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A Look Back at 20 Years of Horse Show Fashion with Show Me Again

It’s time to celebrate. In 2020, Show Me Again commemorates 20 years of specializing in high-quality, budget-friendly consignment show clothing, and to honor the achievement, we are taking a walk down show clothe memory lane.

Join us for a fun look by Show Me Again of the horse show trends and fun fashions we all used to wear. 

Wearing It Formally

As exhibitors, we have always loved our pageantry and formality, part of the appeal for sports with precise movement, sometimes only discernible to the educated eye. 

Particularly during the ’90s, it was a must for exhibitors to accessorize with items to lend elegance and decorum to their appearances, such as gloves in horsemanship and showmanship.  The trend also diminished hand movement (luckily for some of us) and completed a proper picture somewhat reminiscent of carriage drivers dressed up in their Sunday best.

Pictured on the left, Show Me Again owner and CEO Wendy Brown was wearing an off-the-rack Woods Western top decorated only with sequins, polished off with gloves for a complete look in her horsemanship class at the 1997 All American Quarter Horse Congress.

Other must-have fittings in that era included hair nets or bun nets with bows or crystals, and we loved our belts enhanced with silver conchos.

The tilt toward formality in show clothing itself included mandarin collars and slinky collars, both of which stood up and offered a refined, feminine look that took the show world by storm. Tuxedo-type looks with bowties, modeled on the right by then young ladies Kathryn Tekulve and Briana Fields, formed smart ensembles.

Shining Examples

Show Me Again saw smooth leather chaps and shirts hit the show ring in the late ’90s and early 2000s in a big way with long-lasting effects.

We just couldn’t get enough shine (can we ever?), from the bling belts we wore to the quite the opposite of rough-out chaps – chaps with a sheen of varying degrees, and it extended to our vests and tops to our cuffs, too. 

Pageantry ruled, and we wanted to stand out to catch that judge’s eye and not blend into the background, as demonstrated on the left in 2004 by Delores Kuhlwein, Show Me Again Sales Rep, on her first show horse, Joker.

At that time, shimmery western shirts and fabric with rim set rhinestones graced our outfits, and at least one shiny, day shirt was found in everyone’s show clothing closet.  Over the decade, we experimented with varying levels of shine in jackets, shirts, and even pants continued to impact show ring looks from that point on. 

Going Retro

Western and retro looks have woven themselves through the fabric of our show clothing wardrobes throughout many years for a good reason, not only due to their nod to our sport’s beginnings but also because it is just plain fun and flattering. 

In the early 2000s, the most significant shift came when smooth chaps were replaced with suede and sequins were replaced with glue set Swarovski crystals. Western Retro could be seen everywhere from the show ring to the western apparel stores and in our streetwear. 

Touches of fringe, cuffs, vests, shine, and accents buck stitch and whip stitch abounded along with the versatility of vests.

“This was my first custom outfit,” explains Brown, pictured on the right aboard her horse, Bailey, at the AQHA World Show, in this early 2000’s shot. “It was progressive because it had a retro horsemanship top that could be worn by itself and a vest and cuffs to put on for pleasure, trail and western riding events. Even though vests went out of style for a bit and jackets were the rage, people liked the comfort and versatility of vests, and they made a huge comeback with this influence.”

Drawing the Eye Up

In fashion, it’s always desirable to draw the eye upward, and horse show style is no different. We want the eye to go naturally up and away from our lower half, so the show clothing we saw (and wore) in the early to mid-2000s reflected that need. 

White hats and white on their shoulders emphasized exhibitors’ faces, balanced shoulders, and deemphasized any leg movement, especially crucial for horsemanship riders.  The presence of white made a perfect springboard for balancing other colors.  “The blue was my favorite outfit then; it stood out on her and gave me confidence,” says Joetta Bell, pictured on the left with the late, legendary AQHA mare, Sweet Talkin Jeannie.

Going All Out

After vests moved away from the spotlight, jackets were the go-to piece of show apparel, and over time, they arguably became the most varied piece of show clothing yet.

Jackets began to dominate, and designers learned to truly use them as a canvas, turning jackets into works of art, many of which Show Me Again was proud to represent.

On the right, Wendy Brown smiles with her 2010 Congress Championship gear in-hand, wearing a classic Julie Ewing suede jacket accentuated with Swarovski crystals and embellishments. 

Jackets became the must-have to show in all day, highlighting the best features of competitors, and for some, they became a fantastic tool to push the limits.  Joetta Bell wore a most memorable and trendsetting piece on Sweet Talkin Jeannie in 2004, and it represented a change on the horizon in what could be done with show clothing.  “I had Paula make it look like a genie with dangly, shiny stuff,” laughs Bell.  “I loved the rich color on that mare.”

From then on, it seemed, it was anything goes, and unique findings on jackets took the show world by storm.  The show world’s love of blingy and unique jackets that make a statement and make us look and feel our best

Versatility Rules

Then, asymmetrical designs splashed onto the show scene on horsemanship shirts and jackets, as demonstrated on the right by Show Me Again customer Priscilla Stuart-Galgas in 2011. 

Lace overlay made a huge appearance, a savvy way to either dress up a design economically or as a terrific base for embellishment.  Lace graced jackets as a complete drape, creating depth and a canvas for crystals, or as cutouts on horsemanship tops.

In the most recent decade, the absolute love of asymmetrical was replaced by balanced, symmetrical preferences, and designers began using geometric shapes and lines to develop complementary lines for riders of all shapes and sizes. There was no limitation on the bling.

The trend went wild, and the desire to blend flattering lines with the newest fashions was here to stay, as demonstrated in this 2020 Diane Olsen design on the left, provided by Picture Groove Photography and consigned to Show Me Again as a brand new jacket.

But exhibitors with a broad range of budgets wanted more, and they wanted to show smarter with lots of choices, so the vest reappeared, often combined with matching horsemanship tops, allowing exhibitors to remove their vests to get ready for horsemanship simply.  And they did it in symmetrical designs from designers like Silver Lining and Diane Olsen, who offered them both full-length vests and the reinvented bolero. Fringe was back but positioned to flatter in places like the waistline, or an accent on the shoulder. 

Now we are heading back to the simplistic trend of the zip-front shirt. Fitted shirts are a force to be reckoned with, to be worn underneath vests or alone on a hot day.  The shirts by themselves became a staple with embellishments and piping. It was a beautiful way to enjoy vests like the Silver Lining Custom Show Apparel. The vest/shirt combo was listed with Show Me Again and worn at the right by Mickie Krajenke, Show Me Again Sales Rep and photographed by Ali Hubbell Photography. 

Shine has also returned to the show pen in the form of a zip-front shirt, now with better fabrics and more options, like this Platinum Show Apparel stretch satin shirt with piping on the left, seen at 2020 AzQHA Sun Circuit.

As we look forward to 2021, the sky is the limit for horse show fashion and the fun of discovering what designers have in store and the utter joy of showing in an outfit you feel amazing in awaits you as an exhibitor. 

One thing is for sure…whether you have been a customer or a consigner over the past 20 years, Show Me Again will be here to offer preowned, designer consignments and brand new horse show clothing with dedicated, professional, and passionate service.  See them soon at a show near you.

CLICK HERE to see Show Me Again in the May Fashion issue of GoMag.