The Denver Post - Dress for Inaugural Party Success in Jeans and Western Gear

Dress for inaugural party success in jeans and Western gear

By Suzanne S. Brown  

Sunday, January 9, 2011


People can be divided into two camps when it comes to Western fashion — they either love it or loathe it.

Count John Hickenlooper among the former. While he's likely to be spotted around Denver in a suit and tie, he's also been known to wear a cowboy hat and boots when the occasion calls for it.

And he's calling for it himself at his Tuesday inaugural barbecue dinner and concert, requesting that guests wear "dressy western or business attire." The black-tie gubernatorial inaugural might have gone the way of four-course dinners in this era of national austerity, but is this a cowtown — or "Hick" town — approach to such a ceremonious occasion?

More likely, it's a shrewd political move on Hickenlooper's part, observers say. And timely, given that the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo is underway, and people have already polished their boots and shined their silver jewelry.

"I commend the governor-elect for celebrating Colorado's Western history and legacy. As a business person, he gets it," says Steve Weil, owner of Rockmount Ranch Wear, the Denver Western wear manufacturer. "He understands that this is our brand."

But back to practical matters: What does one wear to a $100-a-plate barbecue dinner being held in a venue where the audience is typically dressed in distressed jeans and rock T-shirts?

Boring politicos and lobbyists paying their dues will no doubt be in blue suits or black dresses. But others will seize the moment, turning what could be a yawner of an event into something a little more fun. Why not snap on a brightly embroidered shirt and wear your skinniest jeans tucked into high-heeled boots? Maybe bust out your fringed suede jacket, leather pants or boldest concha belt? (Please, just don't dig out the satin shirt from your "Urban Cowboy" days.)

"This is a party and a concert, not a business meeting, so people can dress casually or dressy or flamboyant. It's all a question of personal taste," Weil says. "The good thing about Western is you can wear it all or parts of it — everything from the hat, shirt, tie, belt or boots, or any one of the above."

It's a time to turn to homegrown retailers who know what hip — rather than hokey — cowpokes want to wear.

"It doesn't really take much to pull it together — you can wear a great shirt, Western jewelry, or jeans and boots," says Roxanne Thurman, owner of Cry Baby Ranch in Larimer Square. "And you don't have to spend a fortune. I always encourage people to wear something they're comfortable in, and not to go in costume."

Molly Broeren, who owns Molly's of Denver, has outfitted such customers as U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver for fancy White House inaugural parties. This is a different story, she says.

"What's nice is that women don't have to worry about whether their dress is short or long, of if they can wear pants. Everyone owns bluejeans," Broeren says, adding, "You just don't want to look like you're going to the rodeo or wearing jeans you're going to wash the car in."

As for her own outfit, Broeren plans to top a pair of designer jeans with a velvet turtleneck.

Tami Door, president of the Downtown Denver Partnership, will pull on her new "snappy suede boots with white stitching," and a black shirt with rhinestones. She says Hickenlooper nailed the theme. "I think it reflects the state of Colorado and the way we live and do business, the level of informality we embrace."

Suzanne S. Brown: 303-954-1697 or


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