My sewing friend Mary Ellen Velky and I spent time together recently in San Diego, and we got started talking about the clothes she wears when she’s riding (more specifically, the clothes she wears when she’s in competition).
She’s a Reserve World Champion in the American Quarter Horse Association competitions – and trust me, that’s a very big deal. And in addition to riding beautifully, she looks great, and for the most part, sews her own competition wear. I thought you’d like to get a closer look at what Mary Ellen laughingly calls “the other side of couture!”
The discussion all started when she mentioned an upcoming fabric show in Los Angeles. The LA International Textile Show is held twice a year, and last year Mary Ellen visited it with our mutual friend, professional dressmaker Cindy Dahlin, whose wholesale license got them into the show. This year’s spring show is at the California Market Center from March 28-30.
Here’s the fabric that started it all, her find from the Textile show.
Clearly, how a rider looks is a key part of the competition, and I was fascinated, as always, by the melding of form and function. So I asked Mary Ellen what she looks for in an outfit. The rules require boots, jeans, a shirt and a hat – but as you’ll see, it’s expanded to encompass very ornately-embellished garments, which have to appeal both close-up and from a distance. And they’re even color-coordinated with the horse, which, if you think about it, makes sense.
“Everybody is so good with their riding,” says Mary Ellen, “that the right clothes can add something extra. You’re showing – you’re showing what you and your horse can do, and it’s about the team. And when I’m…