Seamstress takes pride in Western wear

Kathy Corgatelli NeVille / for Farm & Ranch
Seamstress Tammy Golder isn't afraid to try unusual combinations. Here she adds sequined lace to camouflage fabric for a rodeo queen outfit for Shaine Ritchie. Ritchie, 14, of Shelley likes to work with area veterans, so Golder made the connection with this design. Golder keeps a notepad handy so when she can't sleep at night she can sketch new designs.

SHELLEY — Lace, rhinestones, sequins and camouflage — wait, what?

Seamstress Tammy Golder is known for combining unusual materials when she sews Western wear for rodeo queen contestants locally and around the United States and Canada.

“I make every dress a little different for every girl to fit their personalities,” Golder said, surrounded by stacks of fabrics, thread and several sewing machines in a cozy little corner of her Shelley area home. “That’s the way I like to do it.”

Golder carefully cuts out several sequined-adorned swirls of lace, and tacks them to the top of a bodice cut from camouflage fabric. The outfit is for contestant Shiane Ritchie, of Shelley, a loyal supporter of veterans groups. Golder trims and re-trims until the lace forms a unique neckline.

“I like to make dresses that girls feel like they look good in,” she said. “If they feel confident and happy in what they’re wearing, then they’re more likely to present themselves better onstage.”

A confident presentation before discriminating judges is critical for every queen contestant, along with horsemanship, polished speeches and knowledge of rodeo facts and competitors. Golder has made about 10 dresses for Shiane, 14, who has competed since age 7.

Shiane believes Golder has a magical touch.

“It’s awesome, it’s like a Cinderella story, she’s like having a fairy godmother,” Shiane joked. “I even gave her a wand once.”

Shiane is just one of Golder’s clients. Golder completes six to eight dresses a year. She puts countless hours into one outfit.

“Once I spent two days making a dress, but that’s all I did for that two days,” she said.

Many outfits are easily modified with removable fringe, and capes. Additional tops, skirts and a pair of slacks or jeans transform an outfit. For additional variety, hats and boots are decorated to match.

“I design the outfits so that they can be worn in multiple ways because queening is very expensive,” Golder said.

When Golder’s daughter, Samantha Golder, of Shelley, decided to compete 11 years ago, Golder was shocked at the prices.

“A dress cost about $3,000,” she said. “Being a single mom, I couldn’t afford that, but I could sew.”

Samantha Golder covets the very first dress her mom made just for her. Over the years, others have borrowed it, and it was even sold, but today it has a special place in Golder’s closet.

“It’s been taken in, and let out to fit all the contestants who borrowed it over the years. I even tracked it down to get it back,” Samantha Golder said.

Both Golders sew and sell extra large-sized cowboy wild rags. The kind of neck scarves cowboys and cowgirls prefer. They can measure up to 60 inches square, and are made from charmeuse, a fabric that looks like silk but wears like iron.

“My son, Nick Merritt, is a working cowboy, and he asked me to sew him some instead of paying $70 for one,” Tammy Golder said. “Now all his buddies want them.”

They also sew banners, often referred to as sashes for royalty, and make saddle flower bouquets that are placed behind a saddle’s seat.