Are you planning on going clothes shopping at the Congress? The month-long show is described by many to be like a circus and state fair all rolled into one. Shopping at all the multiple vendors can be just as overwhelming. Don’t go in cold, as much as the bling may draw you in. Here’s a quick guide to help you shop while you’re there.
1) Wear a tank top under your clothes
Sometimes trying something on at the spur of the moment is the best decision you’ve ever made for purchasing an outfit. If the dressing room is busy, a tank top allows you try on a jacket, vest, and more without a lot of hoopla.
2) Take or wear your show undergarments
How you fit into a garment with your particular figure can change slightly if you’re wearing your shapers, or your favorite sports bra, or what you love to wear underneath your show clothes. And if you’ve shown for a while, you know a slight difference can matter when it comes to fit. Taking those items or remembering to put them on before can save you a lot of time and headache (or heartache). Some shops carry shapers you can use, but you’ll want your favorites if possible.
But be prepared to share your favorites with your trainer, or your friends and family, and also be prepared to make another trip back to try it on the second time. It’s fair to have the trainer look at it and incorporate other sets of eyes on it, and you do want to make sure it feels just as good the second time. Just keep in mind that it’s something akin to shopping for a wedding dress. Ultimately, it’s you who has to wear it (and buy it), so how you feel in the clothing, which will reflect how you show, is the ultimate factor.
4) Take your phone
Taking photos of yourself is usually encouraged, but how you take a picture of something you’ve decided you love is important. Taking a photo in the proper light and from a slight angle (women should never face the camera straight on) makes a difference in how your outfit, and you, photograph. Most vendors/designers are okay with photos, but understand if they are not; unfortunately, there have been instances of one-of-a-kind designs being copied with lesser quality and cost.
By following your favorite designers and show clothes stores on social media, and by checking their websites frequently, you’ll have a better idea of what is a standard price for the amount of work put into a jacket, vest, or shirt. Workmanship and quality matter, as well as work by a designer who has stood the test of time. Be open to new, talented designers, and pay close attention to pricing.
6) Comparison shop
We know the drill – most will shop around to all vendors to see what is available before making a decision, and that’s fair (and smart). While you shouldn’t get wooed by the first gorgeous jacket you see, you have to find a balance between what gives you that unique feeling and your budget. You also need to consider practicality – if your budget is set for a while, or you are purchasing a new horse, you should find a look you want that will last you for more than one show season.
You should expect to be greeted and offered assistance, particularly if the rep or designer is not busy. Your rep should be knowledgeable and helpful, not only for fashion and appropriateness for your event and age division, but of any sales or consignment policies. If you ask just to browse, that should be okay too, but do ask for/expect a few pieces of information as you start so you can find what you need. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want just because you don’t want to be pressured. Good customer service isn’t about sales pressure, but about helping you find the right fit and the right garment. And your rep may have ideas worth taking a chance on.
8) Think about value
Can you wear the jacket you’ve fallen in love with in more than one event? It’s terrific to have an outfit for each discipline, but if that’s not in the cards for you, see if the jacket you love would work for both showmanship and pleasure or trail, for example. Some jackets can do double duty if they’re not too long when you sit in a saddle (which is also a good idea when trying on) and if they’re long enough for your body type for in-hand classes. If you’ve never tried vests, they are also a smart way to get more than one look because you can change the shirt underneath.
Can’t be at the show? Look for a show clothes company that caters to everyone, including those who need to try an outfit at home. Show Me Again, for example, offers a 7-day trial period on credit card authorization with a generous return policy. If it doesn’t fit, your end cost is the shipping. Show clothes are a significant investment, and they should fit your body and your budget, as well as your taste, impeccably.