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Dress for Success

How do you create a winning look? Just like great show ring performances, they're scripted, rehearsed, and polished long before being presented to the judge. Your appearance in the ring can improve your placing and performance by having a plan. Creating a winning wardrobe consists of  selecting the right clothing and knowing the tips and tricks that help you develop a winning look for the breed or obedience ring. Using a critical eye, evaluate your dog and yourself and see what works for both of you. If you are still wearing clothing from the last century, evaluate whether they are effective in your ring presentation today. (When in doubt, toss it out. -- remember in-kind donations can be tax deductible.) Showing is not Catholic school where there is one uniform for everyone. (Yes, I did experience that system, which may explain my penchant for plaids.) You should know what looks good on you, and as long as you know and follow the rules for showing dogs as governed by your Kennel Club you should be fine.

The Rules and "The Rules"
As with just about everything, there are both written and unwritten rules. You have paid good money to get an opinion on your dog, and no matter what the event, you are in the ring to be judged. The impression you leave with the judge plays a part in the decision and you should be certain that you have not overlooked any detail in your performance or turnout. Your dog should be trained and groomed to the best extent possible and you need to look like a winner. You will want to coordinate your clothing to your dog and remember to flatter your good points and hide your not so good points. Remember your dog's equipment must comply with Kennel Club rules. As a general rule, UKC shows will be a bit more casual than AKC shows, and outdoor shows are more casual than indoor shows.

Money, Money, Money, Money.
Fortunately, it shouldn't cost you too much to get a group of nice working outfits to show in. The best advice is to always buy the best quality that you can afford. . Spend your money where it shows, in the ring. Good show clothing is not expensive, it is an investment in your success You can always save money on the less visible areas like a less expensive hotel or by packing your lunch. Remember you are being judged in the show ring. Here are some links to well constructed clothing that will work for you in the show ring. (By clicking on these links, you will leave this web site, to return click on your browsers back button.

Don't be Afraid of Color
Color is critical to the impression that you make in the show ring. You must compliment your dog at the same time you try to look unique- a trick when there's a pack of dogs that look similar to your dog. Before you choose colors, keep in mind that your dog will affect the overall picture much more than anything else: don't ever choose something you don't like, but do dress for your dog as well as yourself.

Do some investigating to determine what colors work best for you and your dog. The local library has lots of information on fashion and color as does the Internet. You can look for fashion and color tips at Google . Unless you have a hideous sense of color, trust your instincts, start simply, and study the impression color creates in the show ring before you start spending.

Dogs come in some basic color families that can make it easier to decide what color families to work with. "Redheads" (think of Irish Setters, red merles and the like) which will look quite nice with the softer earth tones like sand, rust, brown, peach and just about any green tones. "Brunettes" (Labradors, Rottweilers and the like) which look quite nice in the brighter jewel tones like red, blue, purple and also the green tones. "Neutrals" belong to the group that have yellow or tawny coats (Chinooks, Yellow Labs and the like) who can use either the earth-tone or jewel-tone accents depending on your preferences and the dogs coat color.

Fear not, Dalmatian, Harlequin Dane and other multi-color dogs. If your dog is more than 50% white, consider the "Brunette jewel tone colors to contrast with the white coat. The one thing you will want to do is avoid any of the dull sand colors with a dog that has lots of white. If your dog's coat is less than 50% white use the primary coat color to determine which color family to work with.

If you are showing multiple dogs or multiple breeds the blue/green family is quite versatile. From the pale sages to the deep hunters, these colors look great with virtually any dog and also look good as your are gaiting around the ring.  Basic black is a safe bet for showing most dogs, but don't wear it to show your black Labrador unless you are trying to hide some "sins" from the judge. (Monochromatic colors that match your dog are great in obedience as they can and do hide some indiscretions while you are showing.)

Haute Couture
To save yourself from having to constantly buy clothing that fits the newest street fashions, buy classically styled attire. Good basics can be updated from time to time and should last you for many years, given reasonable care and a semi steady body weight. Remember you are investing in clothing that should be useful in your show wardrobe for three to five years, then budget and invest accordingly.

Another thing to remember is dark colors minimize while light colors emphasize. Smaller patterns and vertical stripes minimize and lengthen, while large, bold stripes and horizontal designs shorten and broaden your figure. Remember, too, that the judge will be looking at you both up close and far away, so make sure the color and silhouette will carry from up close and personal as well as across the ring. Choose an outfit that stands out tastefully while you are on center stage.

If you're bottom heavy, choose a darker color to minimize "thighs of size" with a vertical patterned dark top/vest/jacket to minimize your middle. If you really want to be fancy, top this look off with a lighter hat to visually draw the observer's eye upward and create the illusion of height in your upper body. If you're tall, you can add a darker hat and that will visually compress you a little, especially with a darkish outfit below it. Are you Busty? Keep layers, lapels, scarves, ties, collars to a minimum on your chest and go for a color blend at the waist. If you are vertically challenged or trying to create a bigger or more adult impression, go for a sharp color contrast between lower body and upper body, and emphasize accessories- bolder ties or a little more jewelry.

Any figure will look trimmer if you try to make everything- slacks/skirt, belt, vest/jacket/shirt- come together at your natural waist instead of your hips. No color or style will erase your figure flaws, but choosing carefully can emphasize your good points and minimize your weaknesses. Fashion trends come and go, but good taste is always in style. Study show photos of winning combinations and attend some shows like you'll be competing in to see what you like and dislike. Animal Planet regularly airs dog shows and is a great place to see the current fashions used in the show ring

Blouses, Shirts and Tops
The impression you want to portray in the ring can be set by the top that you choose. You can aim for whatever "theme" you want like sophistication, casual or trend setting. You'll want to consider the function, fabric, fit and comfort of the pieces you will use in the ring.
The basic function of your top is to keep you from being naked in the ring. While some folks probably have the physique for a nude pole dance performance most of us just don't look that good running naked around the ring -- or anywhere else for that matter. You want something that is attractive both at a distance and up close while adding deliberate color to your presentation and allows you to perform comfortably in the ring.

You want your shirt to be large enough in the shoulders for athletic comfort, yet trim enough at the waist to be able to tuck in. (If your shirt tails keep popping out, tuck them into your undies.)  If you are wearing a shirt that does not need to be tucked in, try and avoid one that looks like "Omar the Tentmaker" made it for you. With a long sleeved shirt whether your shirt is a traditional woven style or a more stretchy form fitting style make certain the sleeves pass your wrist bone while your are gaiting your dog.
Men have it a bit easier in the shirt department. You are always safe with the traditional white shirt with an interesting tie. Choose a button down collar to help keep your tie under control. You can also make a more casual statement with colored solids or plaids. If you choose plaids go with a brighter base color like red, purple, green or blue. Small checks will appear solid from a distance. If you want color, but don't want to make too much of a statement, go with a tone-on-tone look. Starched shirts always look good and will hold their shape better through a long day of showing.

You want to present a pleasing picture while showing off your dog. Women may need to look into a good tailor to tailor the waist and possibly even add fitted darts under the bust to get the best look out of a shirt. What I have been seeing lately in the show ring is dressy blouses or form fitting tops. You can starch up (military style) your traditional shirt or you can look for a more drapey fabric like silk and rayon that have a more fluid movement to the fabric.

Most likely, you are like most of us, somewhere between Mama Cass and Twiggy in body structure. Remember the look you love standing in front of your mirror at home may become a rendition of the "Jersey Bounce" once you start gaiting you dog around the ring. As I have learned over the years, gravity pulls everything down, so be sure to practice with your show clothes before running around the ring and breaking out of your outfit.

Being from Minnesota, the layered look is always in for us. In the show ring, you too can layer. If you choose a form fitting top, the nylon/Lycra blends are softer and less supportive than the thicker acetate/Lycra tops. There are also knitted fabrics that have both stretch and firmness. Remember to wash any stretchy tops by hand or in a very gentle cycle and air-dry them, this will help them maintain their shape and stretchiness. If you are thinking about a form-fitting garment, please look with a critical eye on your silhouette. If you look like a stuffed sausage, no vest or jacket is going to help hide that.

While we are on the subject of tops, let's talk bras and other wonderful undergarments. Most women are not wearing the correct bra size or fit. To help you find the best bra for you, take your favorite show clothes to the lingerie department of the largest clothing store you can find. The ladies working there can help you find the right bra for you. Tell the ladies that you want excellent support, fantastic but firm curves, and all day comfort. Allow yourself  time to go through the fitting process and be open to a variety of undergarments and temporary augmentations, it will be well worth it when you get the right lingerie for your figure.

Most importantly, find clothing that is functional, flattering and fits your personality while working well with your dog's coloring.

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