During the most recent NSCA U.S. Open at Big Red Oak in Georgia, in June of 2017, Victoria Powell, who works for Old Hudson Plantation, a Caesar Guerini dealer, and is a new FITASC shooter, was cited for not meeting the dress code requirements for FITASC (Fédération Internationale de Tir aux Armes Sportives de Chasse, a shotgun sport shooting similar to sporting clays, trap and skeet).
There are pretty strict rules when shooting FITASC—sleeves on your shirt, shorts no higher than 5 cm above the knee. Victoria is 6′1″, so she has a tough time getting shorts to be “long” on her—her shorts weren’t by any means “short-shorts,” but they just weren’t long enough for the rules.
So I suggested that she wear a dress. To that, she said that one of the refs said that she couldn’t wear a skirt or a dress, which I promptly contradicted: I’d been wearing a dress for the last 5 years for FITASC and if I was in violation, no one had told me…including Joe Cantey, FITASC vice president for America, who also set two of the parcours at the Open. (A parcour is a layout of 25 targets during a FIRASC macth; each match has four parcours.) I had actually shown off my own sleeves and dress to him earlier when I shot, so I knew I was in accordance to the rules, which are stated below:
17.1 Competition participants must be properly dressed. Short shorts are not permitted; only long shorts (Bermuda type at most 5 cm above the knee) are permitted. It is not permissible to be naked under a skeet vest (thank goodness). Shirts must have at least short sleeves and a collar or, without a collar, must have a round neck (like a T-shirt). Wearing sandals is not permitted for safety reasons.
So the next day, she showed up to shoot sporting clays in this awesome red dress—little cap sleeves, and just above her knees. She looked stunning. With her stylish white tennis shoes, she was in approved FITASC gear. When she came back after shooting, she said she had been told by the referee that she looked great and now was definitely more of a distraction in the red dress than she ever could have been in the sleeveless blouse and shorts. The next day, she showed up in the same style dress in black, and said she was “converted.” “It’s cooler and more comfortable,” she said, and I asked her if she felt pretty, too. (Indeed she did.)
While I know a lot of women aren’t “dress” girls, this example is more to prove that you don’t have to wear what everyone else is wearing; sometimes there are other options. I have been seeing a lot of girls shooting sporting clays in tennis skirts and skorts lately, for example. Most importantly, wear what you feel most comfortable in, and what keeps your focus on your targets, not your outfit.
Shoes: I’m only speaking for myself and what I have tried in the past 15+ years of shooting clay targets. I personally like to shoot in flip-flops in the summer for a few reasons:
1. Until very recently, I lived in the South (Texas and Georgia), and it was hot for most, if not all, of the shooting season. For the same reason you bundle up your feet to stay warm, I like to have bare feet to keep me cooler. I have seen people wearing hiking books and thick socks get overheated on 90-degree days. Learn to adapt to your climate.
2. I don’t want to have a funky tan on my feet, or have stark white feet and a tan line around my ankle. I tan very easily, and wearing pumps or pretty shoes with white feet and tan legs is not very attractive. That’s the reason I show up to my FITASC parcour in my sandals and only put on my close-toed shoes at the last minute; I take them off right after I’m done.
3. Probably the most important one: I like to either pull my foot out of my shoe or at least scoot my toes over to the side so I can place my gun on the side of my shoe while resting. I know a lot of people like to use a toe pad, but resting my gun on the top of my arch is uncomfortable.
And again, wear what you feel comfortable in, based on your location and terrain … and pay attention the weather. I would recommend bringing a couple different pair of shoes, especially in the spring and fall as the weather can change so rapidly, and maybe even a pair of rubber boots. (This is easier if you’re driving to a shoot, and not having to haul them on the plane. I have visited the local Walmart on a few occasions to pick up a pair of rubber boots for a shoot.)
Moving up to pants/shorts/skorts/skirts, the same goes as with the shoes. Wear what you’re comfortable in. There are so many brands out there that have great fabrics that do everything from keeping you cool to keeping you warm. I do also have a great pair of rain pants that roll up very small that I pretty much take everywhere. Since I’m usually wearing a dress, the rain pants slide on easily and quickly if a storm comes up.
While there are rules for the game of FITASC, there aren’t any for Sporting Clays, skeet or trap…other than a vague notion of “dressing appropriately.” Find what works for you and adapt as necessary. And check out what others are wearing and ask around about the brands people like the best. I am pretty well versed in Sporting Clays and clay target shooting attire, but I’d be pretty clueless on outfitting for a 3-Gun match. (I wonder if they make any tactical dresses? Perhaps I might have to resort to the 5.11 tactical kilt.)
Shirts, tops and tanks get a bit more complicated, but not overly so. This choice also depends on whether you shoot with a vest or a pouch. I used to shoot exclusively with a pouch, since I was in Texas and the thought of adding one more layer in that heat was not very appealing to me. But when I started wearing a dress all the time, a vest was not only more functional—as I now had pockets to store all my necessary things, like lip gloss, my phone and other sundry items (oh, and shells, too!)—but it was also much more flattering. Unzipping it in between stations keeps me from getting overheated on hot days.
My company, Syren, has vests with white mesh on the sides and back to keep it lightweight and cool. We offer them in both black and purple, with a suede patch for right- and left-handed shooters. Our new pouches are coming soon, so stay tuned. Don’t forget to consider the thickness of your bra straps. This is less of an issue if you wear a vest and have that extra layer of fabric, but for new shooters in just a T-shirt, that strap can really leave a mark when shooting.
Shirts are also primary landscape for advertising. Most sponsored shooters have a designated shirt with their logos emblazoned on them, and it’s prime real estate. Most companies have logo shirts that you can purchase to represent your designated brand, and a lot of the NSCA registered shoots will have T-shirts available, too. Syren is working on adding some new shirts to our collection, giving us some additions to the classic black.
When we were at SHOT Show in January of 2017, Annemarie Garrett and Chelsea Davis wore their Syren ProStaffer shirts each day. It really helped for them to not have to explain who they were to everyone that came in the booth. The shirts translate well onto the course, and really look nice when we’re all together in a group.
Headgear: Most of us ladies will wear what can accommodate our hair. Syren ProStaffer Christine Corkell from Maryland likes the low-rise visors that only go three-quarters of the way around her head. If I wore one of those, I would feel like I had a vise on my head after about 20 minutes. When I was doing a lot of Sporting Clays photography, I wore a large cowboy hat with a wide brim, since I needed the 360-degree coverage, but a hat like that is not great for shooting in. And while it does a great job of keeping my head warm in the cooler weather, it traps the heat in the summer months.
I generally wear the Syren ball cap now, although when I had shorter hair, it sometimes made me feel like I looked like a boy. It’s easy and keeps my hair out of my way and if need be, I can turn it around for those “driven targets” that Richard Faulds set on Parcour 3 at the Open. (I just have to remember to put sunscreen on my ears!)
If I can get away with it on cloudy days, I don’t wear anything on my head, but living in a sunny climate prevents that for the most part. As with the other things, wear what you like and what you feel comfortable in. Searching out other sports can yield some good options, also. Syren ProStaffer Ashley Butcher’s mom is marathon runner, and she has some super-lightweight hats that she likes to wear. Syren is adding a mesh hat to the mix later this summer to give us girls a cooler hat to wear other than the solid black, and I can’t wait.
Some caveats to the dress code: I’ve mostly referenced what to wear during registered Sporting Clays shoots, but there are lots of clay target events that might require or encourage a more traditional or distinguished level of dress. Cool weather permitting, shooting at either the Lowcountry Annies (Savannah), Annie Oakley Shooters (Atlanta), or the Atlanta Charity Clays event could have you seeing breeks and knee socks, collared shirts and tweed vests. A nice button-down shirt with some skinny jeans and a pair of Dubarry boots is not an uncommon sight there.
Other events require everyone to dress in “period-appropriate” clothing. Checking out pictures from past events will help you get an idea of what is expected and not make you feel like you are under- or over-dressed. In my trips to the World FITASC and World English events across the pond, I’ve noticed that Europeans seem to dress a bit more formally. But for the most part, they aren’t in sub-tropical temperatures, so they have a few more options to layer colorfully and comfortably.
Every sport seems to have its own “dress code,” but that doesn’t mean you have to wear it. I’ve had many people utter surprise at my wearing a dress, but from its being much cooler in the hot summer to the ease of visiting the Porta-Potty (which is inevitable on a Sporting Clays courses), I highly recommend it. Who knows, maybe one day Syren will offer one. In the meantime, if you’re looking to convert, here are a few of my favorite websites for activewear dresses: Title Nine, Athleta and Prana.
This Retro WON first appeared June 26, 2017.