Wild West Character Costume Ideas
Annie Oakley – Annie Oakley was a sharpshooter discovered by ‘Buffalo Bill’ when his Wild West Show stopped at New Orleans on its 1885 tour. Her story was dramatised in ‘Annie Get Your Gun’, the stage-show which brought Ethel Merman to fame. Contemporary pictures show her with a wide-brim hat, fringed buckskin-style outfit, long skirt and hunting rifle.
Calamity Jane – Martha Jane Canary (or Cannary) who lived from 1852 – 1903 was a frontierswoman and professional scout. Nicknamed ‘Calamity Jane’, she was a hard-drinking woman, who wore men’s clothing, used bawdy language, and was handy with a gun. She dressed exactly as a cowboy would and contemporary portraits show her in a buckskin two-piece outfit, with traditional hat. Her portrayal by Doris Day in the 1953 film musical featured a similar outfit, with fringing and cavalry-style kepi headgear.
Davy Crockett – One of the early pioneers (and at one stage possibly the best known) would have been Davy Crockett (‘King of the Wild Frontier’). He was the subject of a popular Disney TV series of the 1950s/60s and was famed for his ‘coonskin’ hat. He lived from 1786 to 1836 and died fighting on behalf of Texas, at the battle of the Alamo.
Doctor - ‘Doc’ Holliday, one of the participants in the gunfight at the OK Corral possibly springs to mind here. Doctors on the Frontier had very little medicine and often had to improvise cures. Some took up secondary careers – notably as undertakers!
Gambler – Gambling was a popular pastime in the West. Professionals who had honed their skills on the river-boats of the Mississippi and elsewhere followed the prospectors on the Gold Rush to the West to help in the ‘redistribution of income’. There are several outfits on the market but the basic outfit might consist of fancy waistcoat, frilled shirt, frock-coat or jacket over pin-stripe (or similar) trousers.
Preacher – The preacher seen in most westerns has a standardised look – a plain black suit (or long black coat) with a round, flat-brim hat, plus, of course, a ‘dog-collar’. A pair of wire-rimmed specs (or pince-nez) may also help the impression.
Prospector – In the California Gold Rush of 1849 a range of nationalities were involved in the ‘stampede’. The typical prospector had a somewhat dishevelled image – battered hat (often used as a makeshift gold pan or drinking vessel), shirt, trousers (somewhat ragged), worn boots, plus prospecting equipment such as rock hammers, spades, etc.
Southern Belles – The most recognizable Southern Belle is probably the fictional figure of Scarlett O’Hara from Margaret Mitchell’s book ‘Gone with the Wind’, which was turned into a film in 1939. Wear a Victorian style day or walking dress. This can be enhanced with the use of petticoats or crinoline (frame) underneath.
Victorian style lady costumes – Women in the Wild West still wanted to look glamorous and the fashion of the time would have been for dresses in the Victorian fashion.
Wild West Showman – Probably one of the most influential showmen of the Old West was Buffalo Bill (real name William Frederick Cody). His cowboy themed travelling Wild West show which toured Britain, Europe and America featured the legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley. His costume would have been based on a buckskin jacket and trousers.