Something old, something new…the best looks for the 2004 show ring will combine a bit of each. Just as a blushing bride wears her future and her past on that special day, show riders will be combining both cutting-edge technology and echoes from history in the show ring in 2004.
First, let’s talk about color. Today’s show arena is not the funereal black parade of recent years—finally! Deep colors are all gaining a foothold as riders realize ‘the new blacks’ like chocolate, midnite, and deepest purple flatter their figure and allow for fresh looks in clothing and saddle blankets. Neutral shades of sand and tan work visual wonders too, attracting the viewer’s eye and subtly contrasting against most horse colors. When black is used, expect it to be paired with bold contrasts, especially on face-framing yokes, to add punch to the picture.
For show clothes, think comfort. Technically advanced stretch materials continue to gain in importance, and Super Slinkies, with their firmer fabric, are becoming the sports garment of choice in all western show events. As our population ages, comfort becomes more important. The AQHA’s successful Select division and new World Championship Show have proven mature riders want all the good looks the juniors wear, and they’re willing to pay handsomely for horses and equipment to win in their very competitive divisions.
Heavy garment embellishment remains very popular, with contrast appliqués, embroidery, and lots of rhinestones and nailheads to outline and highlight each design—often on shiny leather-look materials. Complex sleeve designs will gain in importance, as they help the judge find his favorite performers as they pass, shoulders to the inside of the arena. Consider designs that are big enough to still look distinct across the show pen; tiny, complex motifs melt away when viewed from a distance.
For versatility, look to coordinating sets of a matching Super Slinky and vest. Adorned with similar trims, the two pieces can be worn together for a formal, almost jacket-like look. The fully-decorated slinky can be worn alone, and the vest, layered over a basic slinky, creates another casual look. For value and variety, these coordinating sets see a rider through an entire day’s show events.
Tunic tops will continue to gain fans for their ‘double duty’ characteristics on ‘04. With shaped tails worn out, the showgirl has a flattering halter or showmanship outfit. For mounted events, she’ll simply tuck her tunic inside her show pants, add chaps, and be ready to win. Tunics combine the best qualities of slinkies and tailored tops with the additional versatility of being multi-event garments.
The most popular garments across the board in the show ring remain vests, for their slenderizing fit, comfort, and ease of movement. Vests with coordinating cuffs offer styling options, and can be layered over a variety of slinky tops for different looks. Super Slinkies—decorated show tops made from firmer fabric than traditional slinkies—continue to gain in popularity and are seen in almost every event, not just horsemanship classes where they are very prevalent.
With many riders competing in multiple divisions, versatile clothing that works in halter, pleasure, trail, and even into more athletic events like reining is an important part of a winning wardrobe. Savvy showgirls will be looking for increased comfort and performance from arena fabrics in 2004, but won’t sacrifice good looks for technical advantages: show clothes are becoming beautiful sports apparel.
Very important in 2004 are movie star blouses—fitted bodies with big, soft collars and French cuffs. Worn alone or layered under vests and blazers, these fresh new tops offer showgirls a simple yet elegant way of showing off their cowgirl couture. With a rolled scarf and silver pendant filling the neckline, these flirty blouses are taking the show ring by storm.
In the tack room, styles remain consistent with the last few years. Attempts at popularizing dark saddles have fallen flat, so the best investment remains a quality show saddle in a light finish. Deeper skirts and in-skirt rigging predominate in pleasure saddles, so be sure your show blanket is big enough to nicely frame those larger saddles. Intricately styled silver decorates every surface on both saddles and headstalls, though plain harness leather split reins finish up most bridles.
Show riders want style, not a costume: you’ll find hints of retro inspiration in the winner’s circle next year, but don’t expect hard-core 50’s looks to carry the season. Instead, look a little closer to the past for 70’s style halter suits, those big-collar blouses, and innovative use of color and trim. With classic fitted chaps, a beautifully coordinated saddle blanket, and a great horse, showgirls will be looking for value and flattering fit in their show apparel next year.
Hobby Horse is available from State Line Tack. You may also visit www.hobbyhorseinc.com to find a retailer in your area or for more information.