BY TPH BLOG EDITOR LAUREN MAULDIN
In the spring of 2013, my equestrian life was in a better place than it had ever been. I had a new horse, a young off the track Thoroughbred that loved his job and learned quickly. I had a patient trainer who held my hand through fears and anxieties until I was brave enough to jump around a course competently. I had a good job with a salary that could afford luxuries like extra lessons and horse shows, and I had a packed show schedule ahead of me with great options in the town that I lived in. The problem? I also had about forty extra pounds.
At the time where everything finally clicked in the horse-trainer-budget trifecta, I was the heaviest I had ever been. And after years of bad matches, injuries and inconsistent riding, I was desperate to get back into the show ring. The choice to overcome my insecurities to compete in the sport that I loved was an easy one, but finding apparel to wear for competition was not.
Currently, street clothing designers are paying attention to different kinds of body shapes. A 2016 study by the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education found that the average American woman is now a size 16. These numbers, combined with the growing body positivity movement that promotes an ideology that all bodies are good bodies, have inspired designers to offer new “size inclusive” lines of clothes.
Size inclusivity refers to clothing sold in a complete sizing range, typically from sizes 00-24, without differences in product or availability. Providing options to a wide variety of body types is a rapidly growing trend, with brands like Modcloth, Forever 21, and Asos offering size inclusive lines, as well as celebrity designers like Lauren Conrad and Tracy Ellis Ross debuting new fashion lines that are size inclusive.
On the street, it’s getting easier to dress fashionably regardless of your size, but with equestrian sport, things get trickier. Plus and extended sizes within the equestrian marketplace can be a complicated situation. Riders need to be athletes for their horses, and there are legitimate considerations for mount suitability when it comes to larger riders. Still, athleticism in our sport is not always determined by a small body size, and equestrians come from the street to the stable with a wide variety of bodies. Regardless of where we are on the scale, we all want to find fashionable, functional clothing for our sport.
For riders seeking quality clothing in traditionally atypical equestrian sizing as well as those who seek common sizes, several companies do a great job offering size inclusive products for the competitive equestrian.
With a long-standing history of affordable, quality equestrian apparel and footwear, Ariat has an extensive product line that caters to riders of all sizes. Jenni Smith, English Accessories and Apparel Product Manager, explained the company’s position on sizing, “Each of our customers have very specific needs when it comes to fit and size. The more options we can offer, the more customers we can reach, and make happy.” While not all of their items are size inclusive, with their breeches running on the smaller side and often capped at a size 34, Ariat still has a lot of great options for larger riders. Their sun shirts, tops, and outerwear all run through a roomy XL with some items offered in XXL. Shoppers might see more extended sizing in the future though, “As we get a good feel for the styles that work best in the extended size range, we’ll expand those product offerings. Right now we are focusing on outerwear, base layers, midlayers, and denim,” Smith said.
One of Ariat’s standout products in terms of size inclusivity is their Heritage Contour Field Boot. The decision to extend sizing options for the boot was an easy one for Ariat, said Associate Product Manager of English Footwear, Aria Pipp. “Ariat was the pioneer in delivering a large variety of ‘off-the- shelf’ tall boot sizes. It was only natural to offer a realistic size range to fit our broad customer base,” Pipp said. With an elastic stretchy panel on the back of the calf and width options from slim to extra-wide, this tall boot accommodates much wider calves than many of its competitors.
For Ariat, size inclusivity is about meeting the needs of their customers. “It just makes good business sense. If you want to meet the needs of a broad range of customers, you need to offer a broad range of products and sizes,” Smith said.
When I bought my first real equitation coat in the early 2000’s, the attendant at the tack store quickly directed me to the RJ Classic coats. “RJ is great,” she said as she pulled a navy pinstripe off the rack. “They realize that people have boobs and hips, and make their coats accordingly.” As I looked in the mirror at my beautiful new coat, I instantly became an RJ convert and fifteen years later, I still am.
RJ Classics’ Co-Owner, Jennifer Eisenberg, is committed to the brand’s support of all riders. “We believe it is important to be inclusive. Every rider deserves to have well made, quality garments that will make them look and perform their best,” Eisenberg said. The majority of RJ Classics’ upper end soft shell coats are offered through size 14 or 16, with a selection of their affordable Blue or Grey label coats going through size 24. Riding tops are offered up to XL and breeches through 36, which makes RJ a great choice for riders searching for higher end apparel but who have a hard time with European sizing.
For RJ Classics, size inclusivity is a matter of listening to their customers. “When enough of our partners requested the extended sizing, we listened!” Eisenberg said about the decision to offer coats up to a 24. “We have a fabulous Italian designer/pattern maker who understands how to achieve a perfect fit for all different body types.” Retail is a complicated relationship between customer, design, and manufacturing. RJ Classics is receptive to customer feedback when it comes to deciding what sizes to create for their products. “Manufacturers should be listening to their customers,” Eisenberg said. “The equestrian industry should be supportive of all the riders who choose to be a part of this great sport.”
SmartPak was one of the first major retailers to add a Plus-Size Rider section to their online storefront. They originally offered products from the UK-based plus size riding brand, Fuller Fillies, and the now discontinued SmartSlim, a spanx like riding garment. Though the products differ today, SmartPak’s commitment to size inclusivity remains intact with their in-house apparel lines, Piper by SmartPak and Hadley by SmartPak. When creating the SmartPak lines of breeches, the company recognized a gap in product availability. “We saw that riders above a size 34 or 36 didn’t have many options in the market, so we wanted to change that,” Jennifer Mott of SmartPak said.
With a huge amount of sizes and styles, ranging from bright pink orchid to conservative tan for showing, Piper breeches have something for everyone. Piper breeches range in size from 22 to 46 with no differentiation in price point or color options, making this a truly size inclusive brand. Though breeches are the heart of Piper by SmartPak, they also have select tops and outwear that run up to XL or XXL.
SmartPak’s newer brand of breeches, Hadley by SmartPak, features more traditional styling than the Pipers, and is also available up to a 46. Through products like these, SmartPak remains an excellent representative of inclusive fashion. “We are committed to outfitting riders of all sizes in any new products we develop in the future,” Mott said.
Other Size Inclusive Brands: These three major brands do a great job of offering size inclusive equestrian products, but they are not the only names in the marketplace. Noble Outfitters has high quality outerwear, riding tights and tops from XS to 2XL. Kerrits, makers of comfortable and affordable riding apparel, create sizes from XS to 2X for their riding tights, tops, breeches and show coats. Premium sun shirt brand Equi In Style, or EIS, offers their tops from XS to 2XL. In the land of tall boots, more companies are starting to offer wider calf sizing, including Tredstep Ireland with their Donatello Plus Size Field Boot.
Whether you’re at a horse show or happy hour, fashion can be tricky if you have a body that looks different than the lanky, thin models typically seen in magazines. With brands like these committed to providing more options for all of their clients, the equestrian marketplace will cater to riders of all sizes.
About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.
Read More from This Author »