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Cowboy Action Shooting Costumes

As fun as it is to shoot the old guns of the west in competition, dressing the part adds much to the fun. Dressing the part can be as simple as wearing boots and a hat, jeans, and a long-sleeved cotton shirt to very elaborate costumes which match the character of your SASS registered name.

Searching for and, of course, adding to your costume over time, is also part of the fun. Although there are vendors willing to sell you a wide variety of costume clothes, a very respectable costume can be put together for men by visiting a thrift store and buying an old cotton work shirt and wool slacks (remove the belt loops and add suspenders--avoid designer clothing with logos, however.) If you are portraying a cowboy riding herd in the old west, it is unlikely that the cowboy was wearing new, store-bought clothes. A well-worn set of clothes would be very appropriate. To match the old west shirts with a banded collar, I'll take an old cotton dress shirt and cut off the collar...frayed ends only add to the well-worn look. A calico dress for women portraying a prairie woman or a cowgirl skirt, boots, and hat can also be fashioned at a thrift store or western clothing store.

In attending a match, you will see a wide variety of men's costumes from working cowboys to gunslingers to lawmen to miners to gamblers. For women you will see saloon girls in fancy costumes to "Calamity Janes" to schoolmarms to prairie women in long calico dresses. Competitors also portray characters from the B-western movies (think of the Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and Gene Autry movies). Still others will copy clothing from television and other western movies. Of course, anything that John Wayne wears in any of his western movies is always acceptable.

Most national and regional SASS competitions will add costume contests with prizes for the best costumes in a number of areas: Best Dressed Lady, Best Dressed Gentleman, Best Working Costumes, Best Dressed B-Western Costume, and Best Saloon Girl Costume. In best costume competition, costumes are rigorously examined to be period-correct and not include any outlawed items, that is, no polyester shirts, no clothing displaying manufacturer or designer labels, and no nylon or plastic items...and you better not be wearing a cell phone. Even when not competing in a costume contest, match participants are asked to follow these period-correct guidelines to help preserve the old west heritage.

The pictures below show what some have selected as costumes. I took these photos during the October 2005 "Showdown at Buck Creek", the SASS Southwestern Regional match held south of Dallas. Double-click on any photo to see an enlargement.