It’s been a slow summer which leads me to write about dog show fashion. If you cruise around Facebook at all, you’ve probably seen the “dog show fashion faux pas” posting. It mostly involves women wearing way-too-short skirts and blouses cut too low. Some of those photos are shocking and others, just sad. Remember, you can stage a dog show fashion intervention.
If you’re not a dog show competitor, you might be curious about my obsession with proper dog show outfits. The dog show is supposed to be about the dogs, right? It is to a certain extent, but if you can’t show the dog to it’s best advantage, the dog doesn’t have a chance of winning. Handling is important because the judge has to see what the dog looks like and examine the dog. If you can’t move the dog or stack the dog properly, you’re unlikely to win. Clothes on the handler, however, can be important. If you show up in jeans and shirt, you might win, but you’re unlikely to.
It is a dog show after all. When you go to the horse show, you see people dressed in English or Western attire befitting their particular event. If you go into the dressage ring in sweatpants and knit beanie, it would be scandalous.
The Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey has a great quote from season 3.
Countess Violet: “You Americans never understand the importance of tradition.”
Martha Levinson: “Yes we do, we just don’t give it power over us.”
Americans love to be rebellious, yet there are traditions that can’t be bought or sold. Women at the dog show in a skirt or dress, with nylons, remains one of these traditions. No, you don’t have to give it power over you. Showing up in a pants suit is just as good by any standard. I’ve seen men in kilts at the dog show which is an interesting and dressy twist on the standard operating procedure of male handler.
Here’s the difficult part: You’re dealing with biases on the part of the judge you may have no clue about. One judge might find it totally hilarious and completely offensive for anyone to be wearing a sparkly silky suit in the ring while showing a hunting dog. I can think of two off the top of my head right now, in fact! Another may find it unconscionable for a man to be in the ring without a jacket, even on a 90 degree day.
Having a great suit isn’t a replacement for great handling. People get attention by constantly flagging their arms, making sure their dog is “cool” even on a 60 degree day, making the dog do all sorts of leaps and tricks while they’re waiting for their turn. Fawning over your dog is not a replacement for good classy presentation. I find these expenditures give off more of an annoying, desperate and insecure energy. I realize I’m probably not a suitable critic in this regard. I’ve never taken a best in show, or even a group 1 for that matter. But, there are moments where handlers look ridiculous, no matter how well dressed they are. On the other hand, if you can’t handle a dog worth a darn, having the right attire might get you an “E” for effort. Sometimes that may translate into a win.
If my dog is going to win, it’s going to win. However, I’m not going to lose because I was wearing the wrong suit. Gasp. The living, walking, breathing contradiction and hypocrisy of it all!
I’ll admit to my own insecurities as a breeder, owner and handler. I’ve had my butt handed to me in the ring under circumstances that were obviously not fair, and on some occasions, it was done rudely. It’s difficult not to over analyze things when you lose. What did I do wrong? Was my skirt tucked into my pantyhose (it’s happened…)? Did that tiny spec of tartar on the back of her teeth cause us to lose? Did she lick the judge too much? Why did we offend the judge (because obviously we did…)?
These questions are self defeating and will ultimately become an affront to your sportsmanship. My suit was perfect. My dog was perfect. We did 100% of everything we could do to win on any given day. I want to walk into the ring every time being able to say that, so if I do lose, I can still say that and take that confidence into the ring with me the next time. You can’t control what other people do, most specifically judges, but take control over the things you can.
Now for the fun part of my blog entry!
Women, ladies, friends, Greeks… listen up ya’all…
Here are a few examples from ModCloth.com I feel would make great additions to your dog show wardrobe. If you’re just starting out or a long time exhibitor, you need skirts or jacket with pockets. Unless you’re one of those handlers who puts bait in their mouth, a pocket is an essential part of being an exhibitor. Modcloth.com has an entire section dedicated to “dresses with pockets”. Take time to check out their website by clicking here. Go forth and shop!