1800s Western-Style Dress

by Melissa J. Bell

Get ready to ride the Oregon Trail to your next fashion bonanza: the Old West of the Victorian era. Don't let the bustles and ball gowns fool you -- Western versions of 1800s fashion were far more practical than their counterparts in Paris, London and New York. Instead, your inspiration lies with the world of prospectors and farm girls, gunslingers and cowboys in the wild, wild west.

Prairie Girl

Laura Ingalls Wilder fans will feel right at home in a modern take on the classic calico farm dress. Look to 1990s grunge or schoolgirl short dress styles rather than strictly copying the long, modest dresses and billowing sleeves of 1800s women's work wear. Pair tiny floral prints, gingham and flannels with low lace-up ankle boots -- dark stockings optional -- and your best braided hairstyle to look totally bohemian -- or totally sweet.

Miner Vibes

The Gold Rush might be over, but its laid-back fashion stuck around for the long run. Levi Strauss made a mint selling blue jeans and denim overalls, which were much sturdier than the alternatives, to miners, farmers and other workmen in the 1800s. Roll the cuffs on your favorite pair of jeans and put on a button-down top to start this basic look -- then add a trilby or newsboy hat and full hipster beard, if you dare.

Proper Lady

Today's secretary blouse style owes its origins to this schoolmarm style: the visiting costume. Ignore the bustle -- that look sure never came back around again -- and focus on the juxtaposition of soft, feminine details with no-nonsense structure. Pair a high-necked blouse in sheer or lace fabric with skinny jeans and pointy boots, then add a heavily structured blazer with a riding jacket shape to mimic the original mix of power and beauty.

The Cowboy

Forget those spurs, partner -- this fashion rodeo takes place in the streets of your neighborhood. Channel your inner cowboy with just a touch of Old West. Transform belted skinny pants and a button-down shirt or T-shirt with pointy boots, a neck bandana or bolero tie, a wide-brimmed hat and a great big belt buckle. Don't go too conservative with color or fabric but make a bold statement, especially if you are also rocking a big cowboy mustache.

Photo Credits

  • ArthurHidden/iStock/Getty Images

About the Author

A writer with a Bachelor of Science in English and secondary education, but also an interest in all things beautiful, Melissa J. Bell has handed out beauty and fashion advice since she could talk -- and for the last six years, write for online publications like Daily Glow and SheBudgets.