BY LAUREN MAULDIN
Some things will always be consistent on the hunter/jumper circuit: fashion trends grab attention with innovative designs and intricate details, and life will throw a curveball to your plans.
Right now, a lot of trendy attire comes from Europe. Technical fabrics and micro-crystals have squeaked into tradition. There are tons of colors available and seemingly infinite ways to customize your turnout. Big warmbloods and tiny European breeches—that’s “the look,” right? While they have endless options for trim, details and color, many of the popular European brands are a lot less inclusive in terms of sizing. The advice from the tack store is usually, “Size up,” but unless you’re already a small size, there’s not much room to go.
That curveball I mentioned? It doesn’t just apply to surprise abscesses and bad weather. Our bodies, especially women’s, take a beating. There are injuries, babies, genetics—so many reasons we have a hard time fitting into those beautiful (but extremely unrealistic for some of us) European breeches. The International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education revealed that the average size of an American woman is now between a 16 and 18. Yet, despite the knowledge that fitness and riding talent prevails at a wide variety of sizes, it’s still hard to find breeches larger than a 32 at many equestrian retailers.
It’s a good thing that equestrians have plenty of brand options available nowadays that can cater to all sizes, such as The Equestrian. But do equestrians need to follow the latest trends? Beyond style, there’s also comfort, functionality, safety, and versatility that must be considered.
Having a wide range of sizing options available to accommodate many different types of riders is far more important than simply following the latest fashion trends. New riders trying to start in the sport can find it impossible to buy breeches, boots and jackets that fit them well. This not only leaves them feeling discouraged, but also like they’re not wanted within our community.
Plus, there is the constant pressure to conform to a certain size. It’s prevalent throughout all of our society, and a contributing factor to disordered eating. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) reported that at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the United States. Even someone who spent their teenage years being able to fit into any clothing on the rack may find that time has changed their size in ways beyond their control. As women age, our bodies scientifically want to hold onto more fat despite changes in diet and exercise. The ANAD shared that 13% of women over 50 engage in eating disorder behavior. Our equestrian community, especially with its prevalence of itty-bitty breeches, is not immune to these statistics.
Though it is hard to find clothes as a plus, or according to American averages, an average sized person, some manufacturers are standing up for all riders and ordering extended sizing. With their commitment to quality, fashion and inclusivity, these brands make every rider feel like a fashionista with a Miami facelift at the horse show.
Romfh’s founder, Laura Romfh, knows the kind of pride that horses can bring women. She started riding when she was two on her grandparents’ farm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. That lifetime of riding plus her education at Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles prompted her to begin her own clothing company when she was only twenty-five years old.
Laura designed the original Romfh item, the CoolMax Show Shirt, with moisture wicking fabric and smooth lines to flatter women’s curves. As she built the Romfh product line, she created clothes to make women feel like the confident athletes they are. But it was a blog post that made her realize that not all riders have the access to clothing to make them feel this way.
“Kristin Smith from If The Saddle Fits wrote an insightful blog discussing fat-shaming at horse shows,” Laura explained. “It struck a nerve with me, as most women suffer from poor body image.” She had already seen curvy riders love Romfh’s existing line of breeches, and had witnessed in person the boost of self-esteem good fitting breeches offer. “A client happily (and gratefully) fit into our size 36 Lexington Euroseat breeches for the first time, and was strutting around showing off how smooth and gorgeous she looked,” Laura said. “It occurred to me that Romfh fits and fabrics were really flattering to all shapes and sizes. Even if I can’t help poor body image directly, I can do my best to make clothing that celebrates comfort and style for equestrians in a wider range of sizes.”
Now Romfh offers many of their breeches, including the popular Serafina, up to a size 40, making them one of the most size inclusive brands on the market. That’s something riders are really excited about, but the company isn’t stopping there. Starting spring of 2020, Romfh will offer their Artist Sunshirts in 2 and 3XL. Laura is eager to get these new offerings on the market. “My biggest anticipation is seeing Romfh customers in their new products,” she told us.
Rolling out extended sizes and new products to retail stores is a slow process, but riders can see everything that’s available at romfh.com. Even with the logistics of providing this many options, Laura knows she’s doing the right thing for her customers. “In the past it’s been a challenge for retailers to carry extended sizing,” she explained. “Luckily, our drop-ship arrangement with many retailers allows them to cater to an expanded range of sizes without taking such a big financial risk.”
The effort hasn’t gone unnoticed. Event rider Whitney Watson of Weaver, Alabama is appreciative both of Romfh’s commitment to outfitting all bodies and the sheer quality of the clothes. “Sometimes extended sizing in the horse world seems like a quick nod to larger riders,” Whitney explained. “But Romfh breeches have a reputation for being some of the highest quality ones out there, and to have those in my size in such flattering styles and fashionable choices shows that we are really moving forward on the inclusion front.”
Because it’s the riders who are the biggest reason Romfh stands behind their extended sizing. “This is an amazing group of passionate and loyal equestrians,” Laura said. “If you don’t serve their needs, they will happily shop elsewhere.”
For schooling and show breeches up to a size 40, schooling and sunshirts to an XL (with more sizes coming soon), and dressage show coats offered through size 20, visit romfh.com or find them at your favorite tack store.
Founded in 2001, Irideon Riding Wear provides a durable and sophisticated line of riding clothes for casual and competitive riders. The clothes are comfortable, fashionable and reasonably priced, making them a favorite among all kinds of equestrians. Their plus line includes riding tights, breeches, and sun shirts up to a 3X—something they feel strongly about providing.
“Today’s manufacturing climate certainly makes it more challenging to offer a wide range of products in multiple sizes, but we feel very strongly that everyone deserves high quality riding apparel no matter what size you wear,” Jennifer Holmes, Vice President of Toklat, told us.
Even though riding tights are a super comfortable clothing item to wear to the barn, many riders of all sizes are wary of their typically thinner fabric that doesn’t do much to tuck and smooth. However, Irideon has perfected the schooling tight with stretchy fabric that works with riders instead of against them. One happy customer reported, “Finally a pair of schooling tights for plus size riders that fit well, flatter your curves, move with your horse and don’t break the bank!”
Offering extended sizes since 2003, Irideon was one of the first equestrian retailers to cater to the plus market. “The customers are definitely out there, and they want to look and feel good in what they wear,” Jennifer said. Equestrians are so happy with the breeches and tights that they constantly email the company to ask for more options and colors. To satisfy those kind of requests, Irideon is adding more plus styles for their Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 lines with products made from an amazing, “knock your socks off” fabric called Himalayer.
“We’re offering plus sizes in a Himalayer Half Zip and Capriole Tight,” Jennifer said. “They are so comfortable you’ll want to wear them from the barn to bed and everything in-between.” The double-knit construction of the fabric makes it buttery soft, but surprisingly warm and thin. Additionally, this fall Irideon will offer Thermasoft Breeches. “They have a super snuggly interior fleece and an outer surface that keeps hay and shavings from sticking to them,” Jennifer explained. The winter riding breeches have four exterior pockets, and look great with the Palermo Quilted Vest that will also be offered in plus sizes.
For schooling tops, breeches and riding tights up to a 3X, visit toklat.com and look for Irideon. Or visit your local tack store to check out their selection.
For riders who want their clothes to make a statement it can be hard to find size options in colors and patterns beyond the usual white and tan. Royal Highness Equestrian, with their complete line of English and western clothing, is not afraid of a little color and pattern. As well as more classic designs and colors, their schooling breeches feature fun colors, accent stitching, and splashes of pattern for the adventurous rider.
Perhaps the best part of their product offering is the plus line, something owner Harjeet Singh recognized as important early on. “Women of all sizes enjoy riding,” he explained. “We often had requests for plus size, and our team took action.” To ensure every kind of rider had fashionable options, Royal Highness began offering plus sizes. All of their breeches run up to a size 36, with select options available through size 46.
With the Microfiber Low Rise Full Seat breeches, riders don’t have to compromise on details for fit. Colors range from classic white and black to navy and burgundy. They have contrast piping around the pockets for a stylistic detail, and with synthetic stretch full seat material and a sock bottom the breeches are as comfortable as they are stylish.
One of the more fun trends to hit the hunter/jumper ring in the past few years are show shirts with bright patterns on the inside of the cuffs and collar. Royal Highness wants to make sure plus size riders are not left out. They have a wide variety of shirts ranging in white and pastel colors with paisley patterns and even animal print details tucked away inside. These shirts are available through a size 52, making them a great inclusive option.
Riders of all sizes complain about finding off the shelf tall boots that fit without having to go custom, but this conundrum is even harder for riders with wider calves. The Royal Highness leather field boots have a stretch gusset along the back of the calf, and are available in Extra Wide widths to fit a roughly 17″ calf depending on foot size. They also offer both leather and suede super stretchy half chaps to accommodate a wide variety of sizes.
Adding all of these products has paid off for Royal Highness. Harjeet reported an 18-20% increase of sales year over year, backing the commitment to serve riders of all sizes. Plus, the customers are thrilled at the extended sizing options they have to choose from.
To download a catalog and view all of the Royal Highness Equestrian offerings, visit rhcequestrian.com
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.
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