Photo © Emma Garcia

We Ask the Experts: Changing Fashion Trends

Whether it’s the real world or the horse show world, it’s safe to say that fashion will always change. In the last 40 years, we have seen some significant changes in style. It often gets people thinking where else can it go?

The truth is that no one can predict the future, and no one should tell you what you can and cannot wear. However, they can advise you on how to make a long-lasting statement that will look great for years to come.

We talked to some of the industry’s top fashion experts about the changing fashion trends and how to stay timeless in your fashion choices including Trista Mallow from Closet Space Consignment, Elizabeth Brewer of Boo Yah Custom Clothing, Phil Harris of Harris Leather & Silverworks, and Barbara Maitia of Barbara’s Custom Hats.

In your eyes, how has fashion changed in the last ten years?

Trista Mallow– Fashion trends in the show pen have become much more detailed and intricate over the past ten years. The details are what sets you apart from your competition.





Elizabeth “Spike” Brewer– For a while, the trends in the western pleasure pens were getting a little out of hand with the amount of bling. It seems to have been scaled back, and we see a lot more gals in the simple button-up blouses that look equally great in any arena. I think this has helped some folks feel less intimidated, that they can compete if they don’t have a high-priced outfit.




Phil Harris– The tack has become more personalized. More people want initials or names on their saddles, headstalls and halters. We do more customization now than ever before. There is also more use of exotic leathers like ostrich and crocodile.






Barbara Maitia– From the time I was showing ten years ago, fashion has come a long way. Like everything, fashion trends come and go, but some get resurrected, and we see some of the old fashion trends rolling back around. I can speak frankly about hats as that is my area of expertise, but indeed, tack has gotten a new look as well as we teeter from lots of bling and silver back to the basics with just a little more straightforward elegance in the show pen. Realizing that not everyone has an unlimited pocketbook, we as designers have to appeal to every budget ranging from 4-H, local open shows all the way to the open breed World Shows. We all have to be diverse in our style and designs and make “the winning look” affordable, stylish and match each exhibitor’s individual “look.”

What trends do you think are coming back in style?

Trista Mallow– Silk fitted shirts have been a hit in the show pen this year. Bolero vest sets are also still popular this year.

Elizabeth Brewer– Simplicity in general, which is refreshing.

Phil Harris– The trend of the two-tone saddles and accessories have been popular for a long time. I think these are evolving and becoming the new standard for the showman. It is tough to predict what’s ahead.

Barbara Maitia– Button-down shirts with different scarves to match; colored hats and hats that showcase one’s style are trends that have been around now for about five years. It’s taken some trainers a bit to come around, but I know that the judges like some of the unique “tastefully done” hats that we create to match outfits made by various designers to include color matched hats. Tastefully done, your hat completes the entire look of your outfit, so it makes perfect sense to take the time to plan your outfit and colors. Not every color will match your horses color, and if it matches your horse, it may not look the best on you. Enlist the opinions of color suggestions from the designers and trainers as they are better to assist you and find your perfect color match and unique look.

Tastefully done, I am a fan of the colored hats as it brings uniqueness to the show pen, and I am always of the mindset to be different and if you can “rock it” then own it. My only advice is to make sure it’s a perfect color match (we’ve seen our fair share of fashion faux-pas). When you enter the arena, your judge can tell just by your hat if you’ve taken the time and care to complete your look. Your hat must be cleaned and properly shaped before you show as your hat completes “the winning look.”

What is your favorite new trend?

Trista Mallow– One of our favorite looks would be the geometric designs on jackets and tops. These designs bring symmetry and clean lines creating an overall balanced look.

Elizabeth Brewer– For the hunt seat, the brighter navy or blue coats have been a trend for a few years. I love blue, so of course, I love this trend.

Phil Harris– I like the new larger saddle pads. They’ve become longer down on the sides and are a much more substantial weave. The colors and patterns compliment the outfits riders use.

Barbara Maitia– I love the clean, crisp look of our hats, the underlays that we started making in 2006 on the West Coast that you can now see on our custom straw creations everywhere. We love seeing our customers rock them in the show pen.

What trends do you think are in for the long haul?

Trista Mallow– We feel the fitted shirts are going to stick around for quite some time. You cannot beat an excellent fit, a crisp button up. Plus, you can make a fitted shirt custom with different fabrics and trim, so you can still have your unique look.

Elizabeth Brewer– Again, for the hunt seat, I think the bright navy will stay around for years to come. However, a classic black coat and white shirt will never go out of style.

Phil Harris– High-quality saddles and tack. The two-tone leathers and the exotic combinations will be fashionable for years to come.

Barbara Maitia– I think we will continue to see the crisp, clean shapes in the show pen and will see design trends continue to roll forward tastefully to uniquely match outfits. Designers and hat retailers will work closer together in assisting customers in receiving the best expertise possible when creating their outfits. As far as hat colors, I predicted several years ago that the whiskey, pecan, various shades of grey and chocolate would be the softer shades for fashion. Personally, I love the variety and choices that we now have in hat colors, and I see lots of color in the show pen.

What trend do you think is going out as quickly as it came in?

Trista Mallow– That is hard to say, since we are in the consignment business we deal with all different levels of showing. Our job is to take these trends and pass them along to different breeds or organizations. Just because it is no longer trendy for one breed does not mean it isn’t stylish for another.

Elizabeth Brewer– For the hunt seat, the extremely busy patterned shirts with equally as busy collars seem to be going out of style. When you can see someone in a hunt seat outfit coming because of the active pattern on their collar, that is distracting and goes against the traditional clean and classy hunt seat trend Boo Yah adheres to.

Phil Harris– I wish I had the answer to this one, but I do not know what that would be.

Barbara Maitia– The Bolero “look” I think will be a fad and will roll in and out. Not everyone can pull off that “look,” but I do love the lines of it and like seeing it in the arena. White hats were trendy and had their place and have not been such a sought-after color in the past few years. Some outfits look amazing in a white hat. I showed in a white hat, but not everyone looks great in white so consult your designer for what works best. Even though they seem to have faded, this trend will circle back around at some point.


We may never be able to predict the future, but one thing is definite – uniqueness and simplicity will never go out of style. It has been said before and will continue to be said, “Wear what makes you feel good.” Confidence is a significant part of fashion, if you feel good, we are willing to bet that you look good too. Remember, it’s okay to be a trendsetter.

About the Author: Ashlynn Balmer is a 24-year-old Finance and Insurance Manager for a car dealership in Lansing, Michigan. She was recently married and, together with her husband, breeds and shows reining and pleasure horses as do-it-yourself amateurs. She has been showing AQHA since she was two years old, mostly with her now 18-year-old gelding Natural Traveler, showing in everything from showmanship to jumping, earning a few AQHA Level 1 Top Tens in multiple events. While Natural Traveler is retired these days, Ashlynn can’t wait for the future of her yearling KissaMeInMoonlite.