Horsey Chic

The horsey set has always set a fashion pace around these parts, what with the state's long tradition of thoroughbred racing, steeplechase, hunting and pony shows.

Folks here know a proper riding turnout, so it's with a wry smile that they view the equestrian fashions that have been trotted out by every major retailer and tony catalog this season. Fashion has caught up with tradition again.


Yet equestrian style has never been out. The houses of Gucci and Hermes, two labels with a real status punch, built their

reputations on horsey bits, boots and saddles, which they reinterpreted as scarves, shoe brasses and bags for women who never sat a horse or jumped a fence.


It's the refinement that appeals. Designs for riding clothes have evolved with as much consideration for looks as for comfort -- and they are handsome.

So go ahead and tallyho! -- with a few cautions about riding the trend too hard. We don't want to look like we just lost the pony.

* The basic riding look is built on a tailored jacket over narrow riding breeches. Traditional breeches and jodhpurs have extra width in the thigh to allow ease in the saddle. That translates to saddle bags. Designers now streamline breeches this season, with seaming to suggest a riding pant. Narrow pants in a cavalry twill or sturdy tights can put the look across, too.

* The riding coat is fitted to the waist, vented in back and long enough to cover the derriere. Good on all counts. Variations this season are in trim. Look for flattering color, a touch of velvet or a good feel.

* A white high stock collar is the hunting tradition. A turtle-neck sweater will give the same line, as will a silk or cashmere scarf tied like an ascot.

* Boots make the look. The traditional calf-high riding boot is out there in designer adaptations and moderate knock-off versions. A good investment because classic styling has a long life expectancy.

* Horsemanship doesn't demand pants. Think of aristocratic ladies riding sidesaddle in a veiled top hat, detailed jacket and ankle-length flared skirt.

* A large saddle leather bag is the only kind to carry. Anything dressy or shiny looks silly.


* We show the head-to-toe equestrian look here. That's for purposes of illustration; non-riders may want forgo the hat and riding crop.