Looking back at old photographs of early days of showing both personal and somewhat more ancient, it struck me how easy it is to estimate a date just by the clothing of the exhibitors. In one particular picture of me I seriously wonder how on earth I managed to run in the most enormous ‘loons’! For the younger or non fashionistas of you, loons were bell bottom trousers, don’t imagine they were today’s ‘boot cut’ the circumference of the bottom of the trousers were, frankly, epic.
As if the flare wasn’t big enough I remember spending hours stitching in a triangle to the side, what was I thinking? I suppose the same could be said for those who still totter up and down in vertiginous heels, smug in the knowledge that their legs look fashionable and chic; sadly the dog has a pained expression that tells of a deep fear that any moment he could be stilettoed. Fashion and dog showing just sometimes don’t mix, the mini skirt for instance, if you have the pins for it, go ahead. However, please, please remember that any variation from the vertical will result in inadvertent advertising of more than your canine companion.
The spray on trousers of the 80’s also tell a story for the male exhibitor and before Photoshop to save the embarrassment some pictures are best cropped above the knee. Plunging necklines and Cuban heels are also a feature of the disco-tastic 70’s and 80’s, and that’s just the men! For the ladies it was massive hair and huge sunglasses making us look like hirsute flies. It seems to me there have always been two types of preferred dress for exhibitors; the first is to reflect the breed on the end of the lead.
Gundogs and Terriers require country tweeds, tattersall checked shirts and muted colours, the exception here is the Poodle exhibitor. Now in the utility group the Standard Poodle could very easily have been queen of the gundogs as a water retriever , although there is still some dispute over this claim however not only has the poodle changed from dramatic dread-locks to tip-top topiary the exhibitors have a certain flair all their own too.
With a powerful standard Poodle covering the ground the handler has to be fit , fast and streamlined , I’m almost surprised they don’t resort to cycle helmets for protection but maybe this is where the banned hairspray has come in useful. Poodle exhibitors have always managed that smart, casual look so well, perhaps we can all learn from this, if the owner is well groomed you can rely on the dog also being well presented?
Speaking of dogs shown at a goodly pace the German Shepherd of Germanic type is a front runner, literally. The outsider may be forgiven for thinking they are watching wacky races as the Judge asks for a dog to take the pole position. There is no doubt that the sweaty tracksuits and trainers with go faster stripes have been left, in most cases, behind in the 80’s to be replaced by rather more stylish show wear , there remains a hardcore of GSD handler/athletes awash with testosterone and lycra. Thank goodness they don’t feel the need for Lederhosen, I’m not sure I could take all those chapped thighs in one afternoon.
Looking at other breeds , it is rare to spot a Geisha in command of an Akita but then a quick check of the classical duties of a Geisha do not appear to include dog showing, however , in my defence the origin of the name is “performing artist” and what better description of so many in the showring? As an aside Geisha are thought to inhabit their own world of flower and willow called karyūkai, how curious, and how very inconvenient for the shops.
Most women love shoes, possibly because no matter how our weight fluctuates, our shoe size stays constant so it’s no surprise that for smartly stepping beside our smaller breeds or languidly loping around a ring with our upper bodies at a bizarre angle, we do like to get the footwear right. Hands up all those with more “showing” shoes than “going out” heels. As I thought, no contest and the same goes for choosing clothing, as we ponder over a new jacket, trousers, dress or kimono we ask the same questions of the cloth. Will it show the hairs?
Now on the one hand we want contrast so our sparkling white dog looks dramatic against plum or navy but on the other hand we also know it will take two people and several rolls of sellotape at least ten minutes before we go into the ring to get said contrasting jacket hair free!
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I do admire those exhibitors who keep their “showing” outfits so spick and span , mine end up at the bottom of the show bag and are only discovered the night before the show, ‘dry clean only’? Surely not, I’ll just see what happens when I put them through the wash…
If an exhibitor true you’d be,
Listen carefully to me.
Never, ever let your dress be incorrect or worse, a mess.
Shoes, choose flat and polished well,
Plenty of talcum to hide the smell,
Useful too to disguise the fact, your dog leaves a cloud moving away and back.
Skirts so short they should be called a belt,
Have no place on Crufts green veldt,
Appropriate dress may not win prizes, but at least they save us from extreme surprises.