I've had a long fascination with trench coats. The slightest hint of inclement weather would send my brain off on a tangent, dreamily envisioning how magnificent it would be to have that iconic, gloomy-day fashion-fix in my closet, ready to go. And not just any trench coat, you see, I yearned for THE coat, the Burberry trench. I mean, it's a timeless classic right? After all, I theorized, I could wear the thing forever and then bequeath it to my children (who would I'm sure immediately hawk it on eBay and vacation wildly in Europe on the proceeds). I suppose that's as good a send-off as any - right?
I'm sure those of you who have actually read this far are now wondering, "Why is she talking about a trench coat on a dressage style blog?" Well, I'll tell you. It's because, as I impulsively pursued turning my trench coat fantasy into reality, I experienced what can only be described as a DRESSAGE SLAP-IN-THE-FACE STYLE REVELATION. You see, after trying on coat after coat, (and kissing goodbye an entire evening designing my own uniquely custom trench via Burberry's Bespoke Trench Coat Program) I realized how surprisingly TRICKY it can be to stylishly "pull off" a double breasted garment. Who knew???
Sure, a 6' tall, sparingly fed fashion model can wear the style effortlessly, but seriously, there's all that extra fabric for the rest of us to deal with. Iconic or not, the double breasted style can be downright OVERPOWERING. If you're petite, it's next to impossible to look proportional in a double-breasted coat. Even worse, the crossover lapel and all those buttons effectively "flatten out" the curves in ways we don't normally want to - if you know what I mean. If your body type is "circle" (i.e. waist wider than hips and shoulders) ... BE AFRAID. It's precisely that extra row of buttons on a double-breasted garment that creates the illusion of WIDTH - ok, how many of us need to look wider? Anyone?
So I wondered, what's a petite or even an "average" upper level dressage rider to do in a world full of double-breasted shadbellies?
I had always assumed there was an obscure rule carved into a stone tablet somewhere proclaiming: All Dressage Tail Coasts must be Double-Breasted. I mean, it's dressage, so they're picky about weird stuff like that, right? Nope, no such rule. I suppose as consumers, we've just grown so accustomed to the traditional double-breasted shape of the dressage "uniform", that we've never even fathomed that the basic style of a shadbelly coat could be more flattering ...
... until now:
Italian designer Gino Moschetti of Accademia Italiana, in an ingenious collaboration with International dressage rider Silvia Rizzo, has created the modern, single-breasted shadbelly. It's called The Diva. We love how the sleek design evokes a stronger vertical line and more streamlined look overall - for riders of all heights. Here is Silvia wearing the new Diva coat in action earlier this year in Florida:
Photos courtesy Stefano Grasso
Accademia Italiana is the first in the industry to break the double-breasted dressage rubric, but we're guessing other equestrian apparel designers are waking up. Gino's innovation didn't just stop there. The newest version of the Diva is made with a ceramic fiber fabric called Thermoregulator. We at SHADBELLY love the new "Smart Textiles", fabrics that are beautiful, durable AND enhance rider comfort - what a concept! Oh, and take a close look at the photos - notice something else different with the design? The Diva features a separate gilet (vest) that attaches inside the coat, not a false gilet or "points", so it's contrasting pattern peeks out from both the bottom of the coat and the lapel - nice!
The Diva retails for about €596, or roughly $825 US - a price that strikes us as refreshingly reasonable for an Italian made garment of this innovation, detail and quality. And after all, I saved a lot when I bailed on the trench coat ... contact Accademia Italiana or one of their US Retailers to order.
Oh, but before we go, let's run through a few other tips you petites may want to consider whilst curating your equestrian wardrobe:
- Elongate the Body: Think monochromatic with your breeches and tops. Avoid horizontal stripes, this includes both horizontal patterns in tops and even highly contrasting belts ... so those bold, chunky belts, ummm yea, probably not the best choice. Try a narrow belt in a color that is somewhat similar to the rest of your ensemble.
- Avoid Boxiness: I think we've made our point with this one.
- It's (mostly) All About the Fit: Seek out the best tailor you can and shell out whatever is necessary for them to work their magic on your competition coat. Trust us when we say that properly fitting a petite is WAY more involved than just "taking up the sleeves".
Ride Tall, petite, dressage-obsessed blogging friends of SHADBELLY. Your thoughts, complaints, accolades, encouragement, even spelling/grammar corrections are all welcome - just click on the little comment cloud icon below to join the conversation.
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- The SHADBELLY Team