The Future Of Dressage Attire: Is Formal Riding Attire Outdated?

Dressage attire has always lent more toward the traditional edge of the spectrum. Nowadays, dressage riders are beginning to wonder if that tradition of the more formal riding attire and dressage outfit could be re-thought.
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Dressage attire has always lent more toward the traditional edge of the spectrum. Nowadays, dressage riders are beginning to wonder if that tradition of the more formal riding attire and dressage outfit could be re-thought.

Tradition and dressage are two words that go hand-in-hand. But when it comes to dressage attire, is it time to rethink the traditional formal riding attire? Should dressage outfits change just because the times are?

Dating back more than 2,000 years, the ancient Greeks were the first to use the horse's maneuverability during war, and from this a system of training was developed?a system that has been traditionally passed down and built upon through the generations. Also passed down through time was the formal riding attire worn by those practicing the discipline. In fact, dressage outfits have changed little since women were allowed to compete at the Olympics in 1952.

"Dressage is a sport with a very long history," says Laura Romfh, owner of Romfh Equestrian Apparel. "Much like the sport, a training method derived from the military, the dressage attire is neat, elegant, formal and disciplined."

As time passes, some traditions are altered to better equip society, or, in our case, the rider. A perfect example of this is the recent protective headgear rule passed by the U. S. Equestrian Federation (USEF). So this begs the question?should other modifications be made to the traditional dressage attire?

"Dressage is a traditional sport," says FEI "I" Judge Janet Foy. "I would like to see formality continued for all USEF and U.S. Dressage Federation Championships. However, for national competitions we need to think toward a more athletic look."

Romfh believes that as fashions, fabrics and temperatures evolve over time, so do the needs of riders. But as changes are considered, so must the tradition that's been inherent in the sport for so long. "It makes the most sense to allow evolution to happen, but still be aware of the traditional core values of the sport," says Romfh. "One thing I would love to see is an update to the dressage boot. All these amazing technologies are being applied to paddock, hunter and jumper boots, but I have yet to see any dramatic changes to the dressage boot."

As an equestrian clothing designer, Romfh has helped breech fabrics, construction and fit to evolve beautifully and naturally. "There are many fits and styles to cover the many needs and body shapes of riders," she says. "The show coat and shirts are also evolving quickly, especially with the new development of the modern Soft-Shell coats which are more stretchy, breathable and lightweight than ever before."

In addition to revolutionary fabrics, updated patterns are also a topic of discussion. "I did a post on Facebook and the majority of the replies were for a change to something more casual and athletic," says Foy.?"A few were 100 percent against any change, but for me, why not??We might attract more people if we looked like we were having more fun. Everyone knows how hard it is to keep white breeches clean. I am all for breeches that are plaid as long as they're not too wild or bright. Using the FEI color chart would be ideal and this is already in place. So we could have a maroon plaid or a hunter green plaid.?For a shirt, I am not for a sleeveless look, but I still like the idea of a short or long sleeve. I also think we should make gloves mandatory as they would finish the look.?A nice vest could be allowed as well. I also like the idea of allowing a little ?bling,' such as what the FEI is allowing for freestyles. They are seeing a little more of the big picture."

So what changes will we see in the future? "Everything depends on the new fabric advances and the direction fashion takes us," says Romfh. "Equestrian sports as a whole made a huge leap forward in modernizing our look, yet maintaining our traditional values. I look forward to seeing equestrian fashion continue to relax into this new modern way of thinking."

For more articles on equestrian fashion, go to Project Centerline's page.