How to Properly Fit Your Show Ring Attire
To create a polished-looking show ensemble, begin by selecting breeches, then a show shirt and finally a show coat. If you're female, be sure to try on clothes wearing the type of sports bra that you intend to wear during competition. This foundation garment can affect the way your show shirt and coat fall on your body.

Breeches
Breeches are athletic apparel that should be comfortable to wear and allow you freedom of movement. For the show ring, you'll want to pay particular attention to the way your breeches fit so that you present a tailored appearance.

Breeches should be snug enough that you do not have wrinkles, gathers or folds of baggy fabric on the legs. Not only would these wrinkles detract from your appearance, they could cause friction rubs on your skin. The leg of the breeches should not be so tight, however, that they pinch or constrain you.

The legs of the pants should end slightly above your ankles, though your personal preference may be to have your breeches slightly longer or slightly shorter. Breeches are available in regular and long lengths, and the standard varies between manufacturers. A snug fit at the base of the leg helps keep the pants from rising up out of your boot. Some breech styles have hook and loop closures that enable you to control how tightly the pant legs fit around your calf. Others have stretchable panels to secure the fit. Wearing tall, snug socks pulled up over your breeches will also ensure that the pant will not rise up during riding or while putting on or taking off your boots. If you're fitting knee patch breeches, be sure that the patch is sitting in a comfortable spot over the knee. Some patches seem either long or short, but as long as the patches are in the correct spot, the breech is appropriate.

Children under the age of 13 should wear jodhpurs unless they're directed by their instructors or trainers to do otherwise. This style of breech has a cuffed hem with two sewn-in buttons that hold an elastic band to the pant. This elastic band should be slipped over the paddock boot and should come to rest just in front of the heel. This band allows the pant to stay in place during the ride. Paddock boots should be partnered with matching jodhpur knee straps (also called garter straps) worn just below the knee. Ideally, paddock boots and garters are brown.

The rise of the waistband is also a matter of personal preference. Rise refers to the distance from the crotch of the breeches to the waistband. Though low rise breeches are popular for schooling, they should be selected for wear in competition with extreme care. On many people, a regular rise breech creates a more defined and neater-looking waist underneath the show coat, and it can help support the tummy area. Sometimes low-rise waistbands create an unsightly gap at the back of the waistband that you should avoid for the show ring. However, low-rise styles may fit short-waisted riders quite well under show coats. Choose a style that you're not only comfortable in but that will give you a clean, polished appearance in the ring.

Show Shirts
For hunter and equitation classes, you can choose either a button-down show shirt with a wrapneck or one with a standup collar and choker. Freedom to move is the most important aspect of fitting this type of shirt, and shirts with built-in stretch and moisture-wicking properties are extremely comfortable. You want ample room across the bust and over the back of the shoulders to allow you to achieve your riding positions. The collar should fit snugly and neatly as well, not too loosely or too tightly.

To appear tidy, avoid shirts that pucker at the buttons down the front of the shirt. Sleeves should be long enough to allow you to ride comfortably. Consult with your trainer as to whether you will show one-half inch of cuff at the end of your jacket sleeve. Some trainers want to see this touch, yet others strongly oppose it. Be sure to choose both an appropriate color of shirt for your discipline that matches your jacket, but also one that lies neatly beneath it.

While you can wear a button-down show shirt for dressage, pullover competition shirts with quarter-zip necklines are designed for the purpose. The zippers and accent colors of popular competition shirts are meant to be hidden under white stock ties. (These shirts are also quite popular for the cross country phase of an event.) Competition shirts are usually made of a technical fabric designed for athletic use and provide benefits such as moisture-wicking and breathability. Fitting these shirts is straightforward. Make sure that the shirt you choose can be tucked in neatly to provide a clean appearance beneath your jacket.

Coats
The most important aspect of your show outfit is your coat. A well-fitting coat can help hide flaws and enhance your appearance in the saddle. It can do more to give you a polished look than any other aspect of your show ensemble. (After that, clean and shiny boots are imperative.)

The desired fit of hunt and dressage coats are essentially similar with the exception of hem length. No matter what type of coat you are fitting, you must try it on while wearing your show shirt (and sports bra if you're female) and breeches. The fabric of the coat will fall differently if you are wearing a jersey than if you are wearing a show shirt. The waist of the coat will fit differently if you are wearing jeans rather than breeches.

Bear in mind that jackets are available in regular, short and long/tall torso lengths. Cuts differ between manufacturers, with some boxier in cut than others that are more fitted. The coat that is most appropriate for you will depend on your own body shape.

Fit a show coat to your shoulders and torso first. Sleeve lengths can be altered, and waists can be taken in, but the length of a coat and the hemline are difficult to change for even the most talented tailors.

1) Check the fit of the shoulders.

The seams at the shoulders of the coat should line up with the edges of your shoulders. If the seams are too narrow, then you will have an unsightly pull over the tops of your biceps (which will be uncomfortable when you ride). Shoulders that are too wide can give you a boxy appearance. However, in some instances if all other aspects of the fit are correct, shoulders can usually be taken in successfully by a skilled tailor. This situation is sometimes the case with women who have broad shoulders or full chest sizes but who are narrow at the waist and hips.

You should be able to move your arms into riding positions without feeling constrained across your upper back.

A jacket fitting nicely through the shoulders and lapel.
Side view of the jacket.
2) Check the fit on your torso.

The fabric of the coat should lie flat across your back with no gathers, wrinkles or bulges. The lapels should lie flat against your chest, and fabric should not pucker at the buttons. The waistline should appear to sit on your natural waist to provide you with a crisp outline. For a hunt coat, which has three buttons, you can use the bottom button as a guide. It should sit just over your belly button. If the button is at a point far above your belly button, the coat is probably too short.

3) Check the coat's length.

Viewed from behind, the hem of the hunt coat should in general fall at a point where two to three fingers' width of your bottom is visible. However, some people prefer the hem to fall at a slightly lower point. If the hem appears to be correct, but there is a horizontal bulge of fabric running from hip to hip across your back, then the jacket is probably too long. Try a jacket in a short length or one from another manufacturer. Conversely, if the jacket is too short (you can see most of your bottom) try a jacket with a long or tall length.

Dressage coats have four buttons and hems that are supposed to fall to the thigh when you're sitting in a saddle. To check the length of a dressage coat, let your arms and hands hang at your sides, allowing your fingers to curve naturally. The hem of the dressage coat will sit just inside this natural curve of your fingers.

Checking length of dressage coat-hem falls into palm with fingers softly curled.
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