Top 10 tips for sewing your own show clothes

Thinking about sewing your show clothes yourself? Follow these tips first.

Many horse show exhibitors are continuously looking for ways to cut costs in this expensive sport. One of the biggest expenses can be horse show clothing, so some inspired exhibitors have turned to creating their own. I turned to my friend Pegg Johnson, owner of Show Clothes Unlimited, for some advice. Johnson is no stranger to sharing her expertise and has turned this into a passion for education. Johnson offers clinics, classes, educational DVDs and has even written multiple books on the subject of sewing your own show clothing. I asked Johnson for her top 10 tips for a novice seamstress, and here’s what she shared:

  1. Pay attention to fit, form and function:
    • Fit – the garment must fit the person well. Not too tight and not loose and bulgy.
    • Form – the garment must be made from fabric that will enhance the overall image and hold the correct shape.
    • Function – the garment fabric must meet the pattern requirements for stretch/non-stretch and be appropriate to the event where it will be worn.
  2. Purchase the best quality fabric you can afford. You are investing time and money into this garment. The end result should reflect that commitment.
  3. Purchase the best quality embellishments you can afford. Opt for fewer quantity but higher quality in rhinestones. Having no rhinestones would be better than poor quality or poorly applied rhinestones.
  4. There is a difference between inexpensive items and cheap items. Inexpensive items are affordable quality. Cheap items lack any redeeming quality for use in your show clothing.
  5. Never use cheap shortcuts on your garment, for example, gluing appliqué instead of stitching. Cheap shortcuts do not hold up to the care and wear of horse show clothing.
  6. Fabric, embellishments, color and style must be appropriate to the age of the rider and the event. Personal style is encouraged, but stay within the accepted guidelines.
  7. Know that all patterns will require alterations to achieve a quality fit.
  8. Excessive “bling” can be distracting rather enhancing your overall look. Classes are won on performance – not on how much bling is in the ring.
  9. Never purchase an oversized garment with the expectation of altering it to a smaller size. This is an extremely labor intensive proposition. If you hire someone to alter it, it will probably be more expensive than purchasing the right size in the first place.
  10. Start with what you know and build your sewing skills. (And remember to allow enough time to complete your project.)

I want to thank Pegg for sharing her time and expertise with us. Hopefully with these tips, and a bit of creativity, some aspiring seamstresses are ready to start their sewing endeavors!

For more articles from Michigan State University Extension on showing on a budget, see:

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