Riding Habits from 1850 to Today - fashion for faith in four colors

Monday, June 11, 2012

Riding Habits from 1850 to Today

I know Retro Rack is generally intended for retro style in the modern world, but occasionally we stray into vintage. Today, Fashionable Readers, will be one of those days.

 Princess Alice

For reasons to do with the Soulless manga (Vol. 2), I recently found myself researching Victorian riding fashions.

 1873 Peterson's riding habit

I started out in 1873 (Soulless) and moved forward into the 1890s (Parasol Protectorate Abroad).

1895 Bifurcated-riding-ensemble

Then I drifted quite happily backwards in time to 1851 (Etiquette & Espionage).

 1854 Vicky and Alice

So goes the rabbit hole of research. The interesting thing to me was how little this particular attire changed. Designed for side saddle the skirts were long, the look quite military in influence and the cloth, mainly, somber in color.

So here is a retrospective on the riding habit.



Note the lady's topper? Also the jacket over vest clearly taking influences fro menswear? The skirt is narrower in width but with lots of volume and excess length so that it will drape as she rides. This time period also so a kind of early fedora meets sun hat as a riding hat as well. More practical, if you ask me.



1857 Killerton, Riding Habits

Here we can see the beginning of two ideas: velvet for a riding jacket (which persists to this day) and the idea of the jacket coordinating with, but not perfectly matching, the bottom of the outfit.


1860s riding habits

Note the front striping created by epillets on the right hand dress? That's classic riding habit styling that persisted throughout the Victorian era.

 1861 and 1862

The perch hat becomes popular for riding, it will also slide into common use for walking dresses in the 1870s. It's one of my favorite hats. Also the ladies topper returns, and we start to see lighter colored riding habits matched to the hat.


1870 Germany

This one is German. I love the bowler, I've not seen that before.

 Early and late 1870s habits, not that different.

Mid 1870s, again the lighter color.

1870s Riding Corset.

Riding corsets were "cut down" or shortened, particularly on the sides to make them more comfortable for riding. Much later on they also seem to be the first corsets to incorporate elastic panels for comfort.


 1872 Riding Habit The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 1872 fashion plates for riding habits. 

Not detail is being paid to the hem and to the pleating of the underskirt because it is sometimes seen? *gasp* Also the lady's topper begins to have perch components. Also women begin to wear larger and larger ties, bow ties, and cravats. This would eventually culminate in the pussycat bow, of which you all know I am a big fan.

 1872 Sketch Rotten Row Rich Families Horse Riding Trees

1873 Equestrian-Portrait-Of-Mademoiselle-Croizette

The topper beginning to get taller, and more masculine.


Note the long line of the jacket front? This is influence from the cuirasse bodice and the impending princess cut.



We begin to see full men's style ascot toppers and much narrow skirt. Also the cross-over asymmetrical tops.

 1885-1886 Riding Jacket The Victoria & Albert Museum

1885-1895 Riding Hat


It's so exciting, do you know what happens after the turn of the century? Dress reform!! Well, dress reform was earlier, but it finally takes off. And you know what that means? Trousers!

1909 The Metropolitan Museum of Art


 1916; 1918 Woman's Riding Habit, ca by Missouri History Museum


 1920 Riding Habits; 1920 Gladys Wagner modeling

 1920’s Riding habit McCord Museum; 1924 (note the awesome hunter boots?); 1929-1930 The Metropolitan Museum of Art


1935 Mrs John V Bouvier III
1938 Bette Davis’ entrance clad in a riding habit for Jezebel

1939 The Meadow Brook Hall Historic Costume

Note how strong the shoulder is becoming?

I myself own a 1930s grey riding habit. I wear it on occasion for steampunk events. I got it cheap from Decades of Fashion for $45 because it had moth holes in it. I went over and darned them, since I knew it was for steampunk I figured I could add some decoration over them if I had to. The darning worked well enough and since I moved and it's been in storage I haven't had a chance to wear it or do anything more to it. It's also wool, so I have to be careful because I have an allergy. Hopefully, in a few years when I migrate to a bigger pad, I'll get an opportunity to wear it more.

Just the pants (paired with a Ravenswood bodice)

My pants end just bellow the knee and have no syrups, but they aren't puffed like jodhpurs. This pluss the sharpness of the shoulders on the jacket makes me guess that my habit is from 1936-38.


 1940 Riding Hat
1943 Riding Ensemble The Meadow Brook Hall Historic Costume Collection

The war combined with the rise in affordable cars saw riding horses fall out of favor in England. By the end of the 1940s, riding was really only something the very wealthy (or the neuvo rich) aspired too do on a regular basis. One no longer promenaded in Hyde Park on horseback. Hunting became the defacto reason to ride. Very few people rode for pleasure except to hunt. Fashion evolved accordingly. The term Riding Habit fell into disuse and when people spoke of riding it became something associated with the bicycle not the horse.

Modern Times

1970? Princess-Anne-of-Great-Britain-in-riding-attire

Equestrian looks still resurface on the runways. I'm a big fan, and I've a whole other blog post prepared on the subject of making this look work for everyday. Equestrian drifts into steampunk often as well ~ there is that military detailing meets cross dressing aesthetic.

 Various equestrian looks: steampunk, street, and runway.

That's all for now, hope you've enjoyed this retrospective!

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