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Product Review: CR Ranchwear Italian Cotton Western Shirt

When you feel like you look like a million bucks, you’ll ride like a million bucks too — that’s Kristen Kovatch’s theory, and that’s why she loves her CR Ranchwear Italian Cotton Western Shirt.

Purchased image from GRC Photo

One of my favorite things about showing the ranch classes is the practicality of the apparel: yes, while I have “show versions” of the same button-down long-sleeve shirt and leather chinks, intended not to be worn around the farm lest I inevitably stain or rip everything, the pieces themselves are the same. On show day, I don’t feel like I’m wearing some sort of costume the same way I did when I showed equitation and hunters, and certainly the western horsemanship with its overabundance of glitter and rhinestones.

That said, those hunt coats and horsemanship tops were admittedly well-fitted and well-made, designed to fit like custom even when they were off the rack. For some reason, most of the western apparel industry has yet to catch on — even the performance-cut western button-downs, with their extra-long sleeves and long shirttails, always seem to be baggy in the wrong places, prone to wrinkling and just never quite having the same form-fitting, flattering look that other disciplines enjoy. As much as horse showing is about performance, especially in the ranch classes, there’s certainly something to be said about looking your best — when I feel like I look good, I know that confidence shows, and when I ride confidently, my horse performs at his best too.

So when I updated my show clothes for 2018, seeking to “dress for success” first for the Thoroughbred Makeover and then for my hopeful return to the reined cow horse show pen in 2019, I definitely had one brand at the top of my list for a new show shirt: CR Ranchwear.

I had seen these shirts advertised in my newsfeed and was struck by their clean lines and flattering cuts, especially in the arena. Sure, a model can make any piece of clothing look good in a carefully-photographed ad, but a quick scroll through CR Ranchwear’s Instagram revealed plenty of real riders wearing these gorgeous cotton button-downs in the show pen, looking like a million bucks while still rocking conservative hues — exactly the look I was going for.

Purchased image from GRC Photo

CR Ranchwear offers two lines for women’s apparel — Premium and Italian Cotton. A friend recommended that the Italian cotton shirts were well worth the slight extra investment over the Premium for the weight and feel of the fabric, so after much agonizing over exactly what color I wanted, I ordered the Italian Cotton Western Shirt in navy blue.

Initially, for someone used to buying an average cotton shirt off the rack at the tack shop or ordering one from my favorite online retailer, hoping for the best when it came to outfitting my overly-long so-called “gorilla arms” while hoping the body of the shirt wouldn’t hang on me like a feed sack, the cost of the CR Ranchwear shirts felt steep. (The Italian cotton shirts run at $189; the premium shirts start at $169.) When my shirt arrived, however, I realized that as far as CR Ranchwear went, you truly got what you paid for.

Photo by Kristen Kovatch

The attention to detail on these shirts is incredible: the Italian cotton is simultaneously a richly heavy-duty fabric that screams quality and durability while also somehow being incredibly lightweight. Buttons are double-stitched to ensure that they won’t pop off at an inopportune moment (because horses) — and taking riders into consideration, the buttons are spaced closer to avoid getting hung up on the saddle horn (no concerns about awkward gaping either!). The shirts themselves are cut to truly flatter a female figure, giving an almost custom-feeling fit. They’re made in the US by employees making a fair wage, and from every angle these shirts are truly made to last.

A touch of bling (genuine Swarovski crystals) on the collar, front and back yokes, and sleeves. Photos by Kristen Kovatch

These shirts do run big, and I double-checked my measurements before very nervously ordering the extra small. In other brands, I am either a small or a medium depending on how generously sleeves are cut (see above comment re: gorilla arms) so I was really concerned that I’d have a three-quarter sleeve show shirt arriving in the mail — but lo and behold, the shirt fit like they had made it just for me. When I put it on for the first time, I’m pretty sure I said out loud “oh, now I get it.”

My show pen debut with this shirt was at the Thoroughbred Makeover, and when I stepped out of our shared tack stall having changed clothes before my class, Jumper Nation’s Meagan DeLisle immediately said “oh girl, you look GOOD.” I headed into the ring already feeling like I was on top of the world and looking the part, and my OTTB Jobber marched right in like he owned the place. (Sure, I had done my homework to prepare him to show, but we all know the difference a confident rider can make when the chips are down, too!)

Purchased image from GRC Photo

Tired of baggy off-the-rack shirts that just aren’t flattering? Treat yourself to something better and invest in a CR Ranchwear. These shirts are true quality and an investment for your show wardrobe that you won’t regret.

English riders, don’t feel left out: HN’s Lorraine Jackson loves these shirts for dressage and hunter/jumper applications — they’d be considered “standard attire” for jumper shows as defined by the USEF. If you’re looking to stand out with a quality shirt, consider a CR Ranchwear!

Visit CR Ranchwear to browse all of the colors, patterns and styles!

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