Why We Wear the Riding Clothes We Wear

Have you ever wondered why we wear those fancy suits when we enter the show ring on our horses?  I found two interesting articles on the Saddle Horse Report website regarding just that subject.  The “Evolution of Equestrian Fashion” and “What the Well-or Properly-Dressed Equestrian Will Wear“, written by Ann Bullard, give an in-depth history and present day discussion of equestrian outfitting from the perspectives of various clothiers, such as Carl Meyers and Marsha Shepherd. 

As discussed in the article “Evolution of Equestrian Fashion” the history of the riding suit has been very colorful and Carl Meyers’ family has been instrumental in the changes seen through the years:

Current fashion can be traced back to Carl Meyers grandfather Emmanuel Myers of Lexington, Ky.  Meyer’s Army surplus store became the center for Saddle Horse riders after World War I.

“Granddad carried boots and different things farmers used around here,” Carl Meyers said. “That’s how he got introduced to the Saddle Horse guys such as Earl Teater and the Bradshaws. They got him involved with designing riding apparel.”

Emmanuel Meyers was the first to design the ‘jodhpur’ as we know it today.

The article goes on to discuss how riders and their mounts in the past influenced color choices and style:

Solid suits with different linings, some in paisleys and other prints and some in a contrasting color, became popular. The most prominent of these that helped set a trend was Mitchell Clark’s navy blue suit with a red lining he wore while showing CH Sky Watch to the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship. Don Harris helped popularize the tan suit for performance riding when he showed CH Imperator.

What the Well-or Properly-Dressed Equestrian Will Wear” discusses the importance of fit and neatness of the suit worn by the rider  Taylors, Marsha Shepherd and Elise Becht Hausenstein, talk about many of the trials and tribulations of fitting the riders of today:

As did the others, Shepard has designed a pattern for women. As a rider and trainer, one of her many dislikes was ripples up and down a rider’s arms. Part of her solution came from the conductor of the Boston Symphony.

“I happened to be at the symphony watching the conductor. I wondered why the back of his jacket hadn’t changed when he directed with his arms up,” she said, explaining a conductor’s basic arm position is similar to that of a rider. “I found the gentleman in Boston who did custom tuxedos for the symphony director. He was kind enough to share his secret with me.”

Additionally Hauenstein discusses problems her company has faced:

She (Hausenstein) spoke of some challenges in fitting individuals. Getting a proper fit and line over a woman’s bust is near the top of the list.

“I make a pattern to fit the individual,” she said. “If someone is large busted with a smaller waist, for the most part we can get that down. Little people are very hard to deal with. I’ve worked with adults who are a size one or two and as wide as they are tall. Their waist and hips fall together. I have to do a little more tweaking to fit them.”

These articles are both very interesting reading, giving incite as to how we have come to wear those hot suits in the summer.  To read the complete articles please go to the Saddle Horse Report website Current News Page.

3 Responses to Why We Wear the Riding Clothes We Wear

  1. Leslie says:

    It’s interesting what goes into the costumes we wear. I’ve always thought it’s sort of ridiculous that we wear three-piece, wool-blend suits (in 90 degree weather), do our hair and makeup before going into the ring, and then try to convince people that what we do is a sport. I wish we could do what the jumpers sometimes do, and wear boots, jods, and a polo shirt. We do love our traditions in the saddle seat world, though, even when they’re impractical (not to mention prohibitively expensive…)

  2. Black Eye Beth says:

    My husband laughs that the only time he sees me dressed up, with make-up on, is at a show (sad to say..that is a true statement!). The suits are incredibly hot but we all look so pretty!!

  3. Leslie says:

    It’s true…my makeup collection spends the winter in hiding and resurfaces only for show season.

    I have a photo of my horse and I at a show at my desk at work, and a coworker once commented that I dress up more to go riding than I do to come to work. True story, but I wonder what people would think if I came to work wearing a derby. Technically it’s not against the dress code…

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