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Wear This, Not That – Steadfast Horse Show Fashion Rules to Live By


Making an entrance in style as an exhibitor wearing the latest show fashion as a finishing touch on an unforgettable performance is what dreams are made of for many of us.

However, fashion trends come and go, and some rules will always remain in place to assure we look our best whatever the “in” look happens to be. Conventional wisdom will still reign regarding some aspects of our wardrobe, and many basics are merely unspoken.

Wendy Brown of Show Me Again, specializing in new and preowned show clothing for nineteen years, can offer a few experienced words to the wise. Spike Brewer of Boo Yah Custom Clothing, whose English designs enhance the Show Me Again inventory, also chimes in with some sage advice of what to wear, and what not to wear.

WESTERN ARENA

While decorated hats and chaps have made an appearance and can bring together an outfit, it can also be too much if you go all-out on your hat, your top, your chaps, and your saddle.

Wear This

If you want your top to be the centerpiece of your overall look, choose a hat and chaps with minimal decoration to bring out elements of your top. The goal is to enhance, not to distract. Alternatively, if you wear a plain, fitted shirt, a highly decorated hat and chaps can look very sharp.

Not That

Don’t wear a highly decorated top, highly decorated hat and highly decorated chaps all together. Choose one centerpiece and choose tasteful, coordinating elements to build around it.

USE A SEAMSTRESS

Let’s face facts – French cuffs are out of style, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you own or find an outfit donning the dated look.

Wear This

If you find a bargain buy or your favorite shirt needs refreshing, update an older style by meeting with a seamstress to easily remove the cuff with minimal investment.

Not That

Especially if your hand movement is pronounced, don’t wear bling or French cuffs at the wrist.

SADDLE BLANKETS

Often, saddle blanket aficionados are looking for an outfit to match their pad, not the other way around.

Wear This

Coordinate your saddle pad with your outfit by looking at the entire ensemble from a distance.

Not That

Don’t focus on one color in your outfit when choosing a pad when the color may not be prominent from a distance. Saddle blankets are a vital component to completing the overall look.

CHOOSE A COMFORTABLE BASE

These days, everyone is looking for a way to stand out, however, choosing a color that is unflattering to your body type or color of your horse is not the way you want to be noticed.

Wear This

Dark clothing minimizes limitations and enhances body position. Choose a base that you would feel comfortable with wearing in your daily wardrobe.

Not That

If you wouldn’t strut around your daily life in white pants or a red jumpsuit, chances are you aren’t going to feel comfortable wearing it from head to toe when showing your horse. Confidence is key.

COLORED HATS

Colored hats have made a comeback. We’ve all seen the most well-intended competitors with a custom dyed colored hat to match their outfit, and the color is… not quite an exact match. Eeek!

Wear This

If you’re going for a colored hat, make sure the color is an EXACT match in the light of day.

Not That

If your hat doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, don’t accept close enough. If you want to wear a neutral hat with black chaps, make sure your top or saddle blanket brings the chap and hat color together. If not an exact match, a good rule of thumb – lighter hats and darker chaps look better than dark hats with light chaps.

COLOR COORDINATE

The pickiest competitors are the horsemanshipers where the outfit can enhance or detract from your performance and body position.

Wear This

For Horsemanship, coordinate the color of your shirt to the color of your chaps – this helps create a silhouette and a clean line from shoulder to toe.

Not That

Don’t wear opposing shirt and chap colors; to the eye, this can divide the body in half and draw attention to body movement.

CORRECT LENGTH JACKET

A proper fitting outfit trumps everything else. A personal pet peeve is seeing vests or jackets that are too long for the torso. In the days of low rise jeans, many exhibitors stand upright, looking at their jacket and saying it’s too short, not taking into consideration where riding pants and chaps fit. The top will rest 1-2 inches lower when sitting in the saddle. The result is a bunched up outfit behind your bottom, or you’re sitting on the tail of your top.

Wear This

Wear a fitted vest or jacket that falls at approximately the hip bones or slightly higher if you are riding.

Not That

Don’t wear a jacket or vest that’s so long; you end up sitting on it in the saddle. Test it out before you buy it by trying it on with your riding pants and chaps, seated in a saddle or on a stool to get an overall picture.

SHOWMANSHIP

When planning your showmanship outfit, don’t forget the boots. Often an after-thought, custom dyed-to-match boots on that funky color is a necessity and a begrudging extra expense. Keep that in consideration when making a color choice on your outfit.

Wear This

For Showmanship, wear boots that coordinate with your pants or are darker than the pant.

Not That

Don’t go lighter than your pants with your Showmanship boots. This draws the eye to the wrong focus.

COWBOY HAT

We’ve all been there…your class is up. Your outfit is on point, your saddle is clean, and your boots are a perfect match. You pull your hat out of the can, and it’s covered in a layer of dust and has lost its shape.

Wear This

Wear a modern shaped and cleaned hat regardless of budget or whether your outfit is completely current. At the beginning of every show, run your hat to your favorite vendor for a cleaning and shape touch up to keep it looking fresh.

Not That

A current, clean and shaped hat will always modernize your look. A dirty, unshaped hat gives the appearance that you don’t care.

MAKE UP and HAIR

Wear This

Makeup is essential to complete your look. Choose a neutral color that enhances your eyes and cheeks and a brighter lip to coordinate with your skin tone and outfit in the show pen. Lashes are beautiful and create a large eye without the heavy liner. Hair should be neatly done whether up in a bun or secured in a ponytail with no wisps flying.

Not That

The days of dance mom’s blue eyeshadow and pink cheeks paired with red lipstick are over, particularly on a small child. Leave “messy hair, don’t care” for the beach.

FITS WELL

From a weekend show to the highest level, no matter what the investment.

Wear This

Wear an outfit that fits well…always.

Not That

Don’t compensate with an ill-fitting outfit to get by. Invest in alterations or a basic look such as a fitted shirt and chaps that fit correctly.

ENGLISH ESSENTIALS

Conservative and English go hand in hand. Wanting to stand out in this class has been quite controversial.

Wear This

Wear an embroidered or plain collar or “rat catcher.”

Not That

Don’t wear anything sparkly on your English collar.

Gloves

Gloves are out of style in the western pen, but still very sophisticated in the English classes.

Wear This

Ladies: always wear gloves.

Not That

Don’t go barehanded, especially in Equitation.

HELMET HAIR

Wear This
Wear your hair under your helmet.

Not That

Don’t wear hair bun holders; they are not your friend.

FIT IS VITAL

Fit is everything, regardless of brand.

Wear This

Have a coat that fits well, regardless of budget.

Not That

Don’t skip the small details, such as fit in the shoulders and ensure your jacket is not too long or too short.

ENGLISH BOOTS

Boots are often the focal point from the side view.

Wear This

Wear hunt boots that come to the bottom of your knee joint.

Not That

Don’t wear boots that are 2 inches below your knee joint.

*If you’d like Wendy Brown of Show Me Again to help you find your next outfit, please visit her website here.

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