From humble beginnings, the Cody High Style furniture and fashion exhibition has become one of the defining events of the Rendezvous Royale and attracts throngs of people to Cody’s weeklong celebration of the arts.

This year’s furniture and fashion show opens Wednesday with an intent-to-buy premier sale and reception at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, followed by two identical fashion shows at Cody Auditorium, a free after-party and three days of free exhibits.

But organizer and furniture exhibitor Jimmy Covert – one of five craftsmen who organized the first furniture exhibit at the Irma Hotel in 1991 – remembers how it all began.

In 1993, he said, Virginia and the late Mike Patrick organized the Western Design Conference, combining a furniture and fashion show in Cody.

“Mike was a good businessman,” Covert said. “He looked into the future and understood a show like this had a place in Cody.”

Covert said they held the first fashion show at Old Trail Town in a barn with a runway made of hay bales.

“It’s evolved into a more sophisticated experience,” he adds.

Jill Osiecki Gleich, the chamber’s events coordinator, agrees pointing out this year’s fashion show in Cody Auditorium will have a “buy-it-now” option to purchase clothing off the runway right after either hour-long show.

The Western Design Conference was eventually sold to a magazine in Jackson and has continued there.

But Gleich says several community members recognized the importance of the show to Cody’s artistic community and took it upon themselves to continue a similar show.

Since then there have been name, venue and operational changes, most recently a transfer of the event from the BBHC to the chamber.

“It fits well here because the chamber can be a one-stop shop for information on any of the Rendezvous Royale events,” Gleich says.

Covert, whose own “woodpile turned furniture” will be on display at the BBHC, said when the furniture and fashion show began there was a heavy emphasis on traditional Western design.

Today, he said, both have grown to encompass a broad spectrum of Western design styles.

“We try to show new trends,” Covert adds. “We have younger people in the show pushing the envelope with modern Western design.

“There’s a nice representation now of traditional styles and more sophisticated styles.”

While there have been many changes to the furniture and fashion show in the last 20 years, Gleich said she sees the event returning to its roots.

“The first furniture show was small with only five designers. Then at one point it was showcasing up to 100 designers,” Gleich said. “Now we’ve come back to 30 designers – 30 of the best.

“And I think it ties the show closer to its roots,” she added. “I’m happy to see it at such a high level with the works of fantastic artists and craftsmen on display.”

Fashion shows Wednesday

Cody High Style furniture and fashion show schedule:

Wednesday

•5-7 p.m., premier buyers sale and reception at BBHC (reservations required).

•5:30 p.m., fashion show at Cody Auditorium (tickets required).

•7:30 p.m., fashion show at Cody Auditorium (tickets required).

•9 p.m., after-party at Cody Auditorium (open to public).

Thursday-Saturday

•8 a.m.-5 p.m., furniture exhibition at BBHC (open to public).

•8 a.m.-6 p.m., fashion venue at Irma Hotel (open to public).

(Heidi Hansen can be reached at heidi@codyenterprise.com.)

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