Second-hand Stampede: Economic slump means rush to snap up preloved cowboy duds

CALGARY – For a lot of Calgarians hit by the economic slump, this probably isn’t the year to shell out hundreds of dollars on a new pair of handmade leather cowboy boots.

But there are ways to western-up wardrobes for the Stampede that starts Friday and still have plenty of cash left over for rodeo tickets and some greasy midway fare.

That could mean hunting for pieces that have already been broken in.

A Vintage Affair, a boutique in Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood, is on the hunt for western wear year-round so it has enough stock leading up to the 10-day salute to all things cowboy.

Co-owner Bonnie Barber says the shop gets its best items from estate sales.

“A lot of Calgarians have been here for a long time, so some of our real gems come from people’s closets that have been sitting there for about 50 years or so,” said in an interview.

“Some of our favourites are the classic satin western shirt with beautiful chain stitching and lots of pearl snap buttons … We love fringe too.”

It’s been busy at the shop.

“We have a really budget-friendly store, so I think that has a lot to do with it,” said Barber, who is wearing a fringed leather jacket over a colourful bold-printed vest and paired with a chunky boho necklace.

“Most of our western wear is $60 and under and people know that they can score a good deal here.”

An economical option is to rustle up a few accessories to dress up a simple outfit — a bolo tie or a scarf for $12, Barber added.

She also recommends staying away from “corny” costume-like pieces or “looking too much like a square dancer from top to toe.”

Instead, it’s best to pick boho-chic items that, when paired with more toned-down accessories, can work well outside of Stampede week. That way, you get more mileage out of them.

“Make it work for you 365 days a year.”

Value Village is a go-to for Halloween costumes in October, but it’s also becoming a destination for Cowboy Halloween in July, said Jennifer Brander, production manager at one of the thrift shop’s southeast Calgary locations.

“Stampede doesn’t have to cost you a fortune,” she said.

Cowboy boots can go for as little as $10, depending on the quality, and it’s possible to pull together an entire ensemble for around $30.

The shop has boxes in the back year-round to set aside donated cowboy boots and hats as they come in. A couple of days before the start of Stampede, a lot of the western merchandise had been snapped up, with a rack of denim and a smattering of hats and boots still remaining.

“The sales have been tremendous.”

Since the economic downturn took hold, the store has been bustling with shoppers looking for deals — and not just for Stampede.

“There’s definitely more foot traffic coming through. We’re seeing the basket size and dollars going higher.”

— Follow @LaurenKrugel on Twitter