I have watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show every year since I was a little girl, and one thing always sticks out to me like a sore thumb: the female handlers have NO idea how to dress. Hilariously bad fashion is almost a tradition, but it's something I've never understood.
I imagine the thought process of these female handlers goes something along the lines of "what I wear doesn't matter because everyone will be looking at the dog" or "if I dress really well it will distract from the dog" or "I take myself too seriously as a professional dog handler to dress decently."
I'll let you in on a secret: these are BAD thought processes. I can hardly pay attention to the dogs anymore because I'm so thoroughly distracted by over-sized suit jackets, under-sized and far too short pencil skirts, panty hose from the 90s and cloddy loafers you haven't been able to buy since 1982.
I don't quite understand why these women haven't heard of, I don't know, DRESSES, but it seems to be traditional to wear skirt suits. I imagine this developed from the fact that the men wear suits and women want to be comparable to them without sacrificing femininity. This "tradition," however, is no excuse for poor fit or poor fashion sense in general.
And the shoes. THE SHOES. Yes, you're running around in a ring with a dog, and yes, you need to be comfortable and to have a shoe that won't fall off. But for goodness sakes. You cannot wear a dressy sequined suit with Sketchers. I thought this was common knowledge amongst the entire human race, but apparently not.
The images above are not by any means the worst cases, but they do exude the basis of the problem. Better examples include these ACTUAL "Dog Show Suits" for sale on facebook-based online shops:
There is absolutely no reason why this should be the standard, but it simply IS across the board in the dog handler world. It was addressed as an issue almost 8 years ago on an episode of What Not to Wear...at least Michelle B. looks fabulous now.
Taking a cue from both What Not to Wear and my own fashion instincts, I've developed a little Dog Handler Lookbook for the Westminster ladies. Not that they'll ever read this and not that they care. I suppose it's just for my personal peace of mind.
There are certain rules I gave myself when developing these looks:
1. Comfortable, flat shoes for ease-of-running in the ring.
2. The unspoken rule of not wearing dresses.
3. Wash-and-wear, affordable clothing since handlers tend to spend more money on their dogs than on themselves!
Without further ado....female handlers, TAKE NOTES!!!
This look combines a variety of current trends while still maintaining the Dog Show Handler traditional dress code. The jacket, skirt, and shoes are from Target and the top is from Maurices.
Sequins are common amongst handlers, but they're often overdone. By limiting the sequins to just the skirt, you get a pop of sparkle without being a disco ball. The blouse is neutral and in the same color as the skirt so as not to distract and lead the eye too many directions.
A traditional buttoned jacket would work here, but I opted for a more modern open-front jacket with color blocked panels. Black and Cobalt is hot now and makes this look super sleek.
For shoes, I went for a *GASP* ballet flat!! The cap-toe adds a little shine, the ankle-strap ensures they stay on your feet, and they're comfortable enough to run around in.
Because this look is comprised mostly of neutral tones, the dog will still be the primary focus.
This look is a new take on the traditional, classic handler look. The clothes are from Maurices and the shoes are from Target.
A longer, lace pencil skirt is a much better alternative to the short stuffy skirts, and it adds texture and visual interest to the outfit. By adding a ruffled, neutral top and a cute cropped jacket in a unique color, the outfit is basic but would still set you apart.
The flats follow one of Stacy and Clinton's best rules: it doesn't have to match, but it does have to GO. The raspberry tone is in the same color family as the jacket, so it all ties together in a nice little bow.
The last look plays with bold graphics and different shapes. The clothes are from Maurices and the shoes are from Target.
The white edging on a simple black jacket really makes this look pop. The added bonus of it being a single-closure jacket vs. a button-up is definitely figure flattering. By adding a traditional sequined top in black, the whole outfit is glammed-up.
While pencil skirts are the most common, I'm offering an alternative in this skater skirt. They're very on trend right now, but they would look good for years to come in the show ring. They're much more comfortable than pencil skirts and they would offer more movement while you're running around with the dog. As an added bonus, the herringbone pattern gives the look a touch of visual interest.
One of my favorite ways to make a monochromatic outfit more interesting is to add a colored shoe. I'm going back to the vibe of Look One with a burst of blue.