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The Strict Style Rules of the Westminster Dog Show

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Getty Images

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The New York Times took a deep dive into style from the point of dog handlers at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which took place last week at Madison Square Garden. Here, we pulled out all the best tips to make sure your dog steals the spotlight the next time you enter into a kennel show (or take it out for a walk around the block).

1. Wear complementing tones. "I always like wearing black because it makes you look thinner, but then with the black dog, I can disappear," one handler named Erin Roberts told Newman. "You can't outshine your dog, but you must complement."

2. Emphasize the dog's heritage through clothing. "The judge of the nonsporting group this year took one look at Yang Ling, the breeder and handler of a chow chow, Kun Lung, and exclaimed loud enough for the audience to hear, 'I love your dress,' a black silk sheath embroidered with a fenghuang, the Chinese equivalent of a phoenix and a symbol of virtue and grace," Newman reports.

3. If your dog is huge, amp up your presence. An animal portraitist told Newman that one of her favorite handlers was Lina Basquette, a Great Danes breeder who regularly styled herself with "hair coiled on head, heavily penciled eyebrows, two-inch false eyelashes, a chest covered in pins and rings on every finger."

4. Take a class. "You know they have clinics showing people how to show their dogs?" celebrity stylist Carson Kressler informed Newman. "I would happily give them a style clinic."

5. Whatever you do, don't look like an old. "It's a delicate balance between looking classic and looking dowdy," dog show style blogger Adrienne Owen told Newman, who agreed. From Newman's firsthand account: "In the attempt to be proper yet eye-catching, women sometimes look like disco balls heading to a business meeting."

6. But give yourself room to move. "People wear a lot of St. John's suits because the skirts have ‘give' and you can run in them," Roberts explained to Newman. "I do like a pencil skirt, but the slit has to be just right: enough so you can run, not too high that you're showing too much. People wonder why we don't wear flowing skirts. But think about it: A flowing skirt or jacket can flip in front of the dog, which can hide the dog from the judge."

7. Flats are unflattering, but inevitable. "Flats with business suits are flattering to only the most lithe-limbed, which is why dog shows have become synonymous with the word 'cankles,'" Newman writes. "But really, there is no choice."

8. Always keep your eye on the prize. "I generally won't wear red or yellow, because those are the colors of the second- and third-place ribbons, and I want to think ‘first,'" Roberts said.