Something Shiny: Part 2

Show-clothing designers weigh in on making a great outfit.

This is the last of a two-part series. Need to review Part 1?

How is a trend set?

Susan Lunenfeld: I guess there could be different ways a trend becomes a trend. Somebody famous could start a trend. Like Sharon Stone at the Oscars could wear something and start a trend, and in the horse industry it can be the same: Somebody really well known can win something important in a certain style, and in a lot of ways, that starts trends.

I think trends also come from fashion. I keep going back to that. In the last year, I’ve gotten so many requests for pink, and that’s clearly something that has come from the fashion industry.

Kay Mortensen:
Trends are set by winners. Everyone will see something outstanding and want to copy it. Usually when an outfit is really fantastic, it is really expensive. We don’t copy someone else’s great designs. We come up with new and different, as we want our people to feel comfortable that we are not going to re-do their outfit for someone else. We absolutely never copy or remake our outfits.

Suzanne Vlietstra:
People welcome change and want to feel their competition apparel flatters them and their horse. Look good, feel good, do good, is certainly true in the show ring, but there is less influence from mainstream fashion than you’d think. Most show apparel trends last for several years from the time someone wears a markedly different look at the World Shows until it trickles down to local events and then is done. That’s why quality basics in show apparel are such a good investment.

Sometimes a trend can start with a certain great exhibitor doing something different, especially if that person advertises heavily. But overall, I think we have a collective conscience that embraces slow but continual change – and the variety brought into the show ring by a lot of talented designers these days will subtly discern directions then modify and repeat them, thereby giving a trend depth, variation and legitimacy.

Hunter under saddle is a popular class at AQHA shows and one that requires a lot of preparation and a firm understanding of what judges base their decisions on. Learn all about it with the “Selecting and Showing Hunter Under Saddle Horses” DVD

What are the differences in designing horsemanship, showmanship, rail and reining shirts?

Susan: The horsemanship is closer fit to the body. It’s worn with the chaps, so it’s a really clean look. The showmanship jackets still have a clean look but there’s a different movement involved. It just naturally is going to need a little more ease in it. So I cut the two patterns completely differently.

When I get someone’s measurements, I’ll cut the showmanship leaving more ease: the arm hole will be bigger, there’s just a little more ease in the whole piece. For horsemanship, I’m going to pretty much cut to body measurements.

For showmanship, when I construct a jacket, I construct it differently. I’ll put fusing on it to stabilize it. I’ll stabilize the fronts, and I’ll line it more. To allow for ease of movement, I don’t line the whole piece, but I’ll line more of the piece; whereas for horsemanship, I won’t line it at all. I’ll put a little facing in the back and in the front, but it’s a difference of construction and the way I handle the material.

Differences between horsemanship, showmanship and rail shirts are as different as the classes themselves.

The horsemanship shirts are very fitted and very elaborate in design. Think structure.

The showmanship suits are fitted as well, and we like the monochrome jacket and pant color. It’s elongating and flattering to the wearer. You also want the suit comfortable so an exhibitor can freely trot.

Rail shirts are the easiest to wear. They are stretchy and forgiving in the sizing. We have a product we call an “invisibella” that we recommend with the stretchy shirts. The invisibella is an undergarment that takes away those little bumps and lines. Very comfortable, too.

Suzanna: Depends on the breed and the level of competition, but horsemanship and showmanship are about the rider’s personality. Horsemanship is judged from a greater distance, so designs can be bolder to carry from the rail, while extra embellishment on a showmanship outfit is noticed by the judge working at close range.

Both outfits need to be body-conscious and trim, as well as stay smoothly in place as the rider performs her pattern.

Reining is a bit more fun: Less form-fitting in style for a blouse, perhaps with a bit of a western feel but still coordinating with the horse and saddle blanket for a “team” look at any speed.

Babe Woods: Reining shirts are a little more varied right now than they have ever been. You will see a button-down shirt on one rider then a very glitzy and ornate one on the next. Some just enjoy the glitz in even their everyday dress.

Horsemanship is still presenting that sleek, quiet rider, with the suit from the midriff down toned to blend with the chaps for the most part. Bringing the attention to the upper part is better on most of us. Again, there is a wide range of what is acceptable here. We also do some prints for the whole top, then outlining or making designs with the stones. This can also be very attractive. So much depends on the rider and her ability and presence.

The Ladies of Fashion

Susan Lunenfeld
Western Show Jackets
Susan Lunenfeld got her start in the mainstream fashion industry. She studied in Europe and the Middle East and has designed for actresses Cybil Shepard and Fran Dresher. Susan began designing horse-show attire in 1993 and made a full transition to the genre in 2000. She loves the creativity that show clothing allows and enjoys all things western.

Kay Mortensen and Penny Young
Showtime Show Clothing
Kay Mortensen and Penny Young started Showtime Show Clothing in 1992. They met at the National Western Livestock Show when they were 11 and have been friends ever since. Both showed horses throughout their youth careers and traveled together with Kay’s mother, Betty Sibley. They have been involved with the horse-show world in some capacity for their entire lives.

Suzanne Vlietstra
Hobby Horse Clothing Co.
Suzanne Vlietstra started Hobby Horse Clothing Co. in her mother’s attic when she was in seventh grade. Suzanne has show hunters, reiners, trail, pleasure and driving horses. She lives with her family on a small ranch near Los Angeles.

Babe Woods
Woods Western
Woods Western got its start as a small business in 1973. In 1984, Dan and Babe Woods went to the AQHA World Championship Show, and things took off from there. Babe is pleased to have found a niche in the horse industry and hopes to help people enjoy what they are doing. Babe and Dan live in San Marcos, California.

Learn from the best with the “Selecting and Showing Hunter Under Saddle Horses” DVD. It will give you an inside look at what judges are seeing when they watch your horse in a class and so much more!