Kateri Schneider, 1890’s Riding Outlaw Fashion History & Design Development

Real & Perceived Western Women

As presented to the Public by the media at the time

All reproduced from actual postcards as collected in “Cowgirls Women of the Wild West” by Elizabeth Clair Flood and William Manns by Zion International Publishing, Santa Fe, NM 2003 Copyrihgt

1910 card included in packages of Hanssan Cigarettes along with other images of frontier life. Not the 5 gallon hat and gauntlet gloves seen in many of the depictions
Marie Walcamp 1919 made many movies of westerns where she was always rescued in just the nick of time by the Good Guy
Colt Single Action Revolver was a common weapon for frontier women in the 1870’s to 1900 for self defense
Rodeo champions left ot right Kitty Camutt, Prairie Rose Henderson, and Ruth Roach at the Pendleton Roundup in Oregon 1920s
The Pendleton Roundup in Oregon was among the first to have Cowgirls compete. This is a 1929 poster; one of very few which featured women
Dale Evans with her husband Roy Rogers and Trigger the Horse starred in over 100 TV shows during the mid 1950’s
1912 movie poster for a show about the life of Buffalo Bill
Helen Bonham was Miss Wyoming, crowned at Frontier Days in Cheyenne in 1917

1915 Bonnie MCarroll at the Pendleton Roundup. She died several years later of a similar fall. It ended cowgirls competing in rough-stock competition
Helen Bonham
1926 Pendleton Rodeo fashion with oversized hats, breeches, and pinto ponies which were a favorite because they stood out in the arena
Anna Hanson riding on the Horn Ranch in Texas 1905 in her Stetson hat and split riding skirt
Although there were always more cowboys than cowgirls in the Wild West, the women were usually featured in the marketing
May Lillie with her Colt six shooter in 1908. She was the wife of showman Pawnee Bill who competed with Buffalo Bill in replicating the Wild West
Calendar art from 1906
Woman scout heavily armed with Colt single action and Winchester rifle wearing calvary gauntlets, straw sombrero, and Apache scout jacket 1896
Gail Davis starred in the TV series “Annie Oakley” which aired in 1953. Davis played young Oakley as a crack shot and expert rider living in a mythical town in the southwest called Diablo
Lulu Parr, wearing a fully beaded ensemble, rode wild steer, bucking horses, and bison in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. Her 1910 costume is a combination of Indian artwork and “modern” riding skirt
Baldwin, rodeo star at the Winnipeg Canada Rodeo in 1913
Wall calendar early 1900’s
Buckskin gauntlets in a 1905 calendar portrait
Prairie Rose Henderson was a skilled rodeo competitor from 1900-1920 and was a fashion trendsetter for cowgirls. She created her own flamboyant costumes from buckskin, feathers, and sequins. This photo 1920
“Cheyenne Girl” postcard sold 1905-1910. Tourists bought these to send home to tell people what the “wild west” was like
1900 approximate ad for the H. Simkowitz Wearing Apparel company 1908
Ruth Roland starred in serial western movies from the 1915’s into the 1920’s. She was featured doing death-defying stunds on horseback and escapes on her famous horse, Joker. 1918
Lulu Parr shown riding a bison in a poster for the 101 Ranch Wild West Show

Real Women & Garments 1880’s to 1910’s

Pearl Hart
Caroline Lockhart, author, with Buffalo Bill Cody in about 1902
Sidesaddle riding habit
Except for the minimal corset, these are the undergarments nearly every woman was wearing at the turn of the century (1900)


Unforunately, postcards and cigarette cards of the time are the only image of Western women that most people have other than Annie Oakley. The others below are real ranchers and business women wearing their REAL garments


It appears the split skirt was such a novelty she wanted to show it off in a formal portrait


Most real riding skirts had a detachable panel in front the woman would put over so when she was in town she looked like she was wearing a full skirt so as not to create a scandal. This is about 1908-10 (and yes, it was still scandalous in the 1910’s except for performers and rodeo girls)













Deciding on the color of a Hat (and other things)


Cattle Annie and Little Britches (taken directly from “Wikipedia” ver batim):


Anna Emmaline McDoulet, known as Cattle Annie (November 29, 1882 – November 7, 1978), was a young American outlaw in the American Old West, most associated with Jennie Stevens, or Little Britches. Their exploits are known in part through the fictional film Cattle Annie and Little Britches (1981), directed by Lamont Johnson and starring Amanda Plummer in her film debut as Cattle Annie, with Diane Lane as Little Britches.

Cattle Annie and Little Britches were crack shots with both pistol and rifle, but today they are mostly unknown outside of the film. Yet they were once among the most recognized names among outlaws in the Oklahoma and Indian territories, where they carried out their short-lived criminal ventures

Embracing the criminal element

Anna was born in Lawrence in Douglas County in eastern Kansas, one of eight children of James C. and Rebekah McDoulet. When Anna was four years old, the family moved to Coyville in Wilson County, in southeastern Kansas. Anna worked as a hotel dishwasher and performed other odd jobs. When she was twelve, the family moved to the Osage Reservation near Skiatook north of Tulsa in the northern Oklahoma Territory, where she turned outlaw. Annie and Little Britches followed tales of the Bill Doolin gang from reading dime novelists like Ned Buntline, who became famous for his mostly fictional account of Buffalo Bill Cody as a western frontier hero and showman.[2]

For two years, Cattle Annie and Little Britches roamed the former Indian Territory, often working together and at other times alone. They stole horses, sold alcohol to the Osage and Pawnee Indians, and warned outlaw gangs whenever law-enforcement officers were nearby. They wore men’s clothing and packed pistols on their hips. Their adventures netted headlines from Guthrie, the capital of the former Oklahoma Territory, to Coffeyville in southeastern Kansas,[2] where the Dalton gang attempted to rob two banks simultaneously on October 5, 1892.[3]

U.S. Marshal Steve Burke captured 13-year-old Cattle Annie climbing from a window in 1895. (Marshal Bill Tilghman had a more difficult task apprehending Little Britches, who engaged in a physical confrontation with the famous lawman before he took her into custody.[4]) Annie was sentenced to one year in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Framingham. Because of health issues, she was soon paroled. She remained in Framingham for some time, having informed corrections officers that, if she returned to Oklahoma, she would likely have fallen back into her criminal ways. In 1898, she was working as a housekeeper for Mrs. Mary Daniels in Sherborn in Middlesex County south of Framingham. A few months later, she may have moved to New York City, where she may have died of tuberculosis.[2]

Another scenario

Another legitimate report claims that Annie left Framingham to return to Oklahoma where she wed Earl Frost of Perry on March 13, 1901. The couple had two sons, Robert C. Frost (1903-1993) of Oklahoma City and Carlos D. Frost, later of Malibu, California. The Frosts divorced in Noble County, Oklahoma in October 1909, probably because Annie had joined a Wild West show.[5] The historical museum in Guthrie maintains that, soon after the divorce from Frost, Annie married Whitmore R. Roach (1879-1947), a Texas native, veteran of World War I, and painting contractor in Oklahoma City, where they lived after 1912. They had resided from 1910 to 1912 in Fort Worth, Texas. This “Emma McDoulet Roach” is interred at Rose Hill Burial Park in Oklahoma City. She died in 1978, just short of her 96th birthday. Her newspaper obituary makes no mention of her early days or even the first name “Anna” but instead refers to “Emma”, the shortened form of “Emmaline”. The obituary indicates that she had been a bookkeeper in her later working career. Her services were held in her home church, Olivet Baptist in Oklahoma City.

Meanwhile, Little Britches also served a short sentence at the reformatory in Framingham, but her whereabouts thereafter are unknown.[2] Some reports indicate that Little Britches returned to Tulsa, where she was married, had a family, and led an exemplary life.[6]

Images from the Movie


What we find most interesting is that the depiction of western women, and particularly outlaws and “mavericks” has been quite similar throughout history.  You can tell which images were taken or created by men (the ones with the nipples showing and the huge breasts and inhuman long calves).

At this point it becomes easy to distinguish between costume – of the sharpshooter, the rodeo performer, or the movie start – and REAL women.  A few characteristics:

1) The real women are not perfect.

2) The real women’s garments are simple and functional

3) The performers are doing odd and rare things

4) The real outlaws in particular have only one photo or portrait in history, and that’s usually quite formal – either fashionable because they choose to have their portrait taken, or posed because it’s their mug shot after getting caught.

At any rate, it’s one of the hardest interpretations to get accurate since so many people have a bias in their heads from what they’ve read, seen on the screen, or think they know.

IN REALITY.. the work of the outlaw, the rancher, the farmer, the settler, the pioneer – the Western Woman – was dirty, sweaty, and not easy to be fashionable.

The Gunfighter’s interpretation of an 1870-1890 depiction is akin to that of Little Britches or Pearl Hart:

Men in particular thing this is what a woman outlaw should look like.  But notice even Cattle Annie is wearing a dress in both reality and in the movie.  Women just didn’t wear pants!  It’s pretty hard for today’s people (especially men) to grasp that concept.

Below are the more realistic images of the outlaws of the 1880’s and 1890’s:

Fitting the Image

In this situation, however, since this is a job in tourism, and the “bosses” want a split skirt, and outlaw wearing mannish clothes, and a six-shooter from 1874 – we will give them:

  • split skirt (suitable to 1890 to 1910 – just weren’t any earlier ones!)
  • 1890’s shirtwaist (modified for looser fit, more comfort, and more manly than fashion of 1890 which would have unique sleeves)
  • outlaw scarf (we like the snake skin that looks dirty)
  • ability to carry multiple firearms (a derringer pocket!)
  • riding undergarments (so she can actually ride! means short flexing corset that she can get into in a snap on teh trail without the men seeing, drawers to protect the skirt, and simple washable camisole)
  • proper footgear for a WOMAN (means gaiters – not boots!)
  • and the “look” of the grundgy, worn out on the trail, hiding from the law, BAD GAL.

Bad Gal Kateri

Lambskin for gaiters and silk scarf with snakeskin pattern to hide her face

The other fabrics, notions, buttons, and trim we had to take from stock.  For the key to this whole project was – we only had TWO DAYS to design and build it!!  There are no sketches therefore, as Suzi “just built it” from her head using whatever worked out of inventory – the shortest design development of any of our projects yet.

What we did was to look at all these photos and study the stories of the outlaws, and then to just go!

click here to go to the Main Page with the Finished Project (next)

click here to go to the Historical Context Page

click here to go to the top of this Page