In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Union Western’s Jerry Lee Atwood created this face covering, decorated with rhinestones and appliqué.

Part Eight

Rhinestone Resurrection

The rodeo tailors created a body of work that exerts a powerful pull for a new breed of bespoke Western-wear designers.

Union Western’s Jerry Lee Atwood, Fort Lonesome’s Kathie Sever, “Katy K” Kattelman, Dandy & Rose’s Janet Aspley, and Manuel protégé Riley Reed are among the contemporary clothiers drawing inspiration and tailoring techniques from their predecessors’ expressions of Western style. Their modern spins on classic Nudie suits and vintage stage costumes have been spotted on artists ranging from Post Malone, Lil Nas X, and Charley Crockett, to Margo Price, Jenny Lewis, and Midland.

Jerry Lee Atwood. Photo by Michelle Craig

Jerry Lee Atwood

Self-taught designer, embroiderer, and head tailor at Union Western Clothing Co., Jerry Lee Atwood draws inspiration from the work of Nudie Cohn and other rodeo tailors. Atwood co-founded the Indianapolis-based company with Western-wear collector Joe David Walters.

Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X commissioned Union Western to design this suit for him to wear in the music video for his 2019 mega-hit, “Old Town Road (Remix).” Designed and made by Jerry Lee Atwood, it features contrasting leather fringe, piping, smile pockets, and rhinestone-bordered embroidery of horses, horseshoes, roses, and the wearer’s name. Courtesy of Lil Nas X

Amanda Shires

Union Western’s Jerry Lee Atwood designed this ensemble, decorated with embroidery and rhinestones set into heart shapes, for singer, songwriter, and fiddle player Amanda Shires. She wore it on the cover of the self-titled 2019 album by the Highwomen, the all-female supergroup that includes Shires, Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, and Maren Morris. Courtesy of Amanda Shires

Katy K poses with performance artist John Sex in the window of New York boutique Fiorucci, Valentine’s Day 1982. Photo by April Palmieri

Katy K

The underground art scene of 1970s and 80s New York may have been an unlikely place for a Western-wear designer to start her career, but Philadelphia native Katy Kattelman first made her mark amongst a group of musicians and artists that included Keith Haring, Ann Magnuson, and Joey Arias. She dressed herself and other denizens of the legendary Mudd Club in her vintage-inspired creations, sold her designs at hip boutiques Fiorucci and Screaming Mimi’s, and dressed the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Rufus Thomas, and burlesque queen Kitten Natividad before moving to Nashville in 1994. For over 20 years, her shop, Katy K’s Ranch Dressing, featured vintage and vintage-inspired Western wear, along with Kattelman’s own custom designs, and attracted a loyal clientele of country, rock, rockabilly, and Americana musicians.

Katy K designed this vintage-inspired Western shirt and skirt, embellished with contrasting leather fringe and appliques.

Kathie Sever in her Fort Lonesome workshop.

Fort Lonesome

Austin-based clothier Fort Lonesome specializes in ornate Western wear in the Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors tradition. Before launching her brand in 2013, owner and designer Kathie Sever worked on a Montana cattle ranch, where the local cowboys inspired her to make clothing that is both pragmatic and beautiful. Describing her style as “somewhere between Nudie and seventies throwback,” Sever collaborates with each client to design chain-stitched embroidery based on the person’s memories and passions, “like a map of someone’s hometown or a portrait of a beloved pet.” Musicians and celebrities seen sporting Fort Lonesome’s designs include Jenny Lewis, Midland, Nikki Lane, Diplo, Matt McConaughey, and Ethan Hawke.

Charley Crockett

A native of the Gulf Coast town of San Benito, Texas, singer, songwriter, and musician Charley Crockett blends blues, R&B, country, and folk. Pride in his roots in Texas and New Orleans, where he spent summers in the French Quarter as a child, is reflected in this custom-tailored Fort Lonesome suit, embellished with rhinestones, piping, embroidered magnolia flowers, and a map that merges Texas with Louisiana. Courtesy of Charley Crockett

We use cookies in the following ways: (1) for system administration, (2) to assess the performance of the website, (3) to personalize your experience, content and ads, (4) to provide social media features, and (5) to analyze our traffic. You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.  Please consult instructions for your web browser to disable or block cookies, or to receive a warning before a cookie is stored on your computer or mobile device.

That's Fine