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Fashion Month: Top 10 Horse Show Fashion Trends for 2016

Trends are the general direction in which something is developing or changing. Fashion is a popular trend, and for generations, fashion has spoken for itself in the horse show world. Horse show fashion is a form of expression and individuality for both men and women and can be seen most in the show pen.

The 2016 show season is well underway and the styles are speaking for themselves. From cowboy hats to hunt seat jackets, horse show exhibitors are showing their personality through their outfits. Additionally, people are doing their best to keep their wallets happy and still stand out in the show pen. Below are the Top 10 horse show fashion trends for 2016 that we compiled after talking to some of the top fashion designers in the industry.

1. Custom western saddle pad and shirt sets

Coordinating your saddle pad with your outfit is really nothing new, but in 2016 there is an even stronger emphasis on this look and it’s all about the accent! Megan Brown of Boo Yah Custom Clothing comments that “Carrying the color through the pad to the rider is a growing trend for both women and men. In the western, we are finding that the desire to match custom made pads to shirts is growing, and we have the swatches to accommodate that.”

-1Focusing on color accent elements of an outfit allows for a rider to go simpler in their tops.

If an outfit is very vibrant, sometimes these pads are not the best way to go…especially on a loud color horse. Many of our disciplines revolve around a collected look. Woods’ Western offers custom western pad and show jacket sets that match perfectly (pictured right). If done right, a saddle pad can grab the best of the shirt, and the best of the horse. This look is a popular go-to for many exhibitors.

ECSAAccording to several designers including Silver Lining Apparel and La Collezione Di Anna, geometric designs are very popular in jackets which also go together well with custom made saddle pads.

Jessica Wolf Hart of East Coast Show Apparel adds (pictured left), “We have done really well with coordinating custom blankets with matching Cowboy Couture shirts & Cowgirl Rocz shirts. I love the simplicity of this. It’s a great way for customers to change their outfits by matching two to three shirts with one blanket. It also makes it much easier for trainers to coordinate with their clients.”

2. Colored hats

-12Many trainers and judges have mentioned in several GoHorseShow articles that if you are going to spend more money on one part of an outfit: invest in a hat. Hats can make or break a first impression. Judges might have personal preferences for outfits, but as long as an exhibitor’s outfit fits well they don’t focus on it too much. The first thing they notice is the hat. A well-shaped hat makes for a clean, precise look.

And then we add a pop of color. Sometimes a basic black or white hat doesn’t do the trick. White hats can wash out the face, and if an outfit is not black based or does not have black or white on it there is o-1nly one thing left to do: match it! Another option for the western classes is a hat decorated with stitching. It is a great way to individualize a look and stand out from the crowd.

“Colored hats have become more popular over the past five years but we’ve seen more this last year in the pen since the late 70’s early 80’s,” says Barbara Maitia of Barbara’s Custom Hats. “Personally, if tastefully done, I love the color. If you are good, you can stand out above the rest; if you are confident, want to be different and can rock it, I say go for it, but make sure it’s tastefully done and the correct color match. A poorly matched hat with your outfit sticks out like a sore thumb and not the ‘winning look’ you were trying to achieve.”

-43. Symmetrical design

Horsemanship and showmanship require a straight posture and square shoulders. Clothing designers are able to emphasize those qualities in their outfits using symmetrical designs.

A design that appears to pull the chest up, shoulders back, and lengthen the waist with the base color can add eye appeal. These designs can aid in the overall correctness of the look and body posture. Lowe of DarDar8 Designs (pictured right) says, “My most popular designs now are symmetrical designs. They are especially popular in classes like horsemanship. It helps the rider look very straight and balanced.”

Lindsay Klempel of Silver Lining Apparel agrees, “We have been asked lately to design jackets without swirls and more with straighter and sharper lines and geometric designs.”

4. Vests

-1Vests are a great way to stand out, and at the same time, is a way to try and keep costs down. Vest prices depend on the extent of the design, crystal work, and time required, but they typically cost less because there is less material to cover.

“Vests are probably my most requested custom item. I think that vests are very versatile,” says Darlene Lowe of DarDar8 Designs. “The look of a vest can be changed easily with different shirt colors worn underneath as well, many designers are now embellishing shirts to be worn under a vest, decorated to make the outfit look like a jacket. A vest is flattering to most women and supportive.”

-1Janet Cook of Show-Off Designs agrees, “Vests can be very flattering to any size rider. They hold you in and hide any rolls. You can change up the color of the shirt to make it different. I’m also still seeing lots of colors for the youth, but darker colors such as black, navy, charcoal or burgundy for the older riders.” (Show-Off Designs Vest pictured right)

Wendy Brown, owner of the highly popular show clothing consignment store, Show Me Again, comments that, “Vests continue to influence several events as well as fringe, but this year, you’ll see careful thought to placement of 
fringe to complement body styles.”

Show Me Again vestA new up-and-coming trend to be aware of? Adding accents to the button down shirts under the vests, specifically with cuffs and arm designs subtly popping up in the show pen this year. (An example pictured left available at Show Me Again)

Beckie Peskin of On Pattern Designs also sees a shift in the “plain shirt trend.”

“I’m still seeing plenty of the truly plain ones, but I’m also seeing some slightly dressed up versions as well. Sometimes with a few stones here and there, but also with more intricate collar designs.”

5. Texture

-2Western outfits have always been a form of expression, and the utmost vision of style in the horse show world. It’s where personal taste meets confidence and trends.

“There are some strong trends for 2016 – chunks of turquoise, pearls, heavy crystal work, copper and bronze beads/embellishments, and a lot of crystaled fringe,” Lowe of DarDar8 Designs states. (DarDar8 Design pictured right). “The most popular color schemes: black with copper and white, sometimes with a little turquoise. Also, a black base with gold and white in the design is very popular.”

Every trend starts with a person that liked something different and decided to try it out. Being a trendsetter is not an easy road to go down. Not everything is going to take off.

silver liningThat’s where confidence comes in.

This trend is big and bold. Designers are adding volume to their creations. “Fringe adds texture, and texture itself remains a very powerful element for today’s jackets, vests and shirts,” adds Wendy Brown of Show Me Again. It is a great way to give an outfit flare, depth, and personal touches. (photo © Silver Lining Apparel)

Be aware of the dangers of texture, though. A misplaced 3D object that accentuates an area that shouldn’t be accentuated is never a good thing.




6. Conservative English Attire

booyah“For trends, I think we seem to be getting more gals wanting to go the conservative route in English attire,” says Elizabeth “Spike” Brewer of Boo Yah Custom Clothing. “Classic whites will always be the most popular. We have some new fabrics that are classy but unique in patterns and simple that everyone seems to love.”

booyah2“Black is always our number one jacket request, followed by navy,” Spike says. “We seem to be getting a few requests for a ‘bright’ version of navy. We aren’t seeing as much piping as we did last year and that trend seems to be slowing down somewhat. On the showmanship suits, we have only done those in black. We’ve never had anyone want another color.”

Brewer adds, “Black and navy will always be the top hunt coat choices as they should be. We get a few requests for brown and gray. We have had a few requests for green but we strongly advise against green and do not offer it.”

7. Details: Braided hair and Bold Makeup

-14Yes, we love our hunt seat horses braided. But now our western exhibitors? Yes. If you have long hair, a braid is the perfect way to keep your look sophisticated and neat. Not that a pretty pony tail is out, this just gives you options. Another thing to keep in mind when choosing your hair style as well: If your horse is pretty rough, and makes your hair bounce in a distracting way, a braid could be a good idea. It will take the emphasis off of what is swinging on your back.

Adding a small colored bow to the look is another great idea to add a personal touch.

darcy reeve makeupAlong with hair, makeup is usually the next item discussed, and we talked to Darcy Reeve of Darcy Reeve Makeup Artistry about the new trends in makeup this year. “I have noticed a transition from a classic makeup look, like a red or dark lip and eyeliner, to more trendy makeup in the show pen,” Reeve says. “Bold eyebrows and a bright lip color are huge trends in the fashion industry, and people seem to be having more fun with their looks in the show pen than ever before. My favorite look right now is a cool-toned smokey eye with a bright pink or purple lip color.” (pictured left)

8. Piped Hunt Seat Jacket Collars/Interchangeable Collars

-11Even with the trend of going back to the classic whites in shirts and traditional hunt jacket colors and styles, there are still riders who want to express their individuality in their hunt seat attire.

Piping has given riders the chance to make even their hunt seat jackets their own. Different colors are available and are a great way to tie in the shirt you are wearing with the jacket.

-3Another similar option is interchangeable collars. The idea is similar to the piping, just a slightly louder touch. Dakota Diamond Griffith wears an interchangeable collar on her jacket which allows her to showcase her identifiable pink brand. Dakota says it’s, “So fun to be able to change your look every day without spending a fortune to buy different jackets!”

9. Leather Works

The pride and joy of all western exhibitors is their saddle. Today’s advanced and talented craftsman at Harris Leather and Silverworks are adding new seat designs, exotic leather, and filigree lace accents.

hybrid harris saddleThe Hybrid Seat from Harris Leather has suede where you sit, and an exotic leather of your choice in the front where it can be seen. Stanton Harris of Harris Leather and Silverworks comments that this seat, “Allows the rider to have the look of an exotic seat while still having the great grip that only traditional suede can provide. We believe the Hybrid Seat is a stylish solution that gives our customers the best of both worlds.”

The lace accents debuted at the 2015 Congress and remain a hit. The design is used in various parts of the saddle, and can be seen on the Harris website under the ‘custom’ tab.

“We put a lot of time into bringing the industry something innovating, and unique,” says Stanton.

10. Helmets

-7Helmets have been used as a fashion statement. But the bigger statement and rising trend is the safety of riders. Associations across the country are making rule changes to encourage the use of helmets. The most popular being the requirement for walk trot and lead line age groups to wear helmets when showing.

Practicing at home with a helmet is definitely a new trend. The best we can do is recognize a possible dangerous situation with a horse and be proactive about it. Don’t feel embarrassed. Feel proud. There are plenty of people who don’t hesitate to strap o-13n a helmet. #HelmetsAreCool

As always, your show clothes have the ability to let your personality shine through. If you are comfortable wearing bold colors, large crystals, or fringe, go for it. If you prefer the simple look, go for it. Using saddle pads, hats, suits, and button down shirts is a great way to stay simple, and stay in style.

Jessica Hart, owner of East Coast Show Apparel (ECSA), says, “Trends tend to recycle themselves, but one seems to hold its own in the show arena—simple. That is always a great way to keep your budget tight. A plain fitted show shirt or fitted suit goes a long way, just make sure you are clean and crisp.” ECSA offers a selection of saddle pads and outfits on consignment intended to make your show experience stylish and affordable.

The best thing about the trend outlook of 2016: the freedom to show off you and your individual taste. Each style is specific, but allows each exhibitor to add their personal touches—in every way from hat to boots. Your outfit is your statement piece. Don’t be afraid to experiment, as long as it doesn’t distract from your overall performance in the ring.

About the Author: GoHorseShow intern, Morgan McCarthy Warda, is a Wildlife Biology major and Writing minor at the University of Michigan-Flint. Morgan grew up actively competing on the AQHA circuit. She balances her time between school, showing, writing, being an MQHA board member, and working as a student research assistant at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. In the future, Morgan plans to obtain a Masters degree in Wildlife Management and continue to be an active member of AQHA.

Photos Courtesy of Morgan McCarthy Warda, Kaleena Weakly, Jenna Seal, Shane Rux, Harris Leather, Boo Yah, Woods’ Western, East Coast Show Apparel