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2005 Fashion Forecast for Western Show Apparel

Suzanne Drnec, Hobby Horse Inc.

For 2005, expect to see a new silhouette making waves in the show ring: fancy blouses with big collars and French cuffs are a fresh look that's gaining admirers everywhere. These 'Movie Star' blouses debuted on trendy riders in '03, but the comfort and fun look of these tops will explode in '05. Look for flashy fabrics, rhinestone trims on collars, cuffs, and plackets, and flirty chiffon or satin scarves at the neck.

Open-necked blouses are a young look, not necessarily the best for riders with classic curves...but those exhibitors can still carry off the look simply by wearing the fun blouses under a vest that slims and trims the 'waistland.' More modest necklines also flatter those who have seen beaucoup birthdays. Select and senior riders won't blindly follow fashion, so clothiers should be ready to offer a variety of looks that can be worn by different age groups and body types.

Show clothes are about comfort. Stretch fabrics are more and more important, and Super Slinkies (decorated tops on a power knit body) are a wonderful combination of a firm, flattering fabric with stretch comfort. Even a little ease in fabrics makes them so much nicer to ride in: look for textiles with a spandex or Lycra content for the greatest comfort.

After a decade of dreary black, color continues to creep back in the show ring. Although a majority of riders continue to look just like one another by insisting on a basically black outfit, sand and pale earth tones are being seen more, as well as chocolate and deep blues. Dark aubergine purple and sorrel-toned whiskey are an option for riders with enough confidence to stand out along the rail. More colored tops are also being seen, even when worn with black: try to use a strong contrast color in your wardrobe and your saddle blanket for a bold visual impression.

Both shiny leather and sueded finishes will have a place in the winner's circle this year; it's a rider's choice which is most flattering in a particular outfit. But be careful if you mix them, for example smooth chaps with a matte fabric blouse: it can visually divide you at the waist. Riders continue to have their favorites in split leather, smoothie leather, and Ultrasuede chaps. Each have their fans, and each offer different qualities in price, comfort, and care.

Heads up on hats! Hat brims are smaller and shaped a bit more steeply than in recent years, and we're seeing more than just black and tan hats. A few new hues will gain traction this year, as will amusing treatments including bound brims, side dent creases, and understated contrast bands.

Several mainstream western fashion trends are tiptoeing into the show ring, but they may not always work in the arena: rhinestone belts are bulky under chaps, add the illusion of thickness to your waist, and cut you in half in the judge's eye. See-through blouses that reveal a camisole or bra may not impress judges who don't frequent lingerie bars. Vivid exotic boots give you happy feet, but it may be best not to call attention to your tootsies by wearing wild boots with quiet chap colors in the show pen. The tradition of the show ring is one of conservative presentation, so deliberately skimpy or flamboyant clothes may not be appropriate.

Rhinestones and leather continue in importance, but textured, shiny, theatrical fabrics, especially in blouses, will add variety to what has been a sea of black with a pound or two of spangles for years. These colored custom looks can be pricey, so be sure you can spring for 'the total look' before you splurge. Otherwise, it might be smart to update an outfit with a brightly colored blouse and new saddle blanket.

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Article reprinted with permission of author. 2005 Suzanne Drnec. Writing or riding, Suzanne Drnec enjoys horses and their people. Drnec is president of Hobby Horse Clothing Company, a show apparel manufacturer, and also the caretaker of an assortment of lawn ornaments including three Paint horses.