"I think anything goes as far as colors and styles for the kids," says Beckie Peskin of On Pattern Designs. Photo © Eric Hardesty

The Cute Factor: Small Fry Fashion at its Finest

Is there anything more adorable than a Small Fry exhibitor? One of the highlights of the horse show is seeing those walk trotters tacked up and ready to show what they’ve got. Whether they step up to the cone with deadly intensity or can’t stop smiling because they are just so happy to be there, it is fun to see the future of the industry as they are just beginning. Of course, the cute outfits have a lot to do with the cute factor, too.

Although the finished product is always pretty dang adorable, it can be difficult to know where to start when dressing a Small Fry. To help combat that, here are some tips from three of the pros in the horse show fashion world. Kevin Garcia, the owner of Kevin Garcia Originals (pictured right with his Goddaughter Lola Grace), has been in the show world for 25 years and taught himself the ins and outs of show clothing, and now runs a successful business. He, along with Beckie Peskin of On Pattern Designs and Wendy Brown, owner of Show Me Again, weigh in on how to style a Small Fry.

The first thing to decide on is the type of garment for the small fry. “It is appropriate for Small Fry exhibitors to wear anything from a button up, collared shirt and jeans to a full-fledged complete custom outfit with bling and chaps,” says Wendy. “I’ve heard many parents say that they feel like bright colors are more appropriate for youth since they have their entire lives to be conservative with colors and I have seen the tendency to lean towards bright jewel tones and on-trend and riskier designs for the ‘wow factor.’ It is a time to play dress up and show off your personal style.”

“Blue is always #1,” says Kevin, whose Goddaughter Lola Grace shows in the leadline (pictured left). “I make blue probably 70% of the time. Turquoise is huge, and then secondly we go to purple. Those two are the biggest colors. Then, some people try to go into earth tones, but I don’t like that for the kids. I like to show a little personality through the color.”

He likes to start with a straightforward and traditional back zip because it is easy to build from. Not only does it help with the budget, but it also helps the garments last longer. He can always add more stones and different colors, or even a vest to go over the top of it. “You can always build an outfit,” he says. “Instead of getting a new one, buy what you can afford and add to it. Reinvest in what you have.”

“I think anything goes as far as colors and styles for the kids. I mean, if there’s a time to wear your favorite colors, it’s when you are little.” says Beckie, whose daughter, Ella, shows in the leadline (pictured right). “My primary goal when I made my daughter’s first outfit was to make it fun for her (favorite colors). Then, I made it something that could grow with her – so the design was built around being able to let it out so I could get a couple of years out of it.”

Beckie adds, “As far as colors, I always try to avoid black if possible just because they have years of wearing black, and this is one of the few times they can easily wear color.”

Some additional advice for making youth clothing last from Wendy is to make sure that if you have clothes made, they are easy to alter and have plenty of seam allowance. “Sides, sleeves and leg length allowances can make an outfit last a year or two,” she says. “After 1-2 years, most are ready for a new look or design, color change or style and the demand is high in the resale market for youth clothing.” But she also suggests to be careful and avoid going too far the other direction by buying clothes that are way too big and ill-fitting. Fitted is always the top priority.

Kevin agrees. He says, “Working with a designer can help out with this. Pick one that thinks about the ability to add length. If you invest well in the beginning, kids can wear them properly for up to three years.”

He also points out that another huge contributing factor to keeping show clothes around for a long time is care. He advises keeping the garments climate controlled. Leaving them in the horse trailer affects their durability. Instead, take your outfits into the home between shows and always keep them in bags.

Above all, all three gurus love the excitement that goes along with finding the perfect outfit for a Small Fry. In fact, Kevin said that his favorite part of working with youth is getting the reaction. “A lot of times, it is their very first outfit, and that is exciting.  I like to meet the kids because I feel like the outfits should be an extension of the personality. I do this every day in different styles and age groups, but the kids are fun because you can do more fun and wild things that are appropriate.”

View the slideshow below of more small fry/leadline competitors in their adorable outfits.


About the Author: Megan Hendrickson was born and raised on a small farm in West Jordan, Utah.  She attended Utah Valley University and received a Bachelor’s degree in English.  She currently resides in Logan, Utah, with her husband where she works for the Utah State 4-H program.  She has ridden horses all her life and has been an active competitor with the APHA for the past four years.

Photos © Cody Parmenter, Eric Hardesty, J Mraz Photography, Stacy Judd Photography


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