Like Hutton’s Oakley, Fox relates to both sides of the trend. Her character may be all Western hussy, but Fox herself is part Native American.

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