Cheap Cowboy Costume
September 6, 2011 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Cowboy Halloween costume on the cheap

So I've committed to dressing as a Wild West-era cowboy for various Halloween-related festivities. I've already got a legit pair of boots and a shirt that's passably cowboy-ish (although possibly too modern looking), and I'm tentatively growing out a beard/mustache, but beyond that, I've got nothing. With virtually no prior costume experience, I'm trying to piece together a costume that toes the line between A) not looking like crap and B) not costing a fortune, and I'm feeling a bit stuck. A quick look online for cowboy hats, for instance, reveals that anything that's not made of plastic apparently costs a fortune. So my questions are as follows:

1) What are the necessary elements of a decent-looking turn-of-the-century cowboy costume? Pants and headgear are particularly interesting to me, but I'd love to hear thoughts on anything, including shirts and accessories.

2) Where can I find these elements cheap, either online or in NYC? Complicating factor: I'm 6'5", about 155lbs, and have an enormous head (7 5/8), so used clothes can be tough, to say the least.

posted by saladin to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Lasso. Easy! Just a length of rope. Even better if you could wire it somehow so that it was stiff, which makes it look much more lasso-y when you pose.

Cowboy hats are expensive. NYC thrift stores may not be super helpful. Start posting on Craigslist in cities like Phoenix, looking for someone to sell and ship you one for cheap. If you're hard to fit, start NOW because in a month the other Halloweenies will have picked over everything.

Bandanna! You can buy this on St. Mark's place for a buck.

Your look will be more convincing if you are really dirty.
posted by hermitosis at 12:28 PM on September 6, 2011

Best answer: I would concentrate on having a lasso (maybe learn a rope trick?] and a bandana like this one, cowboy boots, of course and then covering yourself with a fine layer of dust. I'd also suggest some pouch tobacco and a flask. Check some of the images here, looks like other things are duster jacket and chaps, both not super easy to do on the cheap but maybe possible to borrow. Contrast those photos with historical photos of cowboys and you might consider a vest, a belt with a large buckle or spurs.
posted by jessamyn at 12:33 PM on September 6, 2011

A straw cowboy hat will be much cheaper than wool/leather while still capturing an authentic look.
posted by otolith at 12:36 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you want to look dirty but don't feel like rolling around in the dirt..

Cheap makeup and/or ground cinnamon from the spice asile in your local supermarket makes fairly convincing dirt stains.

You might want to dusty your clothes up a day or two in advance if you're worried about smelling like Christmas.
posted by royalsong at 12:42 PM on September 6, 2011

Response by poster: Great suggestions so far, folks. I think I found a cowboy hat on Craigslist in Florida that'll work perfectly, and I love the idea of just being really dirty.

One question: will lassos be obnoxious to carry around all day? I should have mentioned that I'll be fairly mobile during the times I'll be wearing this costume, so anything that restricts mobility may be off the table.
posted by saladin at 1:06 PM on September 6, 2011

Well, Wrangler jeans are not cheap necessarily, but they are a good investment if you think you might ever wear them again. If you want to wear some cool chaps (which shouldn't be too difficult to craft yourself), then any jeans would work under them. Cowboys tend to wear nice, tight, butt-hugging britches, which is of course why I love them.
posted by purpletangerine at 1:13 PM on September 6, 2011

When it's not in use you can coil the lasso up and wear it on a loop on your belt.
posted by hermitosis at 1:15 PM on September 6, 2011

Best answer: Brown bootcut pants, heavy-duty leather belt. You could make your own chaps since you're such a tall guy.

I'd leave the lasso at home. For mobility, a gun holster and a pair of six-shooters - since it's a costume, really fake-looking ones would be best... so people don't think they're real.
posted by lizbunny at 1:18 PM on September 6, 2011

Best answer: Can you borrow a guitar? If that's too much to carry around all day, a harmonica? And you could probably make your own belt buckle to go on a belt you already own. And/or a poncho, if you want to go all Clint Eastwood. These are more Hollywood-cowboy suggestions than real-working-cowboy ones, but I think there is historical precedent for ponchos on real cowboys. If you can find a small felt or wool blanket you don't mind wrecking (thrift stores, rummage sales, etc.) you could cut a hole in the center of it to make a poncho.
posted by homelystar at 1:43 PM on September 6, 2011

Best answer: You can buy a really nice Wrangler shirt for about $30, give or take a buck or two either way, get one with the nice pearl snaps, and they are actually sized IE none of this XL or L or whatever, you get a neck size and a sleeve length. Make sure you get one that is western cut. Nice shirts.

Any leather belt can work, what you will want is a nice buckle to make it stand out; put the buckle on the belt -- bang, you're ready to ride, right?

Leather gloves are nice, the yellow ones or brown ones you'd buy to protect your working hands. A working guy will wear whatever glove is around but you're wanting to look nice, that soft butter colored leather, it's real nice, I keep a pair in the glove box of my truck.

You'll pay more for a felt hat this time of year, might be you can find a straw hat priced right. Then again, you'll not look 'right' wearing straw in the autumn, not if it's a bit chill. Whatever you do, PLEASE don't buy some phony corduroy pretend hat, either buy a decent hat or just let that part go; anyone who knows will think you look ridiculous, and they will be right.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:57 AM on September 7, 2011

Wrangler shirts
posted by dancestoblue at 12:59 AM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: You may find some good ideas/purchases here.
posted by deborah at 10:54 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: All great answers folks, I've marked as best those that I actually followed through with. Right now it's looking like:

A sweet cowboy hat I got on Craigslist in Florida
A neckerchief, tied in the manner of old Ben Cartwright
A western-ish gingham shirt that I already owned
Probably some sort of vest (still looking in to this detail; I also like the Indian-blanket poncho idea, especially given how cold NYC can get by late October)
Some cheap Uniqlo boot-cut jeans
A pair of boots that I already owned

Total outlay so far: $68.

I'd love to buy one of those amazing frock coats on the site that deborah linked to, but unfortunately they're pretty expensive and don't come in my (admittedly bizarre) size.

Thanks again everyone.
posted by saladin at 1:08 PM on September 9, 2011

Response by poster: For anyone still reading this thread, Goodwill has an online auction site that is absolutely FULL of cheap Western-wear stuff, including really good deals on hats, belt-buckles, etc. And they ship all over the U.S. Highly recommended.
posted by saladin at 2:13 PM on September 12, 2011

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