Monday, June 15, 2009

Modelling horse clothes: Advice to retailers

A colleague at work suggested that I check out a particular retailer -- a European Web site -- for bits. Following his advice I took a look at, and after looking at horse equipment I cruised to the apparel section. It was a rather jarring experience, and I gazed wide-eyed wonder at the European take on riding gear. I have some advice for the Europeans -- the retailers, the ad people, but mostly the guys that photograph the models and clothes.

How we do it here in the U. S. of A.
Take a look to the right. This is a photo from an American catalog (author salutes), Dover Saddlery. Never have I so appreciated the fresh, outdoorsy feel of this publication. How sporty and athletic and wholesome the model is! Do you know that I sometimes debate in my head whether these girls are real riders or models? They look so at ease in their clothes.

How it's done in Europe -- Dieter Sprocket, as I live and breathe!
Remember the Dieter Sprocket skits from SNL? That's what I thought of when I saw these pix.

A few comments from across the pond...
--Before you did the shoot, did anyone mention what those clothes are for?
--You realize that this girl is striking poses would never occur naturally in any setting, much less at a barn? In the checked breeches photo, she looks like she's thinking "Damn, my right arm's gone limp again."
--Why would anyone dump a bucket of
clean water? Her posture suggests she is throwing an amount of H20 that woudn't fill an Evian bottle. Try hoisting a real bucket, girl! You won't maintain that kittenish pose for long.
--I'm not blaming the model. I feel for her. She's trying to strike the sexy pose, but her eyes are saying "Help! Rescue me from this career-ending photo shoot!"
--And she needs to be sexy
why? Have you noticed, or has anyone told you, that barns are not a great place to meet straight men? Fancy clothing is to impress the other divas, dahhhling.

Or, maybe I'm just another prudish American. Pardon my delicate sensibilities :-). Oh, and despite all the bluster and ranting, I love the clothes. Especially the pink breeches!


  1. I just burst out laughing in my office. That is TOO funny.

  2. It will truly be realistic only when they show ladies shoveling generous forkfuls of manure.

  3. LOL, hilarious...because it is sooo true! What they REALLY need are the women who wear pants about 3 sizes too small, with cellulite dimples showing, and dirt everywhere, their hair with hay pieces in it and horse drool on their shoulder. THAT would be realistic (at least in the barns I've ridden in). The perfectly groomed horse in the background can stay though, that would still be pretty realistic with the messy woman in front, LOL

  4. Fashion vs function, I guess. Or something like that.

    I agree with Meghann--horse drool, hay, and gobs of mud on the boots, etc. Let's really make it look like a real day at the barn. *lol*

  5. I hate to share that when I was working at an equestrian center near Nice, France there were many lovely "ladies" who refuted underwear because of the panty-lines. Also some extraordinary costume-like outfits on women with figures more like barbed wire than pop-corn. I do harken back to that "uplifting" time when we lived and died and rode without support or restraint. I have the "saggies" today as a result partly of heredity and partly from bra-less sitting trot.
    Loved and agreed with your post. Exceptions do make the rule, don't they. Don't get me started on the sun-worship!

  6. Would you like to touch my monkey?

  7. This is bad adversiement indeed. However, the company who made this catalog, cavallo (not calevo, whatever the site's name), fancies itself to be some kind of high-fashion company. In Dutch and German magazines, I frequently see advertisemnets of them featurering catwalks. I can only guess they are trying to get to the rich, posh horse owner. Because the messy stable girls can't afford cavallo anyway - so why appeal to them?

    We also have what you call 'normal' advertisement. Take this site, for instance: Apart from brandless, it's products are the cheapest you'll find in any Dutch horse shop.

  8. i *lol*d too.

    as a new horse person in europe, i was surprised to see the riding pants here. almost everyone wears boot cut/flare breeches.

    they're lovely, these women look fantastic when they show up at the grocery store after riding, in their figure-flattering flare breeches.

    now if only they were practical. 1.) i could never stuff them into my half chaps. 2.) walking thru the wet grass to catch my horse, the extra fabric would get soaked 3.) now it's even easier for ticks to crawl up in your clothes (ticks are everywhere in germany.)

    i see ariat has boot cut breeches on the statelinetack site. so i assume americans are now buying these? hm. if i don't want to be practical, i can always wear my jeans while riding.

    p.s. here's the catalog i get:

  9. English rider, How could anyone ride w/o underwear? Ouch ouch ouch! Seams! The braless look on a horse would be unflattering I bet.

    Dan you remembered the phrase I had forgotten :-)

  10. Sorry, but I don't get your point. What is wrong with a fashion ad that presents horse clothing? Frankly, if someone were to show me both sets of ads a week from now with the logo taken off, I'd be a lot more likely to associate the brand name "Calevo" with their ads than I would with the utterly anonymous, boring, obvious ad from Dover. Calevo's doing a great job establishing brand recognition (and getting people like you to provide free advertising!)

    In Europe, it's much more common to see ladies out running errands in their riding gear before or after the barn. Thus, it makes sense for European women to consider what their breeches will look like as part of an everyday outfit. That is not a common need or concern for an American audience, so Dover understandably doesn't bother. Both ads are effective for their intended audiences.

    I actually have the same complaints about both ads. Neither ad tells me anything about the clothing's fit, function, or durability. And perhaps those things would be difficult or impossible to portray in a photograph, which is why catalogs throw their hands up and resign to using the photo as a brand-image-building opportunity. I'm sure Dover would be THRILLED that you associate their brand with charming, wholesome young ladies whose handsome hunter horses live in green pastures with beautiful fencing. That's exactly the sort of young lady who would pay full price for a set of breeches that she'd seen only in a catalog.

  11. Hi jenm,

    It's okay not to agree. FWIW, where I live women run around in breeches at the grocery etc. as well, just as women coming from the gym or yoga class do.

    BTW both ads had accompany copy/text that I didn't include. I'd say Dover had the Calevo company beat in terms of describing the clothing from a practical standpoint.

    As to your last remark about Dover? I doubt my post will cause a huge surge in their business :-), and Dover has sales like most other catalogs. Not sure what your beef with Dover is, or with people who pay full price. If I want a particular pair of breeches -- that I know fit me well, and are comfortable, and I can afford them, I buy them rather than getting a cheaper brand on sale that I'll be less happy with. People do as their preferences dictate, no need to make value judgements.

  12. While I love Dover as a fshion catalog, the Calevo pics are quite intriguing too! I am a confessed fashion diva, and wear clean breeches and a fashionable polo everytime, and there aren't even any other fashion divas at my barn to appreciate it!!! Of course I am a mess when I get done... and am usually found standing in line at Subway covered in horse snot and smelling of linement.
    But, it has just occurred to me that those checkered breeches might HIDE cellulite. Hallelujah! Got to go find some on a more sensible site!

  13. The divas at Harv's barn are truly admirable. They work just as hard as the rest of us, do just as much dirty work, and there they are, sparkling clean.

  14. Now, I've got the Sprocket theme song in my head! Too, too funny!

  15. My biggest concern would be that the models are so anorexic, they couldn't stay atop a horse. Clothes are nice.

  16. Oh no! The Katie Price effect has begun to infect the equestrian fashion market!

    My highest standard of riding/fashion was with O'Halloran Co. Their clothes and gear were just gorgeous. It's unfortunate they are no longer in business due to a riding accident to the designer/owner of the company. Their website is still up, you can see the gorgeous items from the last collection before they stopped production:

  17. I've also wondered whether the Dover models ride. Unfortunately, not many of Dover's models ride in ads. I've often wished they'd show the girl standing and then riding to see how the waist fits. Mississippi lacks tack stores that carry English riding apparel so I must order online or travel. Same with regular clothes since many choose not to carry petites.

    European models do look silly in those poses. Apparently, though, that's how they advertise. Here is a link about bicycle fashion, which attempts to do what some riding clothing attempts: look stylish on and off the horse/bike. Who doesn't run errands in their breeches? I've met other horse people that way! =)

  18. Ok you gave me my laugh for the day...waaaay too funny! Yes I certainly do remember Dieter Sprocket! LOL!!

  19. Great post, love it! Ovation (brand) tends to do somewhat odd images of their clothing in poses--young girls jumping, etc. It always struck my as way strange after years of Dover and SLT catalogs on the doorstep.

    I disagree with JenM as well. I browse the main Dover catalog, but rarely buy anything until I get the sale catalog! I'm no spotless hunter rider either, I'm the dressage/eventer rider of my rescue brats.


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