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The Dos and Donts of Designing Show Jackets – with Designers Paula Diuri and Kerry House and Judge Christa Baldwin

Outfit. Horse. Showtime! Designing the ultimate show jacket to complete your look in the show pen can give you the extra boost of confidence you need to stand out from the crowd. Whether you like an edgy or simple look, the perfect outfit starts with your personal preference.

GoHorseShow sat down with Christa Baldwin, AQHA judge and trainer at Baldwin Performance horses, Paula Diuri of Paula’s Place, and Kerry House, Designer at HouseWear Show Clothing, to get some insight on creating the perfect western jacket for the show pen. 

Choosing a Color

When you design a jacket, begin by selecting a primary color that coordinates with the horse you will be riding in the show pen.

 “There are no off-limits colors. Just remember, if you choose an atypical or bold color, it can’t be so bold that it dominates or overwhelms the outfit,” iconic designer Paula Diuri suggests. 

The jacket should coordinate with the horse, saddle pad, chaps, hat, and tack. Talking to a designer and listening to their suggestions about color schemes will help polish the look. Baldwin adds, “As a judge, I would like to see your outfit mesh with your horse.” 


Finding the perfect balance between style, fit, and comfort can be tricky, but with the right designer, achieving the fitted look can be pretty straightforward.

Diuri says, “Fit is first and foremost.” If the jacket is not tailored to your body, it may be loose or baggy in areas and give an undesirable look. The weight of the material is your preference, but Diuri suggests that you should take the stability of the material into account.   

The material that you choose should fit your body comfortably. Designer Kerry House weighs in on the topic and says, “Shape and style make a difference. The heavier fabrics lay nicer, whereas the lighter jackets tend to need more nips and tucks.” Whatever material you choose to go with, tailoring the jacket to your body will help you achieve the desired fit.

Sketching out the Details

When it comes to the design of the jacket, let personal style aid in the details. “You should think about the events you will be riding in. A pleasure jacket may be simpler when compared to a reiner’s jacket,” House explains. Adding fringe, spikes, and other elements to the jacket should be done tastefully.

You also need to take into consideration the level of showing you will be doing. “The larger shows are where you need to bring out your best look, and it’s important to find a designer who will help you find ‘your look,’” Diuri explains. 

Letting your style come to life on your jacket will create a unique piece that will help you feel confident and proud to wear it. The simple button-down jacket with details on the collar and cuff seems to be the hot-ticket item for day shirts. “I love the fitted shirts with a little bling because they are lightweight and comfortable,” Baldwin adds. 

Creating a Design

The design of your jacket should express personal style and bring out the best in you.

“I think all patterns can stay current,” Paula explains. “You have to change lines and designs to revitalize them.”

The options of patterns for jackets are endless. Geometric patterns or straight lines are excellent options to begin designing. Then, you can add rhinestones, fringe, or other elements that make your jacket unique. 

House adds, “Clothes are supposed to be fun.” Create a top that makes you feel excited and confident to wear in the show pen. 

Form Fitting

Everyone has a different material preference and body style, making it essential to find someone who can tailor the jacket to fit you. “Design them to make them look more form-fitted,” Baldwin explains. Designers can help you decide what material and pattern would suit your body style the best.

Kerry House suggests looking at the jacket while standing up and sitting down when you are getting fitted, so you know how it will look when you are in the show pen. 

Budget Options

You don’t need a big budget to create a fitted and elegant top. House says, “Everyone has a budget. If I have a client who doesn’t want to spend that much, I try to shoot for a purposely simple jacket that is tailored to them well.” A simple jacket that fits well will stand out in the arena. 

Checking consignment shops are a good place to start if you have a small budget. Christa Baldwin says, “Watch the used jackets. Don’t be afraid to put want ads in for a certain budget.” The perfect jacket may be out there for you, but it may need to be taken in by a seamstress to achieve the fitted look. 

The balance between comfort and style can be like walking on a tightrope, but talking with your trainer and a designer can make creating your one-of-a-kind jacket easier. Feeling good about how you look will give you the confidence you need to complete your overall look for the show pen.

About the Author – Jenna Menetrier has been riding horses for the past 19 years. She attends Davidson College in Davidson, NC. She shows her two horses, Shez Got Hot Leggs and Dgsthefundamentalist in the all-around events.