Dressage is a formal equestrian event that is full of tradition. The United States Dressage Federation (USDF) and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) require participants to adhere to a specific dress code during these events. The dress code, while fairly strict, still allows riders to showcase their personality. In this guide, we’ll look at the required dress code for dressage events as well as ways to personalize your look.

What is a Dressage Outfit?

Dressage events are deeply rooted in military history, so it’s no wonder there is a strict adherence to pageantry and presentation. Even now, both active and retired military personnel are permitted to wear their uniforms in dressage competitions. When comparing modern dressage attire to the military uniforms of old, the influence is clear. Many updates have been made to the dress code as well as the way dressage outfits are made. Today, dressage attire is made of breathable materials to give riders freedom of movement while still maintaining a formal appearance.

Dressage Show Attire & Dress Code

The dressage show attire listed below is required during competitions, except when indicated otherwise. Keep in mind that some regions and riding clubs have their own nuanced requirements beyond standard rules, so always remember to check with them when putting together your dressage outfit.

Headgear

ASTM/SEI-approved headgear is, of course, always required for dressage events. Your helmet must be mounted, fitted, and secured, or you will not be permitted to ride. 

Show Coats

One of the most recognizable articles of clothing for dressage events is the show coat. A riding jacket or cutaway coat is required for most dressage events, while Shadbelly coats are required at higher levels. These show coats typically have four buttons, though three-button coats are also permitted. Jackets are sometimes waived in case of extreme heat for the safety of the riders.  Show coats should be a solid color or only have subtle patterns like pinstripes or plaid. Though black is traditional and most popular, some riders opt for gray, blue, or green. You can showcase your personality further with details like a subtly patterned or piped collar as well as contrasting or decorative buttons. Tasteful crystals and other embellishments are also permitted as a way to add more personality to your outfit. View all permitted show coat colors.

Learn more: How to Buy Equestrian Show Coats: Size, Fit, and Style Guide

Show Shirts

The show shirt underneath your jacket can be of any color, though you must avoid bold patterns when jackets are waived which is why most dressage riders opt for simple white show shirts. Additionally, the shirt must include a tie, choker, stock tie, or integrated stand-up collar.  Your show shirt should have a close, athletic fit against your body so that it doesn’t bunch up under your show coat. When show coats are waived, your show shirt must still have sleeves and a collar. Learn more: How to Buy Equestrian Show Shirts: Size, Fit, Style Guide

Stock Ties

Stock ties and stand-up collars are required in dressage events. Ties can be any color, though white is perhaps the most popular option. A tie pin is permitted when wearing a stock tie.

Learn more: How to Tie a Stock Tie: Step-by-step Guide and Video

Dressage Pants

White, light, and dark-colored breeches or jodhpurs are allowed when riding dressage, though most adults stick with white breeches. Bright colors and patterns for breeches are not permitted.  Belts are permitted if your breeches include belt loops. A conservative color for your belt is preferred and can give you a polished look when riding without your show coat. Consider matching your belt color to your boots for a cohesive look. 

Boots

Riding boots with a distinguishable heel must be worn during dressage events. This requirement is as much about safety as it is style; boots without a heel are at risk of slipping through the stirrup and catching, which is dangerous if a rider were to fall.  Adults typically wear tall dress boots or field boots with breeches, while younger riders tend to wear paddock boots with breeches and half-chaps or jodhpurs. Boots are typically black or brown leather, with half-chaps and garters of a matching color if worn.

Gloves

Gloves are required when performing in dressage events. Many riders choose to wear white or other light-colored gloves and coordinate them with the color of their breeches and stock ties. 

Spurs

Spurs are optional during dressage competitions. Spurs must be made of metal with the shank level with the boot and angled down if curved. Rowels, if used, must be blunt or smooth and rotate freely.

Hair

Adult riders are required to wear their hair in a neat bun or a hair net whether they have long or short hair. Younger female riders can choose to wear a ponytail or braids with ribbons. Philesha Chandler dressage rider quote on dressage show attire

How to Level Up Your Dressage Outfit: Coordinate Colors With Your Horse

Horse coats can be a wide variety of different shades, which means you have countless options to choose from regarding outfit color, especially when schooling. In order to present a polished and put-together dressage outfit, choose colors that complement your horse’s coat. Many riders will select an accent color for their horse’s saddle pad and incorporate that color into their own outfit.

  • Light Gray: Dark colors like black, navy, or burgundy contrast well with light gray horses. Certain shades of purple can also work beautifully with light gray horses.
  • Dark Gray: Light colors contrast well with these horses, so choose white or pastel shades for a striking look.
  • Black: Almost any color works with black horses; you can choose light colors for high contrast or dark colors for a cohesive, sophisticated look. Royal blue is popular as it pops against the horse’s dark coat.
  • Palomino: Cream, white, navy, green, or red all work well, but avoid orange or yellow as these will blend in too much with the horse’s coat.
  • Chestnut: Blues and greens look beautiful with chestnut coats, as can red and orange as long as they coordinate with the tones in your horse’s coat.
  • Bay: Brown and cream look lovely, but so can burgundy or emerald green.
  • Red Roan: Matching the undertones is important for red roans, but rust red and cream both look good with these coats. Emerald green can also make an appealing contrast.
  • Blue Roan: Again, matching the blue undertones here will be important. A steel blue would look incredible with a blue roan horse.
  • Buckskin and Dun: Dark greens and blues look fantastic on these already high-contrast horse coats.

What Should a Beginner Wear for Dressage?

Some beginner show riders start by attending schooling events. Schooling events are informal equestrian shows that loosely follow dressage guidelines, though some do not always adhere to dressage dress code–it’s best to check with the club hosting the event before assuming. Show coats are usually optional for schooling events, so riders need only wear a white collared shirt when competing.  Young beginner riders should adhere to the recommended dress code when participating in dressage or schooling events. Since jodhpurs and paddock boots are permitted at lower levels, many young riders opt for these instead of breeches and tall boots.  Elevate your dressage attire with R.J. Classics equestrian apparel. Our goal is to provide high-quality equestrian clothing for riders at any level. Whether you’re new to the sport or an experienced dressage rider, you’ll find the riding apparel you need to look and perform your best at R.J. Classics.

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