Lead Line; not your average fashion show

The Lead Line competition always packs the stands at the North American Livestock Exposition. This year was no disappointment, the crowd was eager to see the creative outfits put together by contestants. Inside and outside the ring, there were smiles across the faces of contestants and spectators.

Lead Line competitions got their start in the mid 1970s. The competition was created to promote the wool industry by showcasing the relationship between the shepherd and their products. Contestants are required to either make or purchase an outfit with a specific percentage of wool fabric and model it while leading their sheep with matching accessories around the ring. After modeling, the contestants are evaluated and ranked based on their performance and outfit.

This year, Annie Smith of Stewardson, Illinois was crowned champion of the Lead Line in the adult division.Smith has been competing in Lead Line for eight years. Although there are Lead Line competitions across the country, she only competes here at NAILE and the Big-E.

Close up of Smith's vintage button closures.


In regards to her outfit, Smith was rocking a beautiful pair of navy vintage farm girl overalls, with five antique brass buttons for the closure, pockets on each side, criss-cross adjustable straps, a matching wool hat and sweater. According to Smith, it took approximately two weeks to make her outfit.

“I try to make it versatile and up-to-date enough that I can wear it for more occasions other than just the competition,” Smith said.

 Smith exits the ring with a big win.


A Horned Dorset ewe accompanied her in the ring. Smith said she and her family raise five different breeds of sheep. This year, Smith was responsible for lambing out the entire herd. Raising sheep is no easy feat. Sheep need to be fed, groomed, and properly maintained. From farm to fashion, Smith can do it all.