I have resumed my equestrian education. I’m three lessons in, and have walked, trotted, and–wheee!!!–cantered both directions on an elderly school horse named Jack. I love him. He loves treats. We’re getting along just fine.
I’ve also just finished A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase. For the most part, when an author includes fashion descriptions, I yawn, but Loretta uses fashion to symbolize story elements–like a fussy, flouncy, hard-to-get-out-of wedding dress that’s all wrong for the pragmatic, whip smart heroine.
What has Lady Olympia’s wedding dress to do with riding lessons? Well, you can’t just slap on your schooling tights and head out to the barn. I have to get some layers on my top half, because even though it’s 25 degrees out, after leading himself around in deep sawdust for twenty minutes, I don’t need a coat. Then too, you have to get your hair all tidied up and out of the way.
As I’ve resumed the routine of dressing for my lessons, I’ve noticed a few things. First, my paddock boots have about a one-inch heel. This is to stop the foot from sliding through the stirrup iron, but the effect on me is a slight increase in height. The paddock boot also protects the toes from mis-steps by a half-ton equine. They are substantial footwear, and my footsteps announce my stride when I’m wearing them.
I wear winter schooling tights for my lessons, which have an elastic waistband, and suede patches on the inside of the knee. That patch helps me grip the saddle more snugly, and protects the inside of my calves from being pinched by the stirrup leathers.
Everything I wear for riding is for my safety or for my comfort. NOTHING is designed with a primary aim of enhancing my attractiveness, making me look skinny, or hiding my bulges. Interestingly, riding is a sport where men and women wear the same attire–unlike our Olympic beach volleyball athletes.
I can’t think of any other venue where the dress code is for my safety and comfort–none. Not the courthouse (no open-toed shoes… why? Are my bare toes that distracting?), not church (cover my hair because that was a cultural norm 2000 years ago?), not the office. My Chico’s duds are cold in winter and hot in summer, and in the Chico’s store, the nice ladies are usually whispering “slim secrets” (which always involve the purchase of accessories) before I’ve tried on the first outfit.
Reflecting on how much I love riding attire makes me aware that when when you tell somebody how to dress, you are to some extent telling them who they should be. Wear those stilettos, and so what if they will result in a hip replacement by the time you’re 55. Wear the perfume, because the smell of horse, hay, and leather isn’t attractive, unless it’s on a guy. Wear the smile, because…
What items in your wardrobe are for your comfort and safety? When have you told the dress code or the fashion police to get lost? To two commenters, I’ll send… a $25 American Express gift card, which I hope you spend on something comfy to add to your wardrobe.