2017 Fashion Forecast
By Suzanne Vlietstra
|Color-coordination of horse and rider create the impression of a winning team. Here, “Mattie” vest in turquoise with coordinating blouse and saddle blanket make a winning look, from Hobby Horse.. Photo ©2017, Hobby Horse Clothing Co., Inc.|
Show season is here! Horses are slick, riders have perused show bills and entered classes, the trailer is packed in readiness to go, show, and win… but what about your show wardrobe this year? Are you ready to create a winning impression the moment your horse sets hoof into the arena?
Western show fashions for women this year cover a wider spectrum of styles than perhaps ever before. On the flashy western pleasure side, custom-made show tops are absolutely encrusted with hand-sewn jewels, fringe, airbrushed painting, crystals and other blingy baubles. Way over on the practical side, ranch riding aficionados are wearing a basic cotton shirt, a straw hat, and jeans. What’s new is that these extremes in costuming might be worn by the same rider at different times of the day in different classes at the same horse show.
Because there is such variety in what is being worn in the western show pen, riders are embracing small details like hat brim trims, custom boots, and unusual jewelry to personalize their presentations and bring a sense of fashionable fun to the arena. This wide spectrum of acceptable fashion also means that more fabrics, more colors, and more trims are being seen on all components of a western show outfit. Savvy showgirls know to use color and silhouette to create a winning impression in the show ring, so let’s get to the details!
|Beautifully tailored black “Bethany” jacket from Hobby Horse is attractive with any horse; gold overlay adds bling in the ring. Show apparel should fit like a glove and showcase your smooth riding skills. Photo ©2017, Hobby Horse Clothing Co., Inc.|
Taking it from the top, we’ll start with hats. While a traditional felt with a cattlemen’s crease and 4” brim is always acceptable, expect to see personalization on hats as a big element in fashion this year. Bound-edges on bigger brims, whip-stitching, and distinctive bands will be seen, as well as painting, jeweled accents, and embossed designs on hats. Not every exhibitor is going to have a hand-made topper, but more and more riders are appreciating the comfort and originality of the iconic western hat, and spending accordingly. And they’re doing it in color: brights and pastels are joining the parade of black and pale neutral hats for a blast of quirky color… even straws are appearing in high-contrast colors and fancy weaves. Hats are fun!
For show tops, the look is again across the board. For ranch classes, or for riders who choose a classic quiet look, there’s nothing better than a starched, pressed cotton shirt, beautifully tailored, and accented with a pretty scarf that picks up colors from a bold saddle blanket. Look for classic shirts with amusing contrast details inside plackets and collars, and in some traditional western prints as well: gingham, calico, etc. Expect to see more vests in the show pen in both traditional and embellished styles.
In the pleasure pen, the same cotton shirt from ranch classes may be seen with a smaller scarf or subtle jewelry… or the rider may don a multi-thousand-dollar embellished show jacket that would be at home on any stage in Nashville! Again, styles run the gamut from plain to extremely embellished. As in recent years, fancy fabrics with tons of texture including lace, metallic elements, and sequined accents carry the look across the arena and add dazzle to any arena presentation. Add more jewels and crystals if you wish, but make sure that the garment fits trim and is in tasteful colors that coordinate with your horse’s color before you bring on the bling.
|Tailored western vests are comfortable, slenderizing, and cooler than jackets. Expect to see vests like Hobby Horse’s shimmering “Icicle” layered over stretch technical tops, as shown here. Photo ©2017, Hobby Horse Clothing Co., Inc.|
Chaps should fit like that proverbial glove, helping the rider’s frame to look long and lean. While you’ll find some custom touches sneaking onto chaps like double rows of fringe, contrast yokes, and custom conchos, chaps are always in style with fringe and a great fit that hangs snugly from the riders waist and ends in a length that covers the boot heels when mounted. For ranch riders, chinks (knee-length chaps) paired with tall boots are a popular look and a place to show your individuality with fancy fringe treatments and touches of contrasting color.
|Show styles in 2017 are elaborate, graphic, and look great from a distance in the show ring. “Elsie” teal suit from Hobby Horse has high-contrast geometric trim and plenty of crystals to bring sparkle to your show wardrobe. Photo ©2017, Hobby Horse Clothing Co., Inc.|
Showmanship exhibitors continue to prefer a suit look with pants and jacket in matching fabric. Those jackets may be as embellished as a pleasure jacket (or even be the same double-duty jacket in a hip length) or simply tailored with western details including yokes and topstitching. Boots should match pants, and hats should match or be a pale neutral color to frame the handler’s face.
Accessories, as mentioned, are personal, quirky, and fun. Scarves, ties, jewelry, buckles, belts, and boots are as individual as those who wear them. Small luxuries including personalization with initials and brands in jewelry, use of exotic leathers in boots and belts, and fine details like discrete hat band pins and silky scarves in intricate prints all add charm and originality to the show ring presentation of competitive western riders.
There’s one item that visually pulls horse and rider together as a team: a large, colorful saddle blanket. Whether you choose an intricate tribal look to go with a solid shirt, or a simpler geometric or solid design paired with a patterned top, your saddle blanket is the key piece that makes you and your horse look like you belong together, so choose it carefully. Size matters, too: the saddle blanket needs to be big enough to frame your saddle and lend color to your presentation.
|Show blouses bring all-day comfort to the show ring, with designs like Hobby Horse’s “Stephanie” horsemanship top combining stretch and shine to create a winning impression. Photo ©2017, Hobby Horse Clothing Co., Inc.|
Don’t forget your horse’s contribution to the overall picture of show-ring style when planning your show wardrobe. While black is the most common clothing color used in the show ring, consider using earth-tone accents like rust and buckskin on sorrel and chestnut horses, and jewel-tone brights like indigo and fuchsia on horses in the bay and black/white color range. Not sure what horse you’ll be riding? Blue/green colors flatter any horse and rider; teal and turquoise are always good choices in the show ring. Test drive your color concepts before buying them by draping a large swatch, like a towel, on your horse to evaluate the look from a distance.
|Lovely shimmering paillettes fabric in bold silver and gold combine to make Hobby Horse’s “Jewely” jacket a modern western wardrobe standout. Shapely tailoring helps slenderize your figure as you show. Photo ©2017, Hobby Horse Clothing Co., Inc.|
Review your current wardrobe with these tips in mind, then add a few new pieces or up cycle something you already own to refresh your show wardrobe and get ready for show season. Planning ahead reduces stress on show day and helps you get Ready-to-Win… good luck and have fun!
© 2017 Suzanne Vlietstra. Writing or riding, Suzanne Vlietstra enjoys horses and their people. Vlietstra is president of Hobby Horse Clothing Company (www.hobbyhorseinc.com) a show apparel manufacturer, and also owns a 50-horse boarding stable.