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Westminster Dog Show

cycler1729 | Posted in General Discussion on

I hesitated before writing this because I really don’t want to offend but I finally thought that it might be an interesting subject to discuss.

I watched the dog show this week and while the dogs were wonderful to see (yay Stump!) I was really shocked by the clothes that the handlers wore.  Before you say anything – I realize that it is a messy job and that they are working the dogs all day – but there has to be something that is practical and not dowdy.  There was one lady wearing a tight suit to run the dog around the ring – she looked so awkward.  And a lady in a full skirt wasn’t much better – it was so full that it was distracting.  I thought that a pleated skirt might move really well.

If you’re going to be presenting your dogs at that level of competition I don’t think that investing in one practical but quality outfit is a bad idea even if fashion is not of any interest. 

Your thoughts? 


My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library. —Peter Golkin


  1. Ralphetta | | #1

    It's funny you mentioned this. I had much the same reaction as you. I couldn't understand why women were wearing unflattering, fitted 50s suits with pencil skirts and flats. I thought people were dressed very oddly and couldn't figure out why. The clothing didn't look comfortable, practical or "dressed-up". At first I thought maybe it was tradition to wear a suit, but then I saw a large lady in stretch pants. I came to the conclusion it must be a matter of personal taste. Like you, I can think of a lot of inexpensive, more practical and less distracting choices.

    1. cycler1729 | | #3

      I'm glad that you agree - I thought that some might say that I was being too critical.

      I see why they wear flats because they're standing and running all day but the clothes choice doesn't work for the "job". 

      1. Ralphetta | | #6

        I totally understood the flats...but it was the dressy fitted suits with a tight skirts worn with the flats that seemed so wrong to me. I could easily understand plain pants and a shirt or whatever casual clothing that is worn on a daily basis to work the dogs. But it looked like there had been thought given to what was worn and those results were what I found distracting. Since the people here, at this site, are probably more conscious of those things, I hoped my observations would be taken in the right spirit.

        Edited 2/13/2009 1:40 am ET by Ralphetta

        1. thehat | | #23

          why can`t they ware heels have you seen people run in heels and dance in them don`t you think that would give the dog a more of a look

          1. Ralphetta | | #24

            You're right. My point was that flats don't look good with certain styles. I've noticed that there are a lot of people at Gatherings who work in theater. I think that's why we're interested in people in the spotlight/TV/photos looking good.

  2. Palady | | #2

    If I understand the dog show correctly, the people presenting the dogs are "handlers."  Some owners will go into the ring, but to my knowing a % are on the side lines.

    As to cycler1729 comment on the handlers clothes - the point is well made.  Unsuitable attire is distracting.


  3. miatamomma | | #4

    I have to agree with you about the clothing styles.  I have always thought the women handling the dogs looked rather dowdy.  Some people might say that about me.  Ha!  I have a feeling that these people are so into the dogs and the handling of them that they really don't give a thought to how they look.  As long as the dog looks good, that is the important thing.


    1. Bloss1996 | | #16


      You are correct.  How a handler looks is the least important thing on their mind.   For a good handler, it is all about the dog.    As I said, having worked in this industry for over ten years many of those folks that you saw on Monday and Tuesday night of last week were my fellow workers ... I know many of those people peronally so I know what I am saying to you and the others is true.


  4. Happi | | #5

    I can tell you, I was really surprised too. I have a show dog and first think I read in my first book about handling a dog was simply "what not to wear" and "what to wear to compliment best dog you are handling". I moved here from Europe couple years ago and I really thought this is the way Americans like it ;o). Is this the best of the best??? Nice to here some didn't like it too. Sad is some dogs probably lost on that. You are showing a perfect dog - perfect picture and it should to be frame in a perfect frame = you. And maybe they simply don't read Threads ;o).

  5. jane4878 | | #7

    I agree the clothing is a bit strange. I didn't see this year's, but I've watched Westminster through the years. There's a Dame Edna Everidge vibe for sure. I used to show a whippet years ago. I wore nice skirts or dress or slacks. You have to run like a fiend to show a whippet. The women who can't run showed the toys, because they didn't have to run. I'd like to see a nice more flowing skirt or dress. By the Best in Group rounds the women look like they have sequined sacks on. A suit with a pleated or A-line skirt would be easier to move in. Westminster is so upscale, it may well have its own internal culture and be very stuffy. At Crufts in England the women are really dressed down with fanny packs. (at least a few years ago) Not very attractive either. They should wear something that compliments the dog, but doesn't overwhelm. Guys always have it so easy--a suit. IMHO Jane

    1. cycler1729 | | #8

      I think that we focus on this because we're aware of fit and appropriateness (if that's a word) and as someone else mentioned they only care about how the dog looks.     

      And dare I mention the men in what looked to be wash & wear suits LOL? 

      I think that there might be a market for dog show apparel if someone had the vision to create it. 



  6. Ckbklady | | #9

    Great discussion! I watch Westminster every year and have always gotten a kick out of the dreadful "humanwear". I expect it's meant to put the spotlight firmly on the dogs, but, my goodness, it's still chuckle-worthy.

    I noodled around a bit on the American Kennel Club site to see if there was a policy dress code document for the handlers. No luck. Does anyone out here know if there is an official dress code, and if so, what it says? There must be, and there must also be historical meaning to their outfits, it seems to me.

    Their clothes remind me of outfits worn by Barbara Woodhouse, the English dog obedience expert in the 70s and 80s. Stick-straight skirts, sensible shoes, but ill-fitting nonetheless. Puzzling, but then again, in its way, it really is a kind of a fashion show for dogs, who love us even when we're not runway-ready.

    :) Mary

    Edited 2/13/2009 7:12 pm by Ckbklady

  7. Paws2 | | #10

    I have watched dog shows live and on t.v. and like you, for the most part ,agree that the handlers do look very uncomfortable and unflattering. I have started up a business for designing and making pet clothes and accessories and as you can guess most of the clothes would be for dogs. Making a line of flattering suits for showing the best of the best dogs would be a wonderful idea except that,at this point is not in the same league as making dog clothes!! Perhaps there is someone out there who is able to accomadate these ladies who I'm sure would welcome the help. I do have a friend who's daughter shows her dogs and is a size 5 and as you can imagine looks great in a suit even in flats!!     

    1. Ralphetta | | #11

      One lady was wearing soft, slouchy, suede boots and a soft skirt. It looked fluid, moved nicely and looked comfortable as she ran. Since there is a lot of money invested in the whole enterprise, I think there would be a market for some enterprising person. I think a knowledgeable person could find work as a consultant/stylist and wouldn't even have to actually sew. Of course, I'm the same person who, when renewing her driver's license, suggested someone could make good money with a little booth and a 1 minute make-up/hair treatment.

      Edited 2/14/2009 4:36 pm ET by Ralphetta

      1. lynnewill | | #12

        I had a client years ago who showed dogs.   They have practicality issues as many of you have mentioned, as well as a desire for them to come out of the suitcase looking show ready. 

         Many just try to copy what they see others wearing, especially winning trainers regardless of whether it is a suitable style for them. 

         Then we have the issue of fit.  They all know exactly how a dogs ears and nails should be trimmed but they have no idea what correct fit is and where we look in the mirror and say oh this outfit is not flattering on me, or its the right idea but a size to big or to small,  they do not have the experience to see this.   Many are probably making the judgement call by how well they can move in it, as they will sacrifice style for ease of movement.  How many fittings have you done with people who immediately see if they can row a boat in it?  Multiply this by 10 for animal trainers.   

        Showing animals is  expensive and unfortunately the trainers clothing takes a backseat to the animals grooming, show fees, training fees, association fees, vet bills, etc.  Interestingly the client I had initally contacted me to custom make show clothes, but then decided to spend the money on party and holiday wear instead.  To her spending the money on a practical well fitting suit, was like paying a doctor bill instead of splurging on herself. 

         I also suspect that hard core dog lovers have no idea what we are complaining about, they probably were not distracted by the unattractive ill fitting clothing. 

         Maybe letters need to be written to the kennel clubs, after all if they are going to put these competitions on t.v. and they are doing so to sell dogs basically to the average person, it would be in their best interests to   provide better guidlines for their competitors. 

         Maybe the answer is a style and fit DVD specifcally geared for them?

        Wow - I think I might need to apologize for the rant!  Sorry!



        1. cycler1729 | | #13

          No apology necessary! 

          That's how I felt when I first posted this.  I know someone who doesn't buy any clothes at all until what he has are unwearable but is a completist where his favorite recording artists are concerned and spends a fortune on his CD collection.  Everyone has what is important to them.

          It's just that the handlers looked so awkward running the dogs.  Even someone who doesn't care about how they look must care if they aren't able to move properly in their clothes.

          1. KharminJ | | #14

            My first thought while watching was "Don't any of these women own a SLIP!?" (I must admit to thinking that an awful lot these days!) Indeed, so many of the skirts were just a 1/2" or so too tight, which shows off body lines in all the wrong places! <p> As you said, to each his own, but Geez!<p>Kharmin

      2. autumn | | #21

        Every time I watch the dogs shows I'm struck by how bad some of the handlers look. Why don't the women wear a nice pair of slacks or a pantsuit instead of skirts? The camera focuses on the dogs, which means the humans' legs and feet are right there. Not flattering, and it is not only the women. Some of the men wear such terrible shoes. They should at least polish them. I wonder if they watch themselves on TV after the show.

        1. Bloss1996 | | #22

          Having retired from the dog show world three years ago I can answer some of your questions.  As far as the pants or skirt thing ... some of that is a hangover from years ago when handlers were told to wear skirts some of it depends on what breed you are showing.

          As far as the men polishing their shoes ... most of them are so focused on their dogs that it would never occur to them to polish their shoes!

  8. Bloss1996 | | #15

    Having worked in the dog show world (retired from it 3 years ago) let me say that most handlers have a style of clothing that they prefer and wear.  I can guess many by they are wearing long before seeing their faces.

    That said, many handlers forget that they have aged and continue to see themselves as they were 10 years ago and dress accordingly. 

    What you see on the TV at Westminster is not necessarily what you would see at a regular All Breed dog show... so you can just imagine how poorly they dress.  While working I was referred to as the Fashion Police! 

    The dog show world is unique unto itself and very isolated from every day things.  Too many of these people this is life, their life. 

    I often said, that many do not know what real life is all about.  So as you can see they know fully well what they are wearing ... it is just not important enough for them to do anything about it.

    In defense, I will have to say there are many who dress beautifully. 

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #18

      The show world for any animal of any size is unique! You are so right about handlers being so focused on the animal that they forget themselves. Their attention is solely focused on the animals, and they only see the animals. They do not see the whole picture.
      Some show events include the whole picture, such as riding events with horses where clothing is part of the picture as well, and the style is a big part.
      Other show events have a uniform of sorts, such as the white attire in the cattle show rings.
      I have always found it rather strange that the Canine Show World had not adopted either way. I rather thought that it would move toward a more formal way of dress. With the elegance and grace with which the dogs are shown, and the aura of class these dog shows have, one would think the organizers would set at least a minimum dress code. Most animal showcases do. Cathy

      1. Bloss1996 | | #19

        << I rather thought it would move to a more formal style of dress. >>


        It is really funny but it depends on what part of the country you are in as to what the dress code is. 

        I live in the Northeast and it is pretty formal (i.e. suits ... and I mean good dress suits, dresses for the ladies ... ties and jackets for the men) and it also depends on the breed as to the dress then ............ you come to the south (where I winter since retiring) and the dress code is far less strict.  I was exposed to this before retiring as we would come to the FL Circuit which is the first couple of weeks in January.  I am sure that is because it is much hotter here.  And then you have the West Coast which is a little more on the formal side like the Northeast but not quite as stuffy.

        As I said ........ it depends on the breed and the area of the country as to how you dress.  The breed that we specialized in is pretty formal in the ring.

        The other thing that is strange, is that in the Northeast you are lucky to see three male handlers in our ring but it is a different story here in the south.  You see more men than women.



        1. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #20

          You never know what you are going to learn about in this forum! Who knew that the appropriate dress and styles for dog showmanship would be up for discussion? WoW! That there would be differences in handler style by breed of dog, or by region as well. Usually when I think of cultural differences, I think about things like nationality, or perhaps religion. Now here are examples of differences in culture amongst dog breeders and handlers. Who would have thunk? Cathy

  9. sewingkmulkey | | #17

    Oh my gosh, cycler1729, I had the same reaction and pointed it out to my husband who then joined in on my critique!  I, too, simply could not understand the women wearing dressy suits with straight pencil skirts (most of them were too tight to boot)!  As mentioned by most posters the job of the handlers definately requires either well tailored slacks or fluid skirts to properly showcase the dog's gate.  Most of the job handler's attire took attention away from the immaculately groomed dogs.  I found it rather amazing in bad way.


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