Backstage Pass to North Dakota History

This blog takes you behind the scenes of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Get a glimpse at a day-in-the-life of the staff, volunteers, and partners who make it all possible. Discover what it takes to preserve North Dakota's natural and cultural history.

3 North Dakota Fashion Designers You’ll Want to Know About

Headshots of three women. The one on the left is Native American and is wearing a black shirt with green jacket over it and a necklace and earrings. Her hair is pulled back. The middle one is white with long, blonde hair. She is wearing a black shirt, and there are pink and red color blocks behind her. The one on the right is Native American and has her hair down behind her shoulders. She is wearing a black shirt with a red shawl around her shoulders and earrings.

Norma Baker-Flying Horse, Casey Paul, and Lauren Good Day

North Dakota has historically been the home of women changemakers—inspiring self-starters who create lasting impacts. Women’s History Month is the perfect time to highlight three contemporary fashion designers from the Peace Garden State—Norma Baker-Flying Horse, Casey Paul, and Lauren Good Day—making their mark in the clothing industry. All three incorporate traditional inspiration, hand-crafted designs, and an intent to empower the wearer in their work.

We feature stunning dresses by these style innovators in our newly opened Fashion & Function: North Dakota Style exhibit, which includes more than 400 historical and contemporary garments. Come see these designers’ gorgeous creations at the State Museum in Bismarck and learn about the role of clothing in North Dakota life!

Norma Baker-Flying Horse

A bright blue/teal mermaid style dress with a black top picturing ledger art styled horses and a woman riding one of the horses. The horse the woman is riding is gray with a blue mane and the other two horses are blue with red manes.

Gown worn by journalist Corinne Oestreich at the 2019 Grammy Awards. This gown was designed and sewn by Norma Baker-Flying Horse, owner of Red Berry Woman.

Norma Baker-Flying Horse’s couture apparel brings contemporary Indigenous design to the wider fashion world. Among her growing list of accomplishments, she holds the distinction of being the first contemporary Native American fashion designer to have a gown worn on the Oscar stage and at the Grammy Awards. Her work has even been featured at Paris Fashion Week, attracting global attention to her exquisite Indigenous designs.

Red Berry Woman, Baker-Flying Horse’s Dakota Sioux name as well as that of her business brand, creates one-of-a-kind formal wear in New Town. Using a variety of textiles, she sews and embellishes clothing for both female and male clients. Baker-Flying Horse’s designs merge her cultural heritage with a modern sense of style. An enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, Baker-Flying Horse is also a member of the Dakota and Assiniboine tribes. She pays homage to family traditions through her nationally recognized appliqué work and beading, skills learned from her grandmother and mother. A few months ago, this rising star was honored with the International Indigenous Designer of the Year award by International Indigenous Fashion Week in Regina, Canada.

Casey Paul

A long, red dress with sleeves that is being displayed on a mannequin

New York designer Casey Paul, who grew up in Grand Forks and Bismarck, created former North Dakota first lady Mikey Hoeven’s inaugural ballgown worn in 2001. The ensemble includes three pieces in shantung silk and organza.

An accomplished New York City fashion illustrator and dressmaker, North Dakota native Casey Paul has created evening wear for celebrities and Broadway stars—Liza Minnelli, Mary-Louise Parker, and Madonna among them. Paul grew up in the sewing rooms of her mother and grandmother, where she discovered her love of fabrics, fine beadwork, and couture. As a young girl, she pressed the costumes of entertainers like Johnny Cash at Norsk Høstfest in Minot. (Her family played a role in the annual Scandinavian festival’s founding and continues to be involved in its management today.) She studied apparel and textile design at North Dakota State University and couture dressmaking at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.

“I always feel extremely grateful that I grew up there,” the designer says about her state roots. “We, from North Dakota, have a strong compass, good values, and a good work ethic.”

Most recently, Paul and her friend the model/actor Stephanie Seymour co-founded Raven & Sparrow, a company creating vintage-inspired sleepwear at their New York City studio. Barneys New York launched their original 2017 line, which was widely featured in fashion magazines.

Lauren Good Day

A black dress with red trim and a red tie around the wais. On the black fabric is the backside of cowrie shells repeated throughout.

This cowrie wrap dress, featuring a modern interpretation of a traditional cowrie shell, is from Lauren Good Day’s 2019 clothing collection. Cowrie shells were long used as a form of currency among various Native American tribes.

Lauren Good Day’s skills as an artist and an imaginative fashion designer have landed her works in Vogue and in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. Good Day, “Good Day Woman,” is a multiple award-winning Arikara, Hidatsa, Blackfeet, and Plains Cree influencer in the international worlds of art and clothing.

Honoring cultural lifeways is key to Good Day’s design inspiration. This Bismarck designer’s clothing lines are inspired by traditional culture and attire and include the beadwork, quillwork, and ledger art illustration skills learned from her mother and grandmother. An enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation and a registered Treaty Indian with the Sweet Grass Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, Good Day is passionate about creating authentic, culturally appropriate patterns for her fabrics. She first develops digital graphic designs for a new clothing idea, adding modern twists to traditional inspirations. Those designs are then printed onto fabrics and produced as everyday wear clothing lines.

Good Day includes her signature on each piece, signifying that her fashion designs are works of art. When I talked with Good Day recently, I was curious to know how she felt about non-Native people wearing her clothing collections. She assured me that her designs are meant for all, and she is honored when non-Native people choose to wear her culturally inspired designs.

In addition to her fashion career, Good Day is an accomplished artist, who has garnered top awards at prestigious Native American juried art shows for her tribal arts, beadwork, drawings, and textiles. Her art is featured in museums and private collections across the country.

10 Surprising Facts About North Dakota’s Famous French Aristocrat

If you have visited Medora, you have no doubt heard of the Marquis de Morès and his dream to transform the Western cattle industry. You may have heard a few colorful stories about the man, as well. Yes, it’s true—the Marquis was involved in a gun fight on the outskirts of Medora! It is even possible you heard a myth or two about this French aristocrat-turned-cattleman. No, he didn’t break a bottle of champagne over a stake on April 1 to mark the spot where he wanted to begin building his new town. But he did take plenty of other steps that made his legacy memorable and fascinating. Read on to learn a few things you might not have known about the Marquis.

1. He was born in Paris, France, on June 14, 1858, in his mother’s family home.

The Marquis showed an interest in the military from a young age. Here he is dressed up like a soldier when he was just a toddler! SHSND SA 00042-00001

2. By the age of 10, he spoke French, German, Italian, and English.

3. During his college years in Paris, he volunteered to serve in the French navy, but due to sickness he was rejected. Nevertheless, he persisted in his education and was admitted to the premier French cavalry school, known as the Special Military School of Saint-Cyr, the equivalent of West Point, where he excelled in his studies to become an officer. He went on to hold a few short posts with the French cavalry in Algiers.

4. He was an incredible horseman, which only added to his success at Saint-Cyr and later helped him find his footing in the West.

The Marquis excelled at Saint-Cyr, particularly in his equestrian courses. He brought his love of horses with him to Dakota Territory. SHSND SA 00042-00010

5. By 1882, he had killed two men in duels.

6. That same year he met and married Medora von Hoffman on the French Riviera. They honeymooned in Biarritz, France, a town known for its high culture and whale watching.

Medora von Hoffman pictured just a few years before her 1882 marriage to the Marquis. SHSND SA 00042-00060

7. After their honeymoon, the Marquis accompanied his wife’s family back to New York City and turned his eye toward the cattle ranches of the West. With his father-in-law’s money backing his plans, the Marquis packed his private train car and followed the rails to Dakota Territory.

8. The Marquis planned to revolutionize the ranching business in Dakota Territory. Instead of raising cattle on the range, then driving them north to the rail line and shipping live animals to slaughter in Chicago, the Marquis wanted to provide slaughter facilities on the range and ship fresh beef straight to market. Eventually, he hoped to ship beef—and a multitude of other products—up into Canada, down the Mississippi, around the Great Lakes, and to both coasts.

Workers at the Marquis' abattoir (slaughterhouse) pose beside one of his refrigerated train cars. This car would leave Medora and travel all the way to Chicago and beyond, taking fresh Dakota beef to hungry customers in the East. SHSND SA 00042-00150

9. He established a stagecoach line between Medora and Deadwood. For $26 (roughly $600 today), travelers could take a bumpy ride in his stagecoach and in three short days roll into Deadwood. The Marquis envisioned this would help establish trade between his town and the rich goldfields of the Black Hills. He even partnered with Sheriff Seth Bullock to see this vision come true.

This poster lauded the overland stagecoach between Medora and Deadwood. You can travel almost the same route today—just follow U.S. Route 85 from Belfield to Belle Fourche. SHSND SA 11354

10. After the brutal winter of 1886-1887, the Marquis’ plans were put on hold (as were most cattlemen’s plans), and he returned with his family to New York City. When his father-in-law withdrew financial support from his Western ventures, the Marquis began searching for other adventures. This eventually led him to northern Africa, where he attempted to establish trade with nations there. On his way through the Sahara Desert in 1896, he was murdered by his Tuareg guides just a few days before his 38th birthday.

Check out those views. Summer is just around the corner, and the Chateau is the perfect spot to explore on your next vacation. Photo by Tawnya Bulger

There is so much to his incredible story! When you plan your summer holidays, add the Chateau de Morès State Historic Site to your itinerary and discover even more about the Marquis’ Western dreams. We look forward to welcoming you!