I really hate spending money, especially on clothes, because they are such a poor investment. I do like clothes though; I am a girl, after all. I buy nearly of my clothing at Goodwill because I can’t stand to pay what the retail stores are asking.
Every now and then though, I see an article of clothing I fall in love with. Once, in my twenties when I was broke as a convict, I spent $100 on a pair of black leather pants from Banana Republic. I still have those pants, although sadly they don’t fit me anymore. Not everyone can pull off leather pants, but I could back then. They said something about who I was, or who I was trying to be.
Nowadays I wear scrubs to work, which is comfortable but not glamorous, and at the barn I wear a lot of ratty clothes. I have my horses at a self care barn. That means I show up and do all the work, everything from feeding to mucking to digging an irrigation ditch. I don’t stay clean at the barn. My typical winter barn attire is flannel pajama pants tucked into muck boots with a men’s coat on top. Men’s coats tend to be more practical than women’s (bigger pockets, etc…). I can’t do anything except go to the barn in that get-up because I don’t particularly want to be seen at the grocery store looking like that.
Last year I made an effort to try and find some nice looking items that could still be worn to the barn so that I didn’t look like such a ragamuffin all the time. I bought pretty boots on clearance and several chunky sweaters and prettier coats at Goodwill to keep me warm. Even though I’m a commoner living in the American South, I felt like landed gentry in England, tramping through the countryside, surveying the livestock.
Then I found the Arctic Horse website. Arctic Horse is a small, female-owned company that makes riding skirts. The skirts were designed by two women living in Alaska who take pack trips out into the backcountry. They needed to stay warm and dry, and they wanted to be able to ride in the frigid Alaskan winter. The skirts have been tested and held up in the worst conditions. One woman ran the Iditarod in hers.
The skirts work like mittens, versus pants that work like gloves. Mittens trap heat inside a pocket and keep your fingers warmer than in gloves. The skirts work the same way. They drape around the horse’s body and trap his body heat to keep you warm.
Arctic Horse skirts have a bazillion five star reviews, and they are made by hand by a team of Russian Orthodox seamstresses. These skirts are not cheap crap made in China. They’re a piece of craftsmanship that will last years and years and years. They are expensive, but they’re more akin to a piece of outdoor gear than a fashion statement.
I love the function of the skirt, but it’s the pictures that sealed the deal for me. All last year after I first found the website, I would check back periodically to look at the pictures and read the blog. They post reviews on the website and many women send in pictures of themselves in the skirts on their horses.
Part of the attraction is that they seem like such cool girls, girls I would want to be friends with. They’re out in all sorts of weather, on horseback, managing to look beautiful and bad ass at the same time. Sign me up.
I live in Atlanta and it barely ever snows here, but it does get down in the twenties and thirties periodically in the winter, and it does rain. A lot, usually. Last year was one of the wettest winters on record. It started raining in October and didn’t stop until May. Hundreds of times last year, while I was doing barn chores looking like a homeless person and also freezing, I wished I had one of those skirts.
After a year of dreaming about it, I finally took the plunge and placed the order. I bought the Tongass Rain Skirt in plum. It’s not cold enough here to need the Arctic model. The Backcountry model is the coolest looking skirt in my opinion, but I don’t wear a lot of western clothing, so I thought the Tongass version would match the shirts and boots I already have. I bought the Tongass model that’s lined with microfleece and is completely waterproof, not water-resistant. If you’ve ever hiked or camped in a downpour, you find out the difference real quick.
I just turned 40 and that skirt is going to be my present to myself. It’s practical, but it’s also really beautiful. As the leather pants demonstrate, I’ve never been afraid to dress a bit dramatically. I’ll do a full review once it arrives and I’ve had a chance to work and ride in it!