Western Horse Show Fashion Clinic 5: Vests

Learning to select western vests can completely change your show ring presentation. You'll impress the judge and add maximum versatility to your show apparel collection.
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Learning to select western vests can completely change your show ring presentation. You'll impress the judge and add maximum versatility to your show apparel collection.

Vests, jackets and blazers are an important part of a woman's western show wardrobe in today's competitive show environment. In this article, we'll look primarily at vests. Whether you choose a simple vest for local level trail classes or an incredible blazer for your World show debut, these garments set the tone for your show presentation.

Layered over blouses or slinky tops, vests, jackets and blazers are items that can completely change the personality of your presentation, create a specific impression for the judge and add maximum versatility to your existing show apparel wardrobe. Even if you are showing just a few times a year at your community arena, consider these items to add interest to your show look.

An important question is "When do I wear a vest, and do I really need a jacket or a blazer?" Let's look at possible show scenarios. If you compete a few times a year at club level shows, a vest that you can wear over a variety of tops for different looks will trim up your figure, add color or texture to your look, or simply make for a change of pace from blouses. Choose a vest style appropriate to the level of showing you plan to undertake: While leather vests with rhinestone trims are currently the rage at bigger shows, you might look overdressed in one at a small, casual schooling show. Also, think about which blouses or slinky tops you'll wear under your vest and what jewelry you'll use to finish off the neckline.

Vests are very versatile and are your best apparel investment after a quality hat and chaps. A vest is usually more casual than a jacket or blazer, and allows you freedom of movement in your arms--an important consideration in classes like reining and trail, or if you're riding a young horse two-handed. As well, vests can slightly insulate your upper body in chilly indoor arenas, yet allow body heat to dissipate through the arms and open necklines if you're showing in hot or humid weather. Leather or fabric, decorated with rhinestones or in a classic tapestry, vests easily--and affordably--capture a rider's personality and transmit it to observers.

When considering a show vest, remember the long, lean, fitted silhouette you're trying to present in the show ring. Vests should be long enough to cover at least the top edge of your waistband at your center back when you are mounted. Otherwise, your shirt may work its way out as you ride. Armholes should be fairly snug and fitted, as should the bust line, to prevent gapping. Most fashion vests are made to be worn loose and hang open--they never look smooth buttoned up like you'll sport in the ring. It's worth investing in a garment designed to fit while you're riding a horse, not walking down the street.

Consider the vest's back too--the judge will see your back at least as much as your front. Avoid "coffin clothes" that are highly embellished on the front and plain in back. They look unbalanced as you lope around the ring.

Remember, you'll never get a second chance to make a first impression, so strive to create a winning impression the moment you ride into the ring!

Next part > Blazers & Jackets > Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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 a Paint, a Quarter Horse and an antique Arabian.