Show Clothes on a Budget

I know some of my students are starting to plan for the upcoming show season, and I’m sure they’re not alone, so I thought this would be a good time to talk about dressing for a show, and how to do it and still have money left to pay for the show!

If you plan ahead, bargains can be found easily so by the time show season starts, you will be set.  If you wait until the week before the show, you end up buying (and paying full price) for whatever the store has in stock, assuming you can even find what you need in your size.  The advantage to planning ahead and starting the shopping early is huge, and can save you a headache AND a fortune.

The basic outfit is:

  • Tall boots (dress boots or field boots are acceptable at the lower levels)
  • White breeches
  • Collared shirt, shirt can be any color and with or without sleeves, but collar should be white
  • White stock tie w/pin
  • Black dressage coat
  • White gloves
  • Black velvet helmet

Many variations are acceptable, like using all cream colors instead of white, or wearing a hunt coat and light tan breeches.  Especially at the lower levels, as long as it’s clean and neat, it doesn’t have the be the standard dressage outfit, but at recognized shows you will see the vast majority of riders in the black and white dressage get up even at the lower levels.  For schooling shows, check with the show manager about the rules for dress.  For recognized shows, the rules are here: Read the section “DR120 Dress” for the rules regarding what to wear before you start shopping for your outfit.

To put together the outfit on a budget, start by pulling out any parts of the outfit you already have.  For example, do you have a helmet you wear everyday?  Is it in good enough condition to be worn at a show? Even if it’s plastic, a little faded, or a funny color, could you get a black velvet cover for it instead of buying a new helmet?  Do you wear boots everyday that could be polished up and worn for the show? Or do you wear half chaps that would meet the rule requirement to be worn in the show(read the rule link above)? What about your gloves?  White is traditional, but per the rules, “Gloves of conservative color are recommended.”  Once you see what you have that could be used, make a list of what you MUST buy, and then make a list of what you’d LIKE to buy.  For example, if you need breeches and a coat, but you’d like to have white gloves instead of wearing your black ones, this is what you write down.

Now it’s time to start shopping-research.  Check online tack shops and any local ones.  Try on things, notice different styles and different prices.  Make notes about what brands and sizes fit you the best.  Get on mailing lists where ever you can so you are notified about sales.  Next, start visiting consignment tack shops on a regular basis, and keep an eye on Ebay, Craigslist, and other classified sites for bargains in your size.   Start picking up pieces of your outfit whenever you find a good deal.

To further organize your bargain shopping strategy, remember that some things, like tall boots, really need to be tried on.  If you order them online, make sure they can be returned if they don’t fit. Otherwise, this may be a good item to purchase at a local tack shop during a seasonal sale.  Other things, like gloves and breeches, will more or less fit if you know about what size you are.  Of course some brands run a little big or small, but they are much easier to mail order with confidence they will fit than tall boots are.

When shopping consignment items, remember that things like show coats and boots may be worn only a handful of times during a show season, before being sold for half price as a “used” item.  This is an ideal way to pick up these items.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t buy a used helmet, even if it looked like it hadn’t hardly been used, because if it was dropped or worn during a fall, the inside of the helmet could be damaged and won’t protect your head should you take a spill.

So, now you know what you need, and you are organized about where to look for the best deal on each item.  Happy shopping, and I can’t wait to see you all dressed up this spring!


7 thoughts on “Show Clothes on a Budget

  1. Hi! I’m really interested in keeping up with your blog, its a lot of fun to read! I was wondering if it would be OK for me to add a link to the links section of my blog ( Thanks! 🙂

    • Hi there! Thanks for the comment. Please feel free to add my link to your blog, and I’ve added your’s to mine, hope that’s ok! I enjoyed reading about your pony adventures and look forward to hearing how your dressage journey goes! Best of luck!


  2. Christy, love your blogs. I have spent this early evening browsing through them all. Your website is great and you are a great writer. Looking forward to meeting you in person this weekend at the clinic with Elizabeth Poulin. Maybe it would be possible for me to come watch one of your lessons? Let me know what you think. Thanks! Lisa

    • Hi Lisa,

      Thank you, and I’m so glad you enjoyed my blog! This weekend will be a lot of fun, I am really looking forward to it. You’re welcome to come by our barn any time. Most of my lessons are afternoons/evenings, and I have a mix of kids and adults, beginner riders, green horses, and pairs ready to hit the show ring. We could talk about it on Saturday if there is something in particular you’d like to watch. I look forward to meeting you!


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