Have you tried on the Breeches of Miss Conduct?

By David F. Rooney

Leave it to the immensely talented and quirky Rob Buchanan to come up with something like the Breeches of Miss Conduct.

These copper-coloured steel pants mark the odd intersection of mountaineering and social convention that occurred early in the last century. At that time, gentlemen always wore ties and jackets and well-born women always skirts. Take a look at any really old photos of people camping, hiking or mountaineering at the Revelstoke Museum and you’ll see what I mean. Almost everyone is dressed up — even in places as rugged as Glacier National Park.

As the Artist’s Statement Rob created for the Breeches of Miss Conduct puts it:

“Glacier National Park is the birthplace of sport mountaineering in Canada. In the late 1890s, the Canadian Pacific Railway imported mountain guides from Switzerland to work in the posh Glacier House Hotel to serve the needs of international visitors craving mountain adventure. It was a time of daring first ascents on unnamed summits and a paradigm shift in how mountains were experienced; these jagged peaks were no longer obstacles for travel but playgrounds for alpine recreation. It was also, however, the genteel Victorian era — a time when it was socially unacceptable for a woman to wear breeches in public.

“Georgia Engelhard (named after her artist aunt, Georgia O’Keefe) set her mountaineering goals high and could not afford to let a long Victorian skirt slow her down in the mountains. By age 23, this brash, young woman always wore men’s pants while climbing and sometimes even about town, where she was occasionally mistaken for a young man. Georgia scaled an impressive number of peaks in the Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountains. In 1931 alone, she reached 24 summits in the Selkirk Mountains in three short weeks. The Swiss guides who led her on these adventures often joked about putting rocks in her back pack just to slow her down. By leaving the skirts behind, Georgia abandoned the conventions of another era and boldly discovered the ‘beauty and exhilaration’ of mountaineering and led the way for later generations of women in the mountains.”

Naturally, that raised a lot of eyebrows even at the Banff Crag & Canyon newspaper which wrote, in its September 11, 1920, issue:

“The young women who strut about the street and dine in the hotels dressed in riding togs should be soundly spanked and sent to bed… Pants are made for men and not for women. Women are made for men and not for pants…”

The sculpture Rob designed this past winter and fabricated with Robert Maraun celebrates this set of changes and celebrate for themselves the “daring women who dropped their pants to take a peak.”

These metal breeches created by Rob Buchanan and Robert Maraun have been installed on the front lawn of the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre in Glacier National Park and are already proving to be irresistible to visitors. Please continue scrolling down to see Rob's photographic record of their creation. Graphic illustration by Rob Buchanan
Rob Buchanan works at drawing the pattern for the breeches on a sheet of steel. Rob Buchanan photo
Rob's pattern looks like a standard pattern for pants. Rob Buchanan photo
Robert Maraun uses a plasma torch to cut out the patter. Rob Buchanan photo
After that he applies a propane torch to the steel. Rob Buchanan photo
Here's a psychedelic close up of the propane torch at work. Rob Buchanan photo
It's not enough to just cut it out with the torches. Here, Roberta Maraun indulges in some old-fashioned blacksmithing. Rob Buchanan photo
Smoke rises as Robert hammers the metal. Rob Buchanan photo
Here's another view of Robert hammering the metal in his shop off Highway 23S. Rob Buchanan photo


Sparks fly as Robert applies a grinding wheel to the metal. Rob Buchanan photo
Robert performs a little welding on the back of the breeches. Rob Buchanan photo
A little more grinding on the backside of the breeches. Rob Buchanan photo
More grinding. Rob Buchanan photo


The breeches may be steel but they are powder-coated by Josh Wylie. Once the powder coating is completed the breeches will be ready for the next step. Rob Buchanan photo
The powder-coated breeches are hung in an oven and baked. Rob Buchanan photo
Another layer of powder coating is applied by Josh Wylie. Rob Buchanan photo
And yet again, as the sculpture's surface is transformed into a glossy-looking copper colour. Rob Buchanan photo


And here are the breeches. All that remains is to install them in front of the Discovery Centre in Rogers Pass. Rob Buchanan photo
And here they are, installded, and ready to be admired by members of the public. Rob Buchanan photo
Parks Canada's talented Mountain Wit troupe celebrated the breeches and their history on Parks Day. Rob Buchanan photo
Once you see something like this and realize its potential you just have to pose in them. Here, Jeanne Molitwenik from Vernon tries on the pants. Rob Buchanan photo
Seven-year-old Colton Oyster of Bellevue, Washington, tries on the pants. Still a little too big for him. Rob Buchanan photo
Visitor Pity Jongens from the Netherlands shares a smile as she tries them on. Rob Buchanan photo
Young Femke and Thumen Jongens from the Netherlands got a kick out of the breeches. Rob Buchanan photo
Laurie Swartz of the Mountain Wit troupe strike a heroic pose with the pants. Rob Buchanan photo