Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Unfortunate Wardrobe - A History

We have a saying in theatre to remind us that the audience sees our costumes "at 30 feet on a running horse" which is also true for show clothes, literally. Other than halter classes, the judge sees you from a distance, and in rail classes nearly totally from the side view. I like to be creative with my show clothes and making them myself is more cost-effective than buying custom or even off-the-rack.

Long before I learned anything about costumes I was interested in show clothes. It's honestly one of the reasons I wanted to show western. When I started showing English I didn't have my own tack and every piece of clothing I did have was either used or the "economy" (cheapest) thing of it's kind in the catalogs. I bought a used hunt coat for $25 and just sold it last spring for $25. I saw pictures in magazines and I had a Hobby Horse catalog in the early 90's. I didn't have money and I didn't know anything about sewing, but I wanted to look like the pictures I saw in the catalog. My first Western show outfit was black jeans (chaps were expensive and weren't allowed in 4-H so I just never had them) a white shirt, a red scarf, and a fashion vest that was my sisters.
I tried to make it a fitted vest by just taking in the sideseams and shoulder seams. I had cheap synthetic boots and a cheapo kids cowboy hat. My color (red) was selected because I just happened to have a red/gold vest and the hat came with a red ribbon on it. My saddle pad only matched because it was the trophy I won that morning (Reserve Champion Junior Showmanship) and was selected by my boyfriend who worked at the farm store sponsoring the trophies. He chose that pad because he knew I was using red. True story. Oh, and I did the Showmanship in English tack - but got a western pad as a trophy. I still have that pad. It's flat. I used that outfit in 1994 and 1995. There's no picture from '94 but Banee even looks embarrased that I'm wearing it, even though I "upgraded" to a tux shirt and a discarded prom bow-tie. Class. Pure Class. Note the (borrowed) buckstitched tack.

Somehow in '96 I convinced my mom to make me a vest. We bought a pattern from Suitability and some sparkly purple plaid fabric. Gold lamé piping was all over the catalogs so we did that, and gold buttons. I got a new purple/black blanket that year and a new hat for $25 that I'm STILL using. I got Ariat boots that year too that I'm STILL using. Lark looks just as thrilled with my choice as Banee always had.

The next year there was some BS about not allowing 4-Hers to wear anything but a white shirt so I went for simplicity in '97, my last year in 4-H. Oh the wonderful figure swallowing blousiness of the 90's.

In '98 I got my hat shaped and since I had an Arab thought the taco look was the way to go. I had a year of college under my belt and knew a little about sewing so I ripped the gold piping off and made self-covered buttons and a new tie...and matching showbow/hairnet. HOT.

I didn't show again until 2001 and by then I could sew fine on my own. The style had moved away from vests (we realized how much we looked like waiters?) and blouses were the way to go. I also discovered Show Clean shampoo that year. Look how Banee glows! I bought some chaps off ebay but they did NOT fit well. They were made for a fat kid, so though they fit in the thigh and waist, the rise on them was LOOOOOW, which is not a good look for chaps! I sold them right after that show for the same price I bought them for.

And of course you've seen the 2009 Purple sparkly number which will be sold this year as I move back to a totally neutral color pallette. Here's the design so far: I'm thinking about pairing it with a buckskin/tan hat, but I'm not sure how that's going to look.


  1. Your earliest show outfit looks so much like what I had at one time, only my bow tie was red. It even looks like the same hat! But what I had before that was truly hideous. I keep thinking I'll post the picture someday for a laugh but I'm still not brave enough.

  2. My mom was a vest making fool when I showed 4-H. I had a white tuxedo shirt and a black tuxedo shirt and about 7 different vests to choose from on any particular day. All my vests had gold in them, so I had a neutral bow tie and a GIANT gold bow for my hair. Black jeans and a black hat rounded out the outfit. I thought I was looking good! I guess I was since that was the style back then, but yikes... :)

    The new design is nice! Neutral colors really look great when done just right. I just can't tear myself away from the colors... teal and aubergine to be exact.

    Good times!

  3. Looking back on old pictures is always kinda fun - I don't think you look too bad - you were young and showing on a budget...

    I think it is great that you try and make some of your own show clothes - that must help out alot.

    I don't show, but trying to keep up with trends and colours would really stress me out...

  4. I only have one picture of me on a horse before now :( I actually posted it on my blog today. I'm wearing a swimsuit and sandles. Awesome right?

    Love your blog title. I too am an overanxious horse owner. I spend most my time worrying over her.


  5. HiYa, SillyPony! Please go to visit my ebay store for gently used, VERY GOOD PRICES in show clothes, Western and English...I know all about your pain, so now I seek out really GREAT clothes items from estates...in March there will be : HATS and Fancy bands---plus: COATS!! Happy Trails today and I enjoy your posts! phay for Heritage Horses in