Fashion clambers back in the saddle

19:18, May 28 2014

Ten Gallon Hats. Cowboy boots. It's country fashion, y'all. And as New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards weekend looms, my thoughts turn to my outfit.

How can I show my new-found love for all things country without looking like a gingery Dolly Parton crossed with fat Elvis?

I spoke to Fredricks Menswear owner Lucy Farr - who, without wanting to embarrass her, is the person you do not want to stand next to at a party as your carefully chosen outfit will suddenly look like scungy trackies and the apocryphal cardigan with egg on it - and she said something flabbergasting.

Country is in.

And the country boys (as in the actual country boys from Winton and Gore and stuff) are leading the charge in snappy dressing.

"They're as fashion oriented as the town boys," she said.


"You just have to look at the checked shirts that all the men are wearing to see the direction things are going in."

And it isn't that difficult to show some country flair for men and for women.

"The obvious is to tie a pair of cowboy boots to the outfit - that's a great start," she said.

"They're great with jeans, great with chinos and they can be worn with dresses as well."

And you can't be afraid of a bit of bling but you've got to have balance.

"A cowboy belt doesn't have to have a big buckle, it can just be a chunky leather belt."

Women should think about a side plait as a simple way to country up their look. A full skirt ("It doesn't have to look like a line-dancing skirt") with a lovely pair of cowboy boots and you're done.

Not so much Dolly Parton, who once famously quipped: "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap."

On the opposite end of the sequinned spectrum to Parton was Southland's own queen of country, (adult contemporary country, thank you very much) Suzanne Prentice. She eschewed the checked shirts - no big hats here.

"We decided to go for a very polished, elegant style," she said.

Nashville glam?

"I used to wear full sequins - more like the Nashville artists ... that was just the image that myself and my management decided to go for, the more elegant approach."

One outfit stands out as a shining memory - literally.

Bought in LA in the 80s, it was identical to one worn on the red carpet by a leading starlet of the day.

"We both bought it around the same time from the same designer."

It was fully beaded cream silk with a handkerchief hem, enormously heavy and stupendously expensive.

"At the time it probably cost $US3000-4000 (NZ$3514-NZ$4685)."

Beautiful but oh-so fragile, it didn't survive a routine cleaning.

Prentice hasn't hung on, magpie-like, to her sequins, though. She's very much moved on, her outfits being either donated to the Invercargill Musical Theatre costume department or to her grand-daughter's kindergarten - "the best dressed sandpit in Invercargill".

Dressing country in three easy steps:

Step one: Boots. Cowboy boots, to be precise. And don't worry that they'll become a white elephant clogging up your wardrobe - cowboy boots are something you can wear with anything and are stylish. Step two: Accessories. As Olympia Dukakis' character says in Steel Magnolias, the only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorise. Don't be afraid of a bit of bling and a side plait goes a long way. Step three: Own it. Whatever you wear, wear it with confidence. Look in the mirror and say "Rhinestone Cowboy" and go out into the world.

Town goes Country We want you to put a bit of Gore in your day. Let's make Friday "Gold Guitar Day". We challenge you to put a bit of country in your outfit. We'd love to see your photos so share them on our FaceBook page or send them in to y'all.

The Freeze ya Bits Off busking finals on Saturday start at 4pm and the entry is $10. 

The Southland Times