Western Fashion: Head to Toe
This chapter begins a book designed to help you create a winning wardrobe for western show events. We'll evaluate the main elements head-to-toe that make up your western show wardrobe, and discuss hints and visual tricks to help create the look you need in today's tough show competition. With these ideas in mind, you can assess both your horse and yourself to decide what elements in your present wardrobe to keep and what to update. No one knows better than yourself what you like, so remember that my suggestions are just that - nothing is written in stone, except in the show rulebook!
In this introduction, we'll first discuss some why, how, and how much issues of building a western show wardrobe. Next, we'll consider basics of color and style. In future chapters, we'll focus on hats, vests, blazers and jackets, blouses and shirts, pants/belts/buckles, chaps, boots, saddle blankets, and accessories.
For a new rider with no wardrobe, plan on investing close to $1,000 initially for chaps, hat, show blanket, and assorted clothes for a quality western wardrobe suitable for showing competitively at local and regional level shows. Remember that quality basics will last for years and also have excellent resale value. Good show clothing is not an expense; it's an investment in your success.
Consider this: if you show once a month for four years, the difference between a terrific $1,000 wardrobe and an average-at-best $500 bunch of clothes is about $10 per show. Isn't it worth the extra ten bucks to look like a winner?
Do some investigation: consider a trip to the library for a book on fashion and color, and do your own research for both you and your horse. ("He's tall, dark, and chestnut.") Or check out the InterActiv feature - it's a fun way to preview color combinations for you and your horse. When it comes to color, trust your instincts, start simple, and study the impression color creates in the show ring before you start spending.
In general, horses are either "redheads" (sorrel, chestnut, red roan, rose gray, dun- horses with red hair) which look especially nice with softer earth-tone shades of sand, rust, brown, peach, and most any green tone, or "brunettes" (bay, black, white, most grays- horses with brown, black, or white hair) which can wear bright jewel-tone colors like red, blue, purple and also the greens well. "Neutral" color group horses include palominos, buckskins, and grullas who can use either the earth-tone or jewel-tone accents, depending on the rider's preferences, horse's coat color, and the horse's markings.
Some horses including Appaloosas, Pintos, and Paints are a little harder to classify. If your horse has more than 50% body white, consider the brunette/jewel-tone colors to contrast with your horse's white coat and avoid a dreary "sand chaps on almost white horse" combination. If your colorful horse has less than 50% body white, use his primary coat color as the determining factor: for example a minimal white sorrel overo Paint would probably look best in the redhead/earth-tone colors.
If you ride several horses, or aren't sure what color horse you may be showing, consider the versatile blue/green color range. From the palest mint to the deepest forest green, these colors look great on almost any horse color, and also carry well from a distance in the show ring. Picture a beautiful teal green shirt with a matching saddle blanket on a sorrel horse and a bay - it's a winning picture either way.
Keep in mind that dark colors minimize while light colors emphasize. Smaller patterned or vertical stripe fabrics will minimize and lengthen, while large, bold stripes or horizontal designs will shorten or broaden your figure. Remember, too, that the judge will be looking at you from at least 50 feet away, so tiny details will be lost but color and silhouette will carry from rail to rail. Make sure your outfit "reads on stage."
If you're bottom-heavy, you might consider a dark chap color to minimize "thighs of size" with a vertical patterned dark vest to minimize your middle, topped off with a lighter hat to visually draw the observer's eye upward and create the illusion of height in your upper body. If you're tall, a darker hat will visually compress you a little, especially with a darkish outfit below it. Busty? Try to keep layers- lapels, ties, collars- to a minimum on your chest and go for a color blend at the waist. Small, or trying to create a bigger or more adult impression? Go for a sharp color contrast between chaps and tops, and emphasize accessories- bolder ties or a little more jewelry, perhaps.
figure will look trimmer if you try to make everything-
chaps, belt, vest/jacket/shirt- come together at your
natural waist instead of your hips. No color or style
will erase your figure flaws, but careful choices can
emphasize your good points and minimize your weaknesses.
Trends come and go, but good taste is always in style
- just study breed journals and other magazines to see
what the look is in your area. Better yet, attend a
few shows like those you'll be competing in with a camera
to snap a few reminders of what you did or didn't like.
How do you create a winning look? Simply put, by planning. Great performances don't happen accidentally: they're scripted, rehearsed, and polished long before being presented to the judge. From head-to-toe and poll-to-hoof, you can improve your placings and performance by planning ahead.
All materials are copyright 2008 © Suzanne Drnec and cannot be reprinted or used in any way without express written permission.