How to Stay on Top of the Show Ring Styles on a BUDGET

How to Stay on Top of the Show Ring Styles on a BUDGET

“This shirt is a steal at the price of $3,200”, “Custom Chaps start at $600”, “This gorgeous pad is only $550” and it goes on and on. This is what you usually see when shopping for top of the line show clothes. I realize there are people who can easily afford all these things but I am defiantly not one of them. I certainly do not need a showmanship outfit that costs more than my car. I will readily admit: I have an addiction for show clothes. I have way too many and I am always wanting to buy more. I insist on staying on top of the styles and I pride myself on always looking fashionable and presentable in the show arena. This is great and wonderful, however my bank account does not have funds to support this habit when show shirts that are suited to my high class tastes start at $3,000. I have people always complimenting my outfits and asking for advice on show clothes and people never believe me when they find out how much my outfits cost. SO, the real question is: How do I stay fashionable without breaking my bank? It really is not as hard as people think. There are so many options out there to save some money on show clothes; you just have to know where to look. With show season just around the corner, below are my 9 steps for looking your best and sticking to a budget to help you step into the show ring looking your best.

1.      Buy USED
You can save tons of money by buying clothes used. I never even consider buying new until I have searched extensively for something I like used first. Used clothes are usually still in great shape; maybe a stone or two missing but in the long run to me that doesn’t matter compared to the money I am saving. Also, don’t be afraid to alter the perfect outfit at the perfect price. It’s a size too big? Alter it! Alterations can be $25-35 for simply taking in seams or hemming a sleeve or bottom. Even cheaper, if your mother or grandmother is good with a sewing machine, they can probably do it as well. Alterations can be surprisingly simple sometimes. Sometimes they are too difficult and it is not worth the hassle (for example letting out an item is more difficult than taking it in). It is something to keep your mind open to when searching: don’t write it off if it needs a little alteration if the price is right and you love it.            

2.      Buy unstoned and BIY       
Buying shirts, vests, jackets unstoned can save you a ton of money. A large portion of designer’s prices resides in rhinestones and the time spent applying them. You can save a significant amount of money by doing it yourself. Some designers are willing to make a custom item unstoned and price accordingly and some are not. It is something to ask when exploring those designer options. One great resource for custom shirts you can bling yourself is KLS Designs. Kristin is happy to make your shirt, jacket or vest without stones for a reasonable price for a custom. She does fantastic work: very high quality and wonderful to work with. She is the only designer I use for customs. Another option is from Hobby Horse: they make unstoned jackets and shirts in a variety of colors. Stoning is easy once you figure out a system though it is still very time consuming and detail oriented. If you have the time and patience, go for it. There are many sites for ordering stones in mass such as Dreamtime Creations (this is what I use). I order the Czech Precoisa which are a little cheaper but look just as good in the arena. I have been stoning my own shirts since I was 14 years old and have saved thousands of dollars. The stones are still expensive themselves but at least you do not have the cost of the hours put in by a designer applying the stones.
Made by KLS unstoned

After Stoning this shirt sold for $600
3.      Buy Used and Add Stones
Find a reasonably priced used shirt with a nice design but few stones? No problem, buy it and add stones. Some people cannot see the potential in a design without all the bling but if you can, you can save thousands. I once bought a lightly stoned used shirt for $30, added $100 of stones and sold it for $500 after I had worn it for a season. You just have to be willing to see past it as it is and imagine the look after some stoning. A little visualization and elbow grease gives you a gorgeous shirt for a budget friendly price.  Swap Meets and online is a great resource for used shirts (see #6-7 for more info on swap meets and online shopping).
I bought this shirt online for $100 unstoned. After adding $100 of stones and wearing it for a season, it sold for $450. 
4.      Hobby Horse
Hobby Horse has some great budget friendly options. I personally LOVE their chaps. They are good quality, fit well and are budget friendly. They come in a variety of colors and have a variety of shirts, vests and jackets (even saddle pads and hats) to match. Also their other basics such as pants, belts and unstoned shirts are great and budget friendly. This is one of the best places to buy unstoned shirts and jackets and make sure you can find matching pants, chaps, etc. (see #2 for more info on stoning yourself). This makes outfit planning very simple as they do the color matching for you. This is a great option for someone new to show clothes in general looking for a simple system to get a well matching and classy outfit. The quality is good for the price and it is such a good starter option. I personally have bought many chaps, pants, belts and unstoned shirts/jackets from Hobby Horse and wear them in the arena right next to the top of the line, super expensive show clothing and look JUST as good for nowhere near the price.  

5.      Plain Shirts and Vests
Plain button down shirts: the best trend to hit the show arena EVER. I have a rainbow of colors. They run $15-30 at local department stores such as Macy’s, Kohls, JC Penney’s, Express and more. As long as it is a nice flattering fit, well ironed and a good color for your horse, plain button downs are such a classy option. They just look so classic and clean. Pair it with a nice patterned saddle pad and a matching scarf and it is such a beautiful look especially in classes such as horsemanship, trail and western riding. You honestly cannot go wrong with this option. Better to wear a plain shirt that fits well, is well ironed and is a good color on your horse then a fancy shirt that is out of style, not a good fit or a bad color on that horse. My father is a judge and he has said over and over he likes the look of the plain shirts in the arena so it is a judge approved trend. To play up a plain shirt on a budget, add a blinged vest over it. This look is great for the Pleasure, Trail and Western Riding. Vests generally run cheaper than jackets and shirts and can give you an extra pop of color or sparkle. A great option is have a plain black vest that matches you plain black chaps and changing the button up under it to create different looks. Bling a vest yourself and you will save even more money.

This vest was bought unstoned for $75 and I added all the stones and the fringe for $100. It is worn over a $17 shirt from JC Penney. 
Plain shirt from Kohls($18) paired with a plain black hat, scarf, chaps and a beautiful striped saddle pad makes for a classic look for horsemanship, trail or western riding classes. 

6.      Swap Meets
My favorite place to shop for budget friendly show clothes: SWAP MEETS. You can find amazing deals if you just roll your sleeves up and start flipping through the racks at the swap meets. They happen all over the country and are a great place to not only buy new but also sell your old show clothes to make some spending cash. I have bought shirts at swap meets for as low as $25 and worn them at the big shows and had millions of compliments. No one ever believes the price. One person’s trash is another’s treasure and swap meets are a great place for that. This is also the place to get clothes from people who have outgrown things, getting out of horses or just have too much (like me lol). This is probably the best way to find lightly stoned shirts cheap with the intention to add stones. Beyond show clothes, swap meets are great for anything and everything: tack, blankets, stable equipment, you name it they are selling it.
Findlay Tack Swap is a great resource
7.      Online
Online Facebook groups are basically swap meets through the internet. All the same perks apply. You can find amazing deals. There are tons of Facebook groups: Western Pleasure, Show Clothes on a Budget, Show Clothes For Sale and many more. Some things to be careful of is measurement to make sure it is an accurate size and make sure you use PayPal- then you can get money back if it is fraudulent. Online is my second favorite place to get clothes reasonably behind swap meets. I have found some killer deals. This is also a great resource for selling your used stuff to get some spending cash for new.

8.      Learn to Sew
This is self-explanatory. Learn to sew and you can do it all on your own. This could even become a side business to make clothes for others and make money. I have begun to do my own show clothes and I find it fun to design it and go from a piece of fabric to my new world show outfit. This isn't the choice for everyone but if you have any interest in sewing you could save thousands of dollars and even make some money. 

9.      Be Creative with Store Bought Items
A pant suit from Kohls can be your new showmanship outfit, a fancy leather jacket with a few stones can be an edgy pleasure jacket, that old 80’s sequined vest could look sweet over a button down for trail. A little creativity can go a long way with store bought items. Thrift stores can also be a great resource for some unique jackets or button down shirts that could be a unique option for the show ring.
This is a $18 shirt from Kohls 
Business pant Suits from department stores look great in the Showmanship
Looking great on a budget is not always easy but it is possible. There are so many options available to save some money and still look great. It does not take a $3000 designer showmanship outfit to win: a well fitted, classic pant suit with nice boots and a good hat can be winning apparel as well… as long as you still have a great pattern. A little creativity, some elbow grease and a little time looking can save you tons of money and still get you compliments on your show clothes. I am proud to say that no piece of show clothing in my trailer has cost me more than $600 and I have a fashionable, classy wardrobe that still gets me noticed in the arena. I hope these tips help you look your best on a budget.

If you have any questions while trying to find your own show clothes on a budget using any of these tips please feel free to ask :)

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