Wear more flattering Riding Breeches!
You need our pattern for ladies’ riding breeches or jodhpurs from the 1910s through the 1940s based on an original pattern and extant garments. Fits waists 24" through 46", hips 36" through 58", and calves 13" to 18.5".
All sizes are included in one pattern. Detailed instructions, period tailoring directions, embellishment suggestions, and historical notes are also included. Plus you can call our toll-free number with any questions.
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Suggested Fabrics: worsted wool, heavy linen, heavy cotton twill
Notions: thread, buttons for side closures, buttons for leg closure (breeches only) suede patches for inner legs (optional)
Yardage Requirements: 3 yards at least 45” wide
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Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:
Even though ladies traditionally rode side saddle, cloth or knitted “pantaloons” are mentioned in connection with riding habits in the 1820s and may have been worn as early as the eighteenth century for warmth under the skirts while riding. By the 1830s and 1840s, a form of trouser is seen in equestrienne fashion plates, but typically layers of petticoats were worn to give the proper shape to the riding skirt and to prevent the observer from seeing what should not been seen if the skirt shifted or the rider fell. In the 1860s, riding trousers began to overtake petticoats as the preferred garment. Trousers replaced petticoats as modesty garments by 1876 and had a strap that passed under the instep of riding boots to keep them in place. By the end of the 19th century, riding breeches in turn replaced trousers.
A pair of brown woolen breeches dating to the 1880s or 1890s exist as part of a riding habit preserved by the Manchester Gallery of Costume. The upper part of the breeches are made from chamois leather and the legs from the same brown twill wool as the jacket and skirt. Interestingly, the reverse of the fabric is turned outwards for the construction of the breeches. The reason for this is not known. The waist is faced with cream silk and the breeches are closed on both sides with four linen buttons. A pair of metal buttons also closes each leg at the ankle [sic].
Another riding habit in a private collection includes breeches and dates to the 1890s. It was made by Scott of Lower Sackville Street in Dublin and closes with buttons of the Kildare Hunt. The outfit includes brown wool breeches with a chamois leather seat and satin leg bottoms.
In the 1870s, “safety skirts” appeared. These were skirts that were fastened at the back and engineered to release the rider if caught on the pommels of the saddle in a fall. Getting caught in one’s riding skirt was a serious danger and tailors were constantly designing their own skirt systems and hoping to patent them. The first safety skirt was patented in 1894 by Alice M. Hayes and tailor Frederick Tautz of Oxford Street London. Breeches were, of course, an essential part of riding habits by this time. The safety skirt would eventually evolve into the apron skirt, a shaped apron that gives the appearance of a skirt while mounted side saddle, but requires breeches to be worn underneath.
Even though ladies’ formal riding attire remained the side saddle habit well into the 20th century (in the 1941 movie, “The Lady Eve”, Barbara Stanwyck’s character rides side saddle alongside Henry Fonda; she wears an apron skirt over breeches with a matching jacket), it was no longer scandalous for women to ride astride. Riding breeches came out from under the habit skirts and women began to dress just like men when “just hacking about”. In the early teens, breeches patterns were already showing up in tailors’ manuals alongside safety skirts. By the late teens, breeches and jodhpurs were offered for sale in the Sears catalog and they continued to be through the period of our study. Commonly made from wool gabardine or cotton cavalry twill or whipcord, these riding breeches were designed to survive heavy wear. Since these were primarily worn by ladies riding astride, they had the same leather reinforcements on the insides of the knees and calves as men’s breeches. Early breeches were often sold with gaiters, fabric or leather “half boots” that were designed to bridge the gap between breeches and shoes when knee-high riding boots were not worn. Early in the 20th century, jodhpurs appear in ladies’ riding wardrobes. These were identical to breeches except they extended to the ankle and ended in a cuff rather than the buttons at breeches knees. They were designed to be worn with ankle boots. Jodhpurs often had an instep strap echoing the riding trousers of the 19th century.
Although clearly an imitation of men’s riding breeches, women’s breeches and jodhpurs differed as a few notable points. Men’s breeches were traditionally made with a fall front, but by the beginning of the 20th century, fly fronts were the more usual cut. Ladies’ riding breeches, by contrast, opened at the side seams, just behind the welt pockets on each side, and closed with three or four buttons. Waistbands were not typical on these garments, the waistline being instead faced with bias. A line of stitching around the top of the waist might be mistaken for a separate waistband at first. Belt loops were sewn to this area. The back of the garment is darted to accommodate a woman’s shape but the front is flat. The hips flare in men’s as well as women’s breeches for ease of movement in the days before the invention of Spandex.
Housden, Penny J. Riding Out in Style: A Visual Guide to Women’s Equestrian Dress, Side-saddles and Accessories. 2007: Penmarran Publishing, Exeter, Devon, UK.
Olian, Jeanne. Everyday Fashions of the Forties As Pictured in Sears Catalogs. 1992: Dover, NY.
Ward, Tammy and Tina Skinner. Fashionable Clothing from the Sears Catalogs: Early 1930s, Mid-1930s, Late 1930s, Early 1940s, Mid-1940s. 2003-2007: Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, PA.
Waugh, Norah. Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600-1930. 1968: Routledge, New York.
Riding Breeches in the author’s collection.
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This information © 2011 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History