Bridling Equestrian Elegance

Many equestrian sports have had the same uniforms since their inception, with a few changes in fashion here and there. Equestrian style exudes an old-world charm that is hard to come by these days. Dressage especially, with tailcoats, breeches, top hats, riding boots, and cravats, derives from an age-old history to create a unique, but classic look.

The equestrian finals in the Olympics will occur all this week, Tuesday through Friday. The events include show jumping, cross-country, and dressage. The look for dressage is the most formal, with riders and horses both looking their best. Dressage means “training” (in French), and originally developed from military horse training practices. While the event is all about the horse’s show of skill, the rider is a key element in the proper execution in those skills. The judging consists of analyzing the quality of the horse’s response to the demands of its rider.

Dressage riders are dressed in buttoned tail coats, riding breeches, and boots, as well as a top hat placed on pristine hair, and gloves on well-manicured hands. Such a style is certainly reminiscent of the early 1800s nobility (who were often officers in the military), but can be easily brought into today’s everyday fashion with a bit of finesse.

Boots are relatively easy to pair with any fall or winter outfit, but the sleekness of riding boots goes especially nicely with tight linen pants (if you don’t have breeches – which you probably don’t, right?), or even dark jeans. Gloves can also be added to many outfits, namely those that include jackets or other winter apparel, but long, thin gloves can even be paired with an elegant dress – if the season and dress’s style calls for it. Cravats are also pretty easy – but use your discretion. You don’t want to end up looking like Fred from Scooby Doo. Light, flowery cravats can often be used instead of a scarf.

As for top hats and tailcoats, things get tricky for integration into everyday style. Only formal occasions warrant a tail coat, and a top hat often looks clownish if paired with anything else. Unless you’ve got a flash-back 1800’s nobility party, I’d skip these last two super formal pieces.

The other equestrian event, show jumping, has the same uniform regulations as dressage, but the cross-country event is much less formal. The dress code focuses less on overall appearance than on overall safety for the riders. They must don approved helmets, knee pads, vests, and other well-placed pads underneath a casual, colorful riding outfit (more resembling a jockey’s silks).

Personally, the equestrian events are some of my favorite Olympic events (second only to gymnastics), so I’ve always found myself drawn to the rider’s fashions (although I enjoy watching the horses even more – they have such grace for such big creatures!). While the colors and patterns often vary between riders, their overall outfits are basically the same.

Despite this lack of individuality (save the colors), the equestrian look is still a very sleek, elegant style that can be imitated appropriately to create a very chic look that is more formal than casual. If you want to check out some fashions worn by riders or get ideas for your next club outing with the girls (I’m joking – kind of), check out these sites: Winning Couture and Stable Cloth.

Written By: Mary B.

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