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Published: Sunday, 10/7/2001

Jodhpurs, boots, and other equestrian looks are riding high this season

BY VANESSA WINANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Heads up! Tall boots, fitted jackets, jodhpurs and breeches, and shirts with stock-type collars have all ridden into town, part of a runaway runway trend: equestrian chic.

For every woman who had a childhood passion for horses, this season offers the chance to become a kid again. Equestrian-inspired clothes and accessories have appeared in collections by Ralph Lauren, Stella McCartney, and Michael Kors and in the pages of Vogue, Elle, and Glamour, among others.

The horse fad apparently comes from a mixed bloodline: the cowboy craze of months past and the autumnal trend of traditional clothes.

The equestrian look is relaxed but indulgent - riding boots and skirts and quilted jackets are prominent.

However, Vogue.com advises people to use discretion when incorporating equestrian wear into their wardrobes.

“Unless you live in the country and are a devoted polo enthusiast, approach this trend with caution,” the Web site states in its Trend section. “Avoid total looks at all cost ... For everyday life, mixing an equestrian accent or two into your regular wardrobe should suffice.”

Here's the rundown on all things equestrian, and a few reasonable alternatives:

Accent pieces include boots, often with straps. The flatter the heel, the closer the boot looks to an actual riding boot. High-heeled boots are popular elsewhere in fashion, so the budget-conscious boot buyer may want to consider a hybrid.

A cotton shirt with a starched stand-up collar is a horse show must-have. If you're not an ironing fanatic (and who is?), a white turtleneck can substitute nicely. Elle's September issue shows a white cashmere turtleneck with a fitted taupe riding jacket, both by Ralph Lauren.

A fitted wool jacket is one of the most recognizable equestrian fashion items. Riders use tailored, hip-length blazers of navy, green, or tweed in shows, while fox hunters wear jackets of scarlet (also called pink in the horse world).

Finally, breeches are close-fitting, stretchy slacks, usually a light beige. Jodhpurs are much tighter, with a cuff at the ankle and extra curves of fabric at the top of the thigh. (Old-time movie directors are often depicted wearing jodhpurs.) Since close-fitting slacks have been in for the last couple of seasons, breeches aren't difficult to replicate. However, anyone with thick thighs probably should avoid jodhpurs.

Depending on your tastes, area tack shops may provide a cheaper alternative on many of the above items. Synthetic-leather boots can cost less than $40, while leather boots can go for under $150. Top-of-the-line custom-made leather riding boots cost about $800, said Sally Dick, co-owner of Wyldewood Tack Shop in Lambertville, Mich.

Mrs. Dick, a former riding instructor, said she's seen only a few non-riders buy riding clothes for the sake of fashion.

“A layman doesn't necessarily know to look for a tack shop,” she explained. Most of the non-riders who buy equestrian-related items are historical re-enactors and theatrical departments, she added.

Non-riders also make some mistakes when it comes to doing the look properly (assuming they want an authentic appearance). Flowing tresses may look great on the runway, but they're impractical in the horse world. In a show, long-haired female riders put their hair up. For everyday purposes, they usually tie it back to keep it out of the way.

So how can you make it work? Try a tweed or scarlet jacket with a white or cream-colored turtleneck, beige slacks, and boots for an outfit that belongs in the winner's circle.



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