Q&A: Historical Costumes With The Cowboy Prince

The Cowboy Prince

It’s not everyday that you meet someone who is so completely passionate about cultural history that it influences his entire lifestyle. Meet the Cowboy Prince (aka Charlie C. Umhau). To say that this Cowboy is unique is a total understatement. Not only is the Cowboy Prince the nicest person you’ll probably every meet in your life, his homemade buttermilk biscuits and knack with a sewing machine might leave you a bit speechless. I know I was…

Q: Tell us who you are and what are your interests:

Cowboy Prince: I’m a folk art tailor/artist and costume designer. I’m an eccentric with a sewing machine and I’m a bold purveyor of old romantic notions. I am a lover of life who strives to live with an emphasis on intentionality and living out loud.

Q: Describe your style in three words:

Cowboy Prince: Quixotic, Rustic, Americana.

Vintage sheriff badge collection with hand built primitive table, pewter table wear and homemade biscuits! Yum!

Q: Tell me about your home:

Cowboy Prince: I call it the Cowboy Prince Castile. I see it as a living canvas and want to cultivate the very atmosphere in which I dwell.

A room with a view…into the past that is! Vintage sewing table and chair with antique persian rug.

Q: How would you categorize your home décor/style? 

Cowboy Prince: It has a Cracker Barrel aesthetic…with items hanging on the walls and the ceilings. I try to pay homage for things I am nostalgic for.

Original black, white and red version of an 1860’s Zouave uniform with hand-sewn piping.

Q: Is there a specific time period that you try to emulate through your clothing design or lifestyle? 

Cowboy Prince: My clothing is mostly inspired by the 1860’s through the 1960’s; Homespun battle shirts of the confederate soldiers to embroidered denim of the flower children of the 1960’s.

Original Cowboy Prince shirts…each one tailor fit to the individual.

Q: What inspired your passion for historical costume design?

Cowboy Prince: I didn’t have a time machine, but I had a sewing machine! It all derived from a desire and yearning for the past. I wanted to fuse together those different elements in a singular outfit or design. Throughout time, every historical character had an emphasis on their attire. I find it fascinating that one can express their ideals through a simple act such as buttoning a shirt. 

The Cowboy Prince, wearing the Motion and Glory Suit, illustrated with painted elements of his personal costume history.

Q: Where do you go to find your treasures? 

Cowboy Prince:  Most of my treasures came from my family and were passed down. I also enjoy frequenting antique stores and Ebay. For example, the vintage sheriff badges came from my childhood, at birthday parties and from friends. I love antique bookstores…one of my favorites in Richmond is Black Swan. I also love Bygones in Carytown…it’s a great place for local costume history.

Q: When did you learn to sew?

Cowboy Prince: I took my first sewing lesson about 2 years ago at G Street Fabrics in Washington, D.C. I learned how to sew tote bags, shirt and pants. I dropped out of school and then bought a sewing machine and moved to Richmond. For the past year, I worked as a wardrobe assistant at the Virginia Commonwealth University theatre department costume shop. I strived to make a shirt for myself every week, gathering fabrics from bedding, sheets, vintage fabrics and such.

Sunday Reporter Star society page, c. 1927

Q: Could you tell me about one of your favorite antique items in your home?

Cowboy Prince: I have this wonderful society article from the Sunday Reporter Star, from 1927, that mentions my great-grandmother. Other items include a men’s straw boater hat from 1910 and a hand-sewn crazy quilt from 1924 that was purchased in Aiken, S.C.

The Cowboy Prince and his hand-built and illustrated peddlers cart…still a work in progress!

Q: What can you tell me about this amazing hand built cart? 

Cowboy Prince: I am preparing for a yearlong performance piece, in which I will strive to embody the folk heroes of the past…selling my wears on the road. I will be pulling this homemade, Amish-style peddlers cart from Richmond, VA to Washington, D.C. in attempt to reawaken the creative potential of our generation.

The journey IS the destination…good luck with your journey Cowboy!

Happy sewing Cowboy! Keep us posted on your journey to D.C.! Good luck! For more information about the Cowboy Prince and how to purchase his clothing and artwork, check out his website: http://charliecumhau.com/home.html

If you’d like to help support Charlie on his mission, check out this video: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/380837518/custers-last-waistband

Copyright 2012. The Savvy Seeker blog by Erin Hurley-Brown. All Rights Reserved.

2 thoughts on “Q&A: Historical Costumes With The Cowboy Prince

  1. I think your site is lovely and thoroughly enjoyed your interview with Charlie Umhau. He’s a fantastic person and I enjoyed having him as a student. Charlie never worked as a wardrobe assistant in the VCU costume shop, but he worked his behind off as a BFA costume design major, like the other 20 BFA costume design students working as designers, drapers, first hands, stitchers, pattern makers and wig makers who are still working their tails off. Thank you,
    I look forward to following your site.

    Toni-Leslie James
    Director of Costumes
    VCU Theatre

    • Hi Toni! Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m sure you and your team of students are very busy creating lots of lovely wearables. Anytime you’d like to chat about period clothing, just let me know:)

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