I have always said this commonly mispronounced word as shaps instead of chaps. The term chap is derived from the Spanish word chaparro, which is thorny low brush. Chaps were meant to protect the clothing and legs from getting torn up as cattle were being moved across treacherous terrain. Today we see chaps used for both work on the ranch and decorative show in the rodeo arena, either way they demonstrate the culture of the cowboy way and the evolution of the western industry. However you were raised saying the word chaps, know there is no right or wrong way but you might get a funny look depending on what region you’re in.
The Miss Rodeo USA Association is blessed with multiple perpetual chaps that are gorgeous in their very own way. I can’t tell you how incredibly convenient it was to have two pairs of chaps in arm as I won the title. I never had to go to a rodeo without a pair. Wynn Custom Leather and Jody Lumley created two patriotic pairs for the 2020 queen. I have been able to proudly wear both pairs on multiple occasions so far this year. In addition to these, each Miss Rodeo USA was able to design her own custom pair of chaps to be made by Sara Prochaska with Lazy P Creations. Which as you all know just happens to be my Aunt! With Sara donating her time and the Weldon family (a former MRUSA’s family) for donating the cost of leather I was able to create a custom pair of chaps!
I have designed multiple chaps throughout my years as a rodeo queen and when I earned the title of Miss Rodeo USA, I knew this pair had to top them all. In the initial stages of design, I wanted them to be patriotic and also make a definite statement. I started thinking about all the symbols that stood out to me about our country. The first few that came to mind were the Statue of Liberty, bald eagle, and Liberty Bell. Phrases such as, “In God We Trust”, “Home of the Brave”, and “Land of the Free” also stood out to me. I then brainstormed how to make these chaps showcase my journey as a rodeo queen. As a Kansan, sunflowers were a must and an acid wash hair on hide had been on my bucket list to use as a base for some time now.
With all of these ideas floating around in my head I had to get it on paper. I started with long flowing red and white stripes around the edge of a batwing chap outline. While most rodeo queen chaps are identical on both legs I chose to go the road less traveled. I drew a tall, proudly standing Statue of Liberty on one leg with my title of Miss Rodeo USA, making this side very feminine and representing the strong women of our rodeo community. I then placed a bald eagle, our national symbol, in flight across the middle of the other leg along with the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) logo. Both of these logos represent a group that stands for more than just itself. It was meant to showcase the strength and determination of the bald eagle and the cowboys and cowgirls of the IPRA. At this point I knew I was getting somewhere. Multiple sketches and many eraser marks later I was happy with the design. I then sent it on to Sara for her thoughts. We worked together on hashing out the final details and she got to work!
Most importantly in this design, I wanted to showcase my cousin, DJ’s, legacy. I finally achieved the highest ranked title as a rodeo queen, the one that was her ultimate goal, which she never had the chance to achieve. Stemming from DJ’s attitude toward life, my personal platform to Dream Bigger came to life and I wanted to portray that somewhere on these chaps. One more important piece of this puzzle was having a few tooled leather pieces. With the assistance of Ranchy Bar B by Jackie White we were well on our way with tooled sunflower hip plates, scrolls for both legs and a back belt that clearly reads, Dream Bigger. I knew with the addition of some tooled pieces the vision I had imagined for my chaps would come to life. Jackie and I had a secret of our own and that was putting “DJ” on each hip in honor of my cousin, who is Sara Prochaska’s daughter. We managed to keep it a secret all the way up until Sara saw the pieces in person. It was a detail I wanted to surprise her with!
Sara got to work by carefully cutting every little detail out of leather and putting it into place to sew down. I honestly couldn’t wait to see the finished project because I knew it would be just like I had imagined and sure enough it was! They were completed just in time for my photo shoot with Sherry Smith Photography in Arkansas! Sara has always been a huge advocate for “Creating Your Vision” and that is exactly what she did for me! After everything, these definitely wouldn’t have been possible without a few very crucial people giving their time talents and donations. I would like to thank Sara Prochaska, Jackie White, and the Weldon Family for all believing in my dreams for the perfect pair of chaps. I am over the moon with these! Enjoy these beautiful photos by Sherry Smith Photography.
Miss Rodeo USA 2020
Brooke’s Bloopers: Most of my social media posts are photos taken by me promoting different product I have received from my amazing sponsors! I was doing a little mini selfie style photo shoot of a darling shirt I received and was trying to do a photo of me hanging out in the grass on a warm day in Kansas. I go to take the photo with the phone above my head and totally drop my phone right on my face. After saying a loud ouch I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. I feel like we have all been there a time or two. I’m sure you are picturing this happening right now. It’s okay, you can laugh at me!
Queens Corner: When designing anything, make sure you know what you want before you approach a designer. No matter if it is a pair of custom chaps, vest, or bag. The best custom pieces are the ones that mean the most to you because they have a story. I love creating the brainchild of someone else’s desires. To me, knowing that I poured my heart and soul into something that you really put a lot of thought into means so much more in the end. It always helps a designer if you send picture of product that you have seen and like. That helps us get a feel for your aesthetic. All in all, know what you want before pitching an idea to a designer. It will make it so much easier in the long run!
Follow Miss Rodeo USA 2020, Brooke Wallace as she travels 100,000+ miles across the U.S. and Canada promoting professional rodeo!