En Vogue? Equestrian Fashion…
December 3, 2008 by Jec Ballou
One of my students arrived last week wearing breeches that defied the normally dismal fashions of English riding apparel so thoroughly that I went momentarily speechless. Not only were they electric eggplant colored but they had a five-inch tassel dangling from the left side of the rider’s buttocks.
Stupidly, I asked if she realized she had a fringe swinging from her seat. Of course she realized; it was an identifying feature of the brand. This particular apparel manufacturer also made styles in various other show-stopping colors with tassels attached almost anywhere someone could imagine.
After moving past how bizarre I found them, I had to admit that I found the new brand of slightly wild pants pretty cool and imagined myself in a pair of hot yellow ones with tassels swinging from my knees. And then, sinking, I admitted that I am probably too uptight to sport such fashions. It would be such a break from my stiff-upper-lip English riding upbringing that I feared a total identity crisis. After all, dull-colored unflattering breeches have been a mainstay of my entire equestrian life.
A client of mine recently summed up how unfashionable English breeches are with perfection. She used to ride Western and back then, she and her friends referred to English breeches as ‘Dork pants.” It’s a pretty accurate description, I think. I mean, let’s put it this way: I don’t know a single person who reaches for her riding pants when she’s looking for something really cool to wear. Now, if those breeches had tassels swinging from them, it just might be a different story.
For years, dressage riders have been begging for a rule change regarding competition dress code. How about another option besides white breeches and a black jacket? Any other colors, we begged. And finally a few years ago, the higher powers of dressage regulations announced new flexibility in the choice of riders’ outfits. The news was met with cautious excitement. After decades of wearing only black and white, what colors were now allowed?
The answer we got resembled the moment last week when I admitted that my stiff-upper-lip English upbringing wouldn’t allow me to fully break from the mold of the world of Dork pants. In addition to white and black, dressage riders could now also wear navy blue and grey. While this was indeed a change, I wouldn’t call it a wild break from the norm.
As loud as we dressage riders begged for change, I guess we weren’t really ready. We’re too serious or fashion-inhibited or something like that. Maybe we just can’t see ourselves in electric eggplant colored pants or pants with funky patterns and fringes.
I’m not sure what it does take to wear these oddities, but I’m working on it. In fact, I’m trying my best at amnesia for the last 30 years of dark colored synthetic fabric breeches that never fit quite right. I’m close. I think it’s just a matter of time until I’m in those hot yellow pants with tassels. And I’m pretty sure the rest of the dressage world it close behind me.