Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Creating Your Turnout On A Budget

Aaah, carriage driving. The very picture of affluency, rich people parading around in their expensive carriages, thousands of dollars in gleaming harness and perfectly matched attire sparkling in the sun, their horses practically sweating out droplets of gold as they prace their six-figure selves around the arena with Windsor Castle shining in the background. 

And then, there are people like me, who bum carriages off of friends, find their horses on Craigslist for $500, and peruse the local thrift stores for outfits because they spend most of their hard earned cash on feed instead of fancy clothes.

I don't even think I could afford one of those tophats let alone anything else 

Yeah, we probably wouldn't do well at Walnut Hill or anything. But here in Texas, doing CDEs, we can look pretty classy on a fairly tight budget.

So, if you are like me and scratching your head about where to begin on a budget, let me give you some of the pointers that I have stumbled upon in my journey. God knows I am not a turnout expert by any means, but I think I have a decent enough eye for color coordination, enough to not make myself look like a total fool and save myself a few dollars in the process.

Before you even think about shopping for your own clothes, keep this one very important fact in mind:

Nothing looks better than a shining horse and clean equipment.
If you have spent $$$$$$$$$ on a super expensive outfit, but show up with a horse that has hay in his tail, a frizzy mane, and a dull haircoat, just go home. Likewise for a horse in poor condition. I *promise* you that it is the first thing the judge notices, and it does count. The same goes for your carriage and harness - clean them well! If you look like you've been living out of your dusty carriage like a Gypsy, you may want to reconsider what you're doing. Get these things taken care of before you even think about your clothes.

Be shiny, like this hiney

When planning your outfit, match your turnout appropriately to your vehicle and to your horse. If you're not terribly familiar with the kind of clothes you might wear with certain types of carriages or certain types of horses, do your research! What is appropriate for the Appaloosa World Show driving classes is not remotely appropriate for a pleasure show or CDE. What is appropriate to wear when driving a flashy Hackney is not appropriate for a Haflinger. What is appropriate for a super formal carriage is not appropriate for a more country type turnout. Curious about any of those things? Look them up! It can get a bit complicated because everything must flow together - harness, type of horse, vehicle, and outfit. Even your manner of handling the reins may be different. Know what parameters you have to work within - and then work within them!

Country turnout

Formal turnout. We're not creating this one on a budget unfortunately! 

For the sake of keeping things simple and not writing gigantic novels about things that I know partially know about, let's assume we're all lower level HDT/CDE competitors and we want to look nice in dressage and cones, on a budget. Where do we begin?

In this case, we're obviously looking primarily for something that only counts for presentation on the move - i.e. the judge is adding some points to our overall dressage test when we are showing at an HDT or CDE. It's important to look good, but it's not likely to make or break it for us, not like a turnout class at a pleasure show would. We want to look nice and make a good impression without breaking the bank. We'll assume we already have the horse and vehicle picked, and we'll need to match according to that.

First, look at the colors you already have to work with. Your palette is already right there and started for you, so you will need to match according to that. What color is your cart or carriage? What color is your horse? If you're like me, and you have a bright orange horse and a black carriage, you obviously wouldn't want to pick a color like navy, or lime green, or purple or something. You want the whole picture to flow together.

Pick a complimentary theme color, and flow outwards from there. Last year, my horse was orange and my cart was painted navy. That was a beautiful combination, so I decided to keep on with the theme of navy. I chose colors that went with navy without clashing with the orange, like cream. While some things came out looking kind of noob, which was to be expected, I think overall it flowed well together and scored 9s for turnout.

Still my favorite picture from Sunrise Ridge

Once you have an idea of the color theme you want to go with, you can start your shopping!

Thrift store it up. This is my favorite place to start. Our local Salvation Army is HUGE and has a zillion different things to look for. Have an idea and a plan, but go into it with an open mind. When I started looking for this year's outfit, I started with my apron and worked my way out. I had an idea of colors, but I went to my apron maker - and yes, this is the one thing I did spend some money on, because I wanted a nice well-made apron this year - and I talked to her about colors. While we started with the idea of blues, we tried the idea of burnt orange and she pulled up a gorgeous bit of fabric that had orange, tan, and black in it. And I had to have it.

Love it
So, I started with this, and worked my way out.
I decided I wanted a burnt orange jacket and hat, but it had to be the right color. Don't forget to check Ebay too! I perused Ebay for awhile before finding a perfect hat. I also found a jacket, but when it arrived, it was not really the right color - too orange. So, back to Salvation Army I went. Lo and behold, with some luck and magic, there was a burnt orange jacket that was exactly what I was looking for! I had to search for it, but it was there. I decided to come back another day once I had decided more about my pants, undershirt, and accessories.

In the meantime, L had made a present for me - a feathered pin to go along with my outfit. This can either go on a hat or as a lapel! The colors are perfect, and that is indeed a little zebra with orange and black stripes, and a mohawk and red eye. It couldn't be more perfect!

So, I had an apron, a jacket, a hat, and a pin. Now I needed some pants and an undershirt of some sort. Back to Salvation Army!

When selecting an outfit, I like to peruse the entire section of whatever I am looking for - pants, or a shirt, or whatever - and let my eye naturally be drawn to colors that I think could work. In terms of pants, it technically doesn't matter because my apron is going to cover nearly all of it, but the very bottom part of them may stick out. My boots are also black, so I took that into account too. You don't want your ankles hanging out, so that was something to keep in mind as well.

So many choices
 You will kiss a lot of frogs before you find the right one, I promise you that. Some of the pants were too small. Some were too big. Some were ugly as sin when put on. Some were too short. Some were weirdly baggy at the top, and too tight near the bottom. And one pair was just right - the black pair, with very subtle orange pinstriping. Perfect.

Gratuitous gut shot included at no extra cost 

Shirts were kind of a more difficult matter, and I'm not convinced I like what I have. The neckline could go tall or could go short, I don't really know which I like better. I might just be able to put a regular tank top underneath, but I also chose a turtleneck as well. I like turtlenecks a lot, and I actually took an extra one home just because. I wear them all the time in the winter when I ride as they look nice and keep my entire self warm without being bulky. 

Ultimately went with the most brown one of these

And here is what we have so far, as a total outfit. I hate pictures of myself, to the point of having a complete and utter loathing for every one of them, but I will share it anyway.

Obviously, not going to be wearing sandals! 

What do you think? It needs jewelry, some kind of silver necklace of some sort. I think the shirt and jacket will be too plain without something silver there. I put the pin in the hat, and I like it there vs. on the lapel as there is no pocket.

Like it? Hate it? Suggestions? Improvements?

Oh, and the total cost of it minus apron was only about $30 - hat, jacket, shirt, and pants. If that's not creating a turnout on a budget, I don't know what is!


  1. Man. I love that apron fabric and hat so much! I have one suggestion (and take with grain of salt, because I'm looking at photos on the internet and not in person...duh), but I'd maybe go with a black shirt instead of the lighter color. I think it'll ground your outfit a little bit more. Then you can put your silver jewelry on top and it'll shine out and pull the chrome off your harness.

    1. I like that idea. The band on the hat is black too. I will try it!

  2. I love thrift stores. I've recently started to learn to do alterations and that really helps as I can now pick things that don't fit perfectly and make them work instead of endlessly searching for something that fits perfectly.
    I'm really impressed with how well you matched your jacket and hat from thrifting.

  3. I love it!! That jacket is such an amazing find and you look great!

  4. I know literally nothing about driving and I despise formal turnout for riding, but HOT DAMN that is a fabulous outfit that almost makes me want to drive. Seriously so cool.

  5. that really pulled together well - nice job! i like Austen's idea of a black shirt too - but really, the jacket and apron are fabulous! can't wait to see the whole picture complete with carriage and horse!

  6. This is a fabulous post. I need to figure out my color pallete first though.... damn

  7. Either the black shirt idea or a cream turtle neck to set off the colours in the jacket a little bit more.

    But I do like.

  8. Oh and I love thrifting too.

    So many finds :))

  9. Love this post! I totally thrift all my polo shirts for jumper schooling shows. I also love how nicely you coordinate good chestnut color schemes. It's a slightly daunting task in my experience.

  10. My two cents: I would change the shirt to white first choice or black. Then I would find (if allowed) a bright silky scarf with the colors your need (pulling from the right shade of orange and maybe navy from the apron). If no scarf allowed, I still would pop that part of the outfit with white or black.... Looks great!

  11. I love the new outfit!!! I really like that picture too. Your expression kills me. :D I can't wait to see it all together with O and the carriage. Good job on finding deals!