By Dawn Cranfield
Finding a Gem in the Hills of Virginia City Nevada
The moment you step into Fred’s Closet you can immediately smell the leather, and notice the volume of inventory; but it is not until you are offered a decadent glass of red wine and personalized service that you realize the experience provided by Fred and his associate, Nancy, that this is going to be a very unique experience. Fred’s Closet is a Victorian and Western rental shop in Virginia City, Nevada, just off the main street and is available by appointment only. I was there on a Thursday night when Fred and Nancy had agreed to a 9 pm opening to outfit a gentleman for an event the following evening.
Fred Dutton has not always been a haberdasher, in fact, this is only a hobby for him; he is actually a benefits consultant. Dutton’s hobby in Western clothing came from his days of competing in SASS (Single Action Shooting Society). He was required to wear authentic period clothing down to his underwear; he carried money from the time, and would create a character from the same time.
During his competition days, Dutton was world champion where he last won in 1996 after living in complete period clothing for four days, never breaking character. He last competed in 2011, where he “blew” the competition by perfecting his entire look, and character except for one detail; everything he did was from 1887, and his gun was from 1897, a break in the competition rules, as it required consistency.
Fred’s Closet grew out of years of custom-made outfits for both Dutton and the girls he took to the competitions. With a house full of costumes
that he would lend out to friends, he eventually rented a store two and a half years ago and turned his hobby into a business. He now rents out
his beloved treasures to wedding parties, corporate parties, or anybody who wants to join in on Virginia City fun.
Dutton designs every piece in his shop and has them made by tailors all over the country. Additionally, he has designed several brands for his competition characters; they can be seen on some of the chaps and boots.
Dutton specifically prides himself on dressing his customer; you can see the joy on his face as he works like a master painting a picture trying to get every brush stroke perfect. He is a gracious and interesting shopkeeper, regaling his customers with stories as if they were invited guests to his home.