How to Put a Costume Together
for Cowboy Action Shooting®
A big part of the fun of Cowboy Action Shooting ® is in dressing the part. In fact, even if you can't hit the broad side of a barn with your shotgun, you can still win prizes for your costume! The trick is to make it as authentic as you can. You will have to get rid of all the Velcro® and snaps--they weren't around before the turn of the century. The ring collar or collarless shirts that were worn back then are in vogue again now. You can get them at western wear shops ($$$$$), or Sears ($$), or at some of your local discount shops($). You can even "dehorn" a shirt with a collar, if you are careful. The SASS on-line handbook has plenty of information on this. Some of the SASS-affiliated shooting clubs also have on line newsletters which tell how to construct costume parts or how to convert modern clothing to be appropriate for SASS wear.
Many of the shops that carry these ring collar shirts also carry the special collars. If you can't find a collar in your size, or you just want to save a few bucks, click here for information on how to make your own collar.
Thrift shops and used clothing stores are good sources of costume parts. One overlooked source is the formal wear shop. Some formal wear shops sell used striped trousers, morning coats, cutaway coats and vests for very low prices. These haven't changed much in the last hundred years or so. The outfit I am wearing in this picture
came from Al's Formal Wear (trousers, ascot and coat), Ben Thompson's (shirt and vest), and The Hat People (hat). The boots, which are not shown in the photo are from Boot Town. The very convincing sunburn effect on my face came from being out in the sun for about 6 hours with no sunscreen!!
I purchased the vest and shirt at a very reasonable price at a shoot at Gunsmoke, Texas. Other shoots generally have people who sell everything from clothing to books and ammunition.
The list of merchants on the SASS web site also can help you out with costuming and other matters related to the sport.
Occasionally, your local costume shop will have a sale of old costumes. There are also some great old reprints of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Montgomery Ward's catalogs from the 1890's available from various sources. These will give you a better idea of what is and is not authentic.
The Time-Life series on the Old West has authentic photos of people in western clothing. Many of the blackpowder supply houses also have patterns and costume pieces available. Dixie Gun Works is one business that has lots of goodies.
Basically, the idea for this kind of clothing is simplicity. Work shirts haven't changed much in a hundred or so years. A pair of jeans (button fly only, please) or work pants (button fly) with the labels removed will look perfectly fine. Designer jeans with labels are out.
Footwear can be a problem, but if you get a pair of blunt toed black cowboy boots, you will probably be accepted without any question.
Whatever you choose for costume pieces should fit your character. That is of the utmost importance.
Photo by the late Leon "Gray Beard" Ashton.
© 1999 Bill Palmer. To reproduce this page contact Bill Palmer.