Posts Tagged ‘riding costumes’

The riding habit, was first introduced in the 17th century. They were tailored by men in the manner of men’s dress: a fitted jacket worn over a long skirt, often worn with a masculine hat. Samuel Pepys, ever helpful with observations of his time, wrote in 1666 of seeing the Queen’s ladies of honor “dressed in their riding garbs, with coats and doublets and deep skirts, just for all the world like men, and buttoned their doublets up to the breast, with periwigs and with hats; so that, only for a long petticoat dragging under the men’s coats, nobody could take them for women in any point whatever — which was an odd sight, and a sight which did not please me.” – Candice Hern

In the 18th and through most of the 19th centuries, women’s riding habits were generally made by tailors and constructed like men’s wear. They were usually buttoned left over right, like a man’s coat. Other women’s fashions were made by dress makers and mantua makers. Masculine touches onwomen’s riding habits included mariner’s cuffs and fabrics and trims as seen on naval uniforms.  These riding habits were functional, but in the late 1700s they became fashionable dress as well, and were worn for informal day wear for traveling, visiting, or walking.

Madame Gaspard de Péleran by Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1738

The materials worn for riding from the mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries were easily distinguished from the silks, muslins, and velvets of fashionable evening dress. Equestrian activities required sturdy and often weatherproof fabrics such as woolen broadcloth, camlet (a silk and wool or hair mixture), melton wool, and gabardine for colder weather and linen or cotton twill for summer or the tropics. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, habits were frequently adorned with gold, silver, or later woolen braiding, often imitating the frog-ging on Hussar or other military uniforms. – Equestrian costume

Equestrian portrait of Marie-Louise-Elisabeth d'Orléans (The Duchess of Berry in hunting-costume in 1710)

The appearance of a lady on horseback in a fashionable London riding-habit, and tricked out in the newest guise with patches, is amusingly described by Steele. The lady is supposed to be riding through the town of Kettering in Northamptonshire, in the month of July, 1724. ” Yesterday astrange and surprising creature was seen to pass through our town on horseback. It had the face of a young woman, stuck full of patches ; a perriwig which hung down to its waist; a hat cock’d with the smartness of a young officer; a huge bunch of ribbons fastened behind its left shoulder; a shirt laid in large pleights on the breasts and tied close at the neck and wrists, which, with a vest of white satteen, trimmed with black, had much the resemblance of a shroud.

Portrait of Lucy Pelham-Holles, Countess of Lincoln (d. 1736), three-quarter-length, in riding habit, in a landscape

Our whole town was soon alarmed with this strange appearance, and various are still the opinions what it really was. The old people, who were the most couragious generally, went pretty near to it with their spectacles on to view it more distinctly; the younger sort kept it at an awful distance. Some were of opinion that it was a highwayman in disguise, and accordingly were for seizing it; others took it for a nun; but by a certain arch leer it had with its eyes I dare engage it had not a bit of nun’s flesh about it. However, by its pale complexion and shroud-like dress, most of my neighbours at last concluded it to be a ghost, and so took to their heels, and left me (who am no great believer in these things) almost alone with it in the road. I had now an opportunity, during the time it was drinking a glass of Rhenish wine and sugar at the Saracen’s Head Inn, to survey it well, and thereupon concluding it to be an Hermaphrodite, I enquired of the man who seemed to have the keeping of it, if he intended to show it in our town, and at what inn? For you must know, Sir, that I have a mighty curiosity to see one of those creatures all over. But the man with an angry countenance told me: That what I took for an Hermaphrodite was only a young lady, and that the sort of dress she was in was commonly worn for a riding-habit by the ladies of fashion at London. But as neither I nor my neighbours can believe it possible for folks upon no ill design to disguise themselves in such a manner… – A history of English dress from the Saxon period to the present day, Volume 2 (Google eBook)R. Bentley, 1893

Women's riding Coat, 1750-59. Image V&A museum

Women’s riding outfits, known as ‘riding habits’, of the 18th century adapted elements of men’s dress. This jacket of the 1750s is styled after a man’s coat, although it has been modified with a waist seam to fit over stays and a wide petticoat. A narrow straight collar attached at the back neck and buttoning in front added protection on chilly rides. The fine tailoring and plain aspect of this jacket is typical of 18th century women’s riding habits. – Victoria & Albert Museum.

More Links

Read Full Post »

glengarry habit miss mcdonaldThis description in The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer makes me wonder if Georgette Heyer was looking at this 1817 Ackermann fashion plate of The Glengary Habit when she wrote the passage:

When Miss Wraxton’s invitation was conveyed to Sophy she professed herself happy to accept it and at once desired Miss Jane Storridge to press out her riding dress. This garment, when she appeared in it on the following afternoon, filled Cecilia with envy but slightly staggered her brother, who could not feel that a habit made of pale blue cloth, with epaulettes and frogs, a la Hussar, and sleeves braided halfway up the arm, would win approval from Miss Wraxton. Blue kid gloves and half-boots, a high-standing collar trimmed with lace, a muslin cravat, narrow lace ruffles at the wrists, and a tall-crowned hat, like a shako, with a peak over the eyes, and a plume of curled ostrich feathers completed this dashing toilette. The tightly fitting habit set off Sophy’s magnificent figure to admiration; and from under the brim of her hat her brown locks curled quite charmingly; but Mr. Rivenhall, appealed to by his sister to subscribe to her conviction that Sophy looked beautiful, merely bowed, and said that he was no judge of such matters.

riding habit 1816
The mannish riding attire in the above image from 1816 is simpler than the first image, lacking the epaulettes, military-style piping and frogs, but it does emulate the masculine style and echoes a military overtone with the Shako hat.  It is interesting to note that until the mid-19th century tailors, not dress-makers, designed female riding habits.

Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe

Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe

The riding hat, or Shako Hat, was adapted from military headdress worn by the Infantry. By 1800, the cocked hat had been replaced by Shakos ornamented with a brass plate bearing the King’s crest. They sported  a tuft fixed in front rising from a black cockade. After each war it had been the habit of the British Army to adopt a head-cover belonging to its allies or the enemy.The cylindrical, flat-topped Shako adopted for the Infantry after the Napoleonic Wars was  in vogue among Britain’s Continental Allies.  Feminine versions of the Shako were often tied with sheer scarves which trailed behind and had feather plumes in front.

Learn more about the topic in these links:

Read Full Post »

Glengarry riding habit, 1817

Glengarry riding habit, 1817, Ackermann

During the first two decades of the nineteenth century, riding habits echoed the high-waisted empire styles that prevailed and the fashion trends that were currently in vogue. The light blue Glengarry riding habit of 1817 (at right) is typical of the fashion of the day. The military-inspired dress was trimmed with lace, braids (image at bottom of post), and frogs. The hat was made of cork, a sensible light weight material, which was visually overpowered by the plumes of feathers that arched over the wearer’s face. Unlike later riding habits, regency riding costumes came in a variety of colors:

It must be remembered that riding dress fashions had not yet fixed on dark colors. Every tint of bright color was used, even figured materials. . . Cloth was of course the general material, but velvet was also used and even silk.  There seemed to be no limit to the equipments and trimmings of habits. Where undersleeves were worn in full dress, they appear on the habits. If fichus were the mode, fichus were worn on horseback, while artificial flowers decked riding hats, as well as long feathers. Necklaces even appear, and frequently chatelaines with watches and various trinkets. I have seen several old French and English fashion plates in which the rider carried a carefully spread fan. If ruffs were worn in full dress, ruffs appeared on horseback. If embroidery was worn, the habit was embroidered.  Two Centuries of Costume in America, MDCXX-MDCCCXX By Alice Morse Earle

Frog fastening

Frog fastening

Lady in riding habit, 1720

Lady in riding habit, 1720

Braiding and frog fastenings of the era were heavily influenced by the return of English troops from Egypt. Frogs had been used in the East since ancient times, and added a dashing, even exotic touch.

The masculine influence in riding habits began near the end of the 17th Century when ladies adopted masculine coats and waistcoats for riding and hunting. The tailored tops were paired with feminine petticoats, as in this illustration. Horse riding had always been an important and fashionable sport for the upper classes, but these masculine-inspired riding habits were condemned from the start by critics who argued that the bold outfits belied a woman’s innate modesty. Some women began to wear them in the most unexpected places.

Samuel Pepys wrote famously in his diary on June 11, 1666:

Walking in the galleries at White Hall, I find the Ladies of Honour dressed in their riding garbs, with coats and doublets with deep skirts, just, for all the world, like mine; and buttoned their doublets up to the breast, with periwigs under their hats; so that, only for a long petticoat dragging under their men’s coats, nobody could take them for women in any point whatever; which was an odde sight, and a sight did not please me.

It took a long time for these outfits to become generally accepted. Almost eighty years after Samuel Pepys wrote his remarks, Samuel Richardson reminded women in his Familiar Letters on Important Occasions (1741) that:

as sure as any thing intrepid, free, and in a prudent degree bold, becomes a man: so whatever is soft, tender, and modest, renders your sex amiable. In this one instance we do not prefer our own likeness; and the less you resemble us, the more you are sure to charm: For a masculine woman is a character as little creditable as becoming. (Women of Quality, Ingrid H. Tague, 2002, p 52.)

Not all men of the era became chagrined at the thought of a woman in mannish attire. In 1670, Cardinal Dubois, a Frenchman, wrote in his Mémoires:

Mme de Fontanges – let us follow our young beauty as she goes hunting with her prince. That day she was wearing an expensively embroidered riding habit and a hat covered with the most beautiful plumes procurable. She looked so elegant in this costume none other could have suited her better. Nicole-Cargill-Kipar’s Late 17th Century Clothing History

Riding costume, 1841

Riding costume, 1841

Despite their doubtful propriety, ladies continued to wear riding outfits, and as the 18th century progressed these costumes began to be more accepted.  With the changing fashion, the silhouette became more frilly and femininized and began to take on a higher waistline. In fashion plates the riding costume would be accessorized with a riding crop to distinguish the outfit from carriage costumes, which were made with similar sturdy, long-wearing cloth. By the end of the nineteenth century riding costumes had come full circle and taken on a more somber, tailored, and masculine look. Ladies’s riding habits began to be fashioned by men’s tailors as well as dressmakers.  In a New York Times article from June 1901, the author wrote: “the lady on horseback is as much of a man, down to the saddle, as circumstances permit.”

This description of the Glengarry Riding Habit (top image) was written in Ackermann’s Repository, September, 1817. A dressmaker named Miss M’Donald was responsible for its creation.

It is composed of the finest pale blue cloth, and richly ornamented with frogs and braiding to correspond. The front, which is braided on each side, fastens under the body of the habit, which slopes down on each side in a very novel style, and in such a manner as to define the figure to considerable advantage. The epaulettes and jacket are braided to correspond with the front., as is also the bottom of the sleeve, which is braided nearly half-way up the arm. The habit shirt is composed of cambric, with a high standing collar, trimmed with lace. The cravat is of soft muslin, richly worked at the ends and tied in a full bow, and there are narrow lace ruffles at the wrists. The headdress takes the form of the Glengary cap, composed of blue satin, and trimmed with plaited ribbon of various shades of blue, and a superb plume of feathers. Blue kid gloves are worn and half-boots. Sources: Riding Habits, Candice Hern, and Nineteenth-Century Costume and Fashion, Herbert Norris and Oswald Curtis.

Images of Riding Habits in the Regency Era:

History of Riding Habits

More links:

Image of 1841 riding habit from Redingote Fashion History.

Military influence in the Spencer jacket, with braided piping, 1815

Military influence in the Spencer jacket, with braided piping, 1815. Image: Kyoto Costume Institute.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: