Just like celebrities rely on accessories to complete their red carpet looks, accessories in the show pen play an important role when it comes to completing a show outfit.
Over the years, we have seen some of the trends change, for example women are no longer wearing rhinestone encrusted button covers and hat styles have had their very own evolution.
But the importance of utilizing accessories remains unchanged.
GoHorseShow sat down with five top designers in the industry and asked them to play personal stylist.
The result is a well-rounded education on what it means to accessorize effectively.
When Accessorizing Makes Sense
Given that western pleasure is the haute couture fashion show of the show pen, it probably isn’t surprising that the experts said that it is the most appropriate class to showcase your personality and creativity.
Sonia Vilandre’ of Vilandre’ Designer explained why it is easier and more appropriate to be a little more flamboyant in the pleasure.
“Pleasure is shown from the rail and farther away from the judges,” she said. “So exhibitors can be more dazzling but not shocking with their overall view.”
“Exhibitors in this class have such a wide variety of styles, said Elizabeth “Spike” Brewer of BooYah Custom Clothing. “But no matter how simple or extravagant your outfit is, there are quite a few accessories you can use.”
Brewer noted that earrings are always a great way to polish your look and if wearing a blouse or low cut jacket, sometimes a necklace. She is also a fan of a scarf when paired with a simple blouse, and said that a different color quality felt hat will also help to diversify the look.
Just like western pleasure is the haute couture fashion show, the English classes are the high tea party of the show pen and the experts agreed that in these classes, accessorizing should be kept to a minimum.
Hannah Casper of Hannah Jewelry said, “Small earrings such as tiny hoops or studs are acceptable. Other than that, I see no reason for more accessories. What is important is the fit of a nice hunt jacket, worn over a smart hunt seat shirt. A monogrammed collar always adds a special touch. A clean, classy look always turns heads in these classes.”
Brewer added, “You see some different styles of number holders for the English pads as well as other events. I would suggest keeping those simple like the magnetic ones. Steer away from the bulky holders that distract from a clean look on the pad.”
Of course, between your haute couture fashion show and high tea party lies your “every day” wardrobe, where accessorizing is important but you rely on a few go to pieces to complete your outfit.
Think of halter, showmanship, and any of the pattern classes as this every day wardrobe.
“It really goes for any of the classes but jewelry should never overpower your outfit,” said Beckie Peskin of On Pattern Designs. “For the horsemanship and equitation, earrings that are no bigger than the size of a pencil eraser will compliment your outfit the best. If you have a wedding ring that isn’t too blingy, it’s fine to leave it on. For me, hats with embellishments have no place in classes that are judged on the rider.”
Sarah Pyles of Rhinestone Lipgloss agreed and added, “Earrings that are small, such as our teardrop studs (pictured right), have found a very popular home in the show pen due to the fact that they are just large enough to be noticeable, but stay extremely quiet while the exhibitor performs their class.”
When Accessories Are Too Much
Just like the fashion world has some fashion “rules,” so does the show world and accessories are not exempt from those rules.
Our experts gave us some accessory fashion faux pas that every exhibitor should steer clear of, no matter which event they are exhibiting.
Brewer explained that the nets are glaring and draw attention to the back of the rider’s head which ruins the chance for a sleek and simple look. This goes for both English and western.
And while a lot of western trends are far from “simple,” it does not mean that everything needs to be embellished.
“Bling hat bands, crystal conchos on show pads, crystals on belts, and crystals on chaps are just too much,” said Vilandre’.
And even though your western accessories may be limited, it does not mean that everything has to be as big as the great state of Texas.
Casper said, “It is important to steer clear of loud, overdone pieces. Oversized crystal necklaces, studs that are too large and colorful are some examples. Jewelry is fantastic, just remember it is an accent.”
Finally, even though western style isn’t simple, it does not mean that your accessories should move like fringe on a 1920s flapper dress.
“In the pattern classes, you don’t want anything dangling,” said Peskin. “Nothing should be moving, and you don’t want to see the accessories before anything else.”
“Earrings that are too large, or that are in multiple pieces tend to move around to much and distract from the performance of your horse,” added Pyles.
Necklaces and Matching Colors…Yay or Nay?
In Hollywood, the day after an award show, critics seem to always have two things to discuss: if the necklace was appropriate for the dress and if the color scheme worked.
When it comes to necklaces in the show pen, the same rules apply.
“Certain jackets with a high, open collar can be complemented with a necklace as long as it is not a distraction,” said Pyles. “We offer a flat, metal choker that lays silently on the collarbone, high enough to peek out, but will not move or bounce.”
A popular class to wear necklaces is undoubtedly the halter classes as it is an easy way to dress up what is an otherwise toned down outfit.
“I have always thought of it as a business meeting where you are presenting a product,” said Casper. “A lot of the ladies (in halter) will wear their collars open with their button down shirts or suits. The most important thing to remember is that the necklace should never be overdone. Tailored is in.”
The overwhelming response from the experts was that no, your look does not need to perfectly match down to the accessories.
“In the fashion business, we always say, ‘no matchy, matchy,’” said Casper. “Yes, our outfits should match, however it should flow from piece to piece. You don’t want to look too contrived.”
“Earrings certainly don’t need to match colorwise,” said Peskin. “There are plenty of options that will work well with any outfit.”
“I think if you are in the same color range, that is okay,” said Brewer. “We get a lot of people with shades of gray and tan hats that want to match a blouse to their hat, and that is always a good idea. But overall, I don’t think they have to be exact matches, but from the same family.”
Saddle Pads – the Accessory That Deserves More Attention
While you have probably read a million times that a well-shaped, quality hat is the cornerstone to any outfit (that still holds true, by the way) an accessory the experts spoke a lot about and feel doesn’t get enough attention is a quality, complementary saddle pad.
This is true even in western pleasure, where the focus is usually on the jacket, vest, or shirt.
“A great way to set the tone for any western outfit is with a pretty pad,” said Brewer. “There are a lot of pad options out there, but there is a huge difference in a high quality pad, as opposed to a looser weave that will last a couple show seasons. I suggest people invest in one or two quality pads that will last for many years and have resale value.”
However, seeing as some might be spending a large portion of their budget on their jacket, some exhibitors might find it intimidating to also splurge on a custom navajo pad.
Peskin has a solution.
“The printed navajo pads really are a luxury,” she said. “You can make the pad a non factor by purchasing one that is solid and matches the color of your horse, just make sure it is big enough to fit your saddle.”
Less is More and Why All This Matters
You would think that seeing as our experts are all fashion designers (be it clothes or jewelry) they would advise to go “all out” in every sense of the phrase.
But one theme really ran deep with all of them, and that is that less really is more.
In fact, the great designer Coco Chanel once said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.”
When it comes to accessorizing in the show pen, the experts all agree that it is vital that your accessories are not over or under done but maintain a happy medium.
“Detail is everything, down to the smallest opportunity,” said Pyles. “Nothing is worse than ‘almost’ completing an outfit.”
“Accessorizing is important inside and outside of the show pen because it sets each person apart, giving them their own style and personality,” said Casper. “It shows that extra bit of flair or personal touch that shows you have gone above and beyond to be your best.”
Not only is accessorizing important to finish your look, but it can be a very helpful tool when you are on a budget.
Vilandre’ said, “Accessories are the finishing statement and can help when you aren’t in the market for a very expensive outfit. Especially a good hat and a nice show pad.”
“Simple and inexpensive accessories such as earrings can add the finishing touch to any ladies’ outfit regardless of how complex or simple,” said Brewer. “Nowadays we see a lot of ladies using a scarf around the neck to accent the blouse or going one step further and adding piping to the cuff, collar, or plackets. It is an easy and inexpensive way to add a little something to the shirt to stand out a little more.”
Finally, Peskin had two unique ways of looking at accessories that may be good takeaway advice for those who fear they may overdo it.
“I’ve always been told that if you’re a good rider, you don’t need big, bright colors; and if you’re a bad rider you don’t need big, bright colors,” she chuckled. “Also, I like to think of accessories as a kind of good luck charm. I wear a penny on a thin chain around my neck that I found when my dad died. You can’t see it when I show, but I know it is there. It is my ultimate accessory.”
Photo © Shane Rux, Sarah Pyles, Jeff Kirkbride, Cody Parmenter