Buy our riding habit pattern and look lovely.
Full size paper patterns for 1730s through 1760s Lady's Riding Outfit also worn when traveling. Coat with regular or mariner's cuffs, back waist seam or seamless back, fold-down collar or collarless, and petticote instructions included. Fits busts 30½"-48" and waists 23"-41". All sizes included in one envelope. Embellishment suggestions included.
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wool or silk
lightweight silk or linen for lining
medium to heavy linen for interlining
Jacket 2 yds 60" or 3 yds 45" wide
lining 2 yds 60" or 3 yds 45" wide
interlining 2 yds 60" or 3 yds 45" wide
Petticote 2-3 yds 60" or 3 yds 45" wide
lining 2-3 yds 60" or 3 yds 45" wide
braid, lace or cording to taste
up to 30 buttons for front, side, cuffs & pockets
twill tape or other narrow ware for waistband(s)
Let us help you! At Reconstructing History, we want to see you wearing the best garments you are capable of making. Call us Monday through Friday from 9am until 4pm Eastern Time (or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will answer any questions you might have.
Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:
A Lady’s Riding Outfit
In the middle of the 18th century, a beautiful outfit can be seen on ladies depicted in outdoor scenes. This is the Lady’s Riding Outfit. Styled after men’s fashionable dress, the Riding Outfit was not worn only for equestrian pursuits but for all types of outdoor activities. Indeed even when a lady traveled in a coach, she often wore a Riding Outfit. Although far more elegant, it was the velour track suit of its day.
Throughout history women have worn feminized versions of men’s fashionable dress. A woman’s doublet dating to 1585 and housed in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nürnberg, Germany stands in testament to this. For years the doublet was listed as that of a youth, until it was noted that it was missing eyelets for which to attach breeches, an essential element in men’s clothing at this time. A survey of period portraiture revealed many doublets of this type on women, one in a German Stammbuch almost identical to the museum specimen. So the doublet was reclassified as a woman’s.
And for just as long, men have been complaining about it. As early as the reign of Elizabeth I, Philip Stubbes rants about the trend in his Anatomie of Abuses in 1583 saying “and thought this be a kind of attire appropriate only to man, yet they blush not to wear it.”
Probably the earliest surviving example of a lady’s riding outfit is also in the collection of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nürnberg. It is a red satin doublet decorated with vertical and diagonal bands of yellow and blue strips of embroidery and silk braid. The doublet dates to 1625-30. In all aspects it is like a fashionable man’s doublet of the time period but, again, missing the eyeleted band for hooking the breeches to the doublet and the stiffened belly piece common in men’s doublets of this date is not in evidence in this specimen.
In the 1670s, women’s Hunting Outfits had come to mean a straight-fronted Justacorps, decorated like a man’s but shaped to the woman’s figure and worn with stays and a petticote, often trained and displayed over the back of the horse while mounted. A high-necked shirt, cravat, gloves, shoulder knots of ribbon, sash and stick completed the ensemble. Despite the purported purpose of the outfit, it was not at all simple and utilitarian. Justacorps could be made of fine silk brocade with petticotes to match. Or contrasting petticotes could be worn, sometimes finished at the lower edge with gold fringe. As with men’s Justacorps of the time, no expense was spared on decoration and bands of gold braid often adorned pockets, front edges, hems, seams, and buttonholes. The cuff turnbacks were lined with gold brocade or heavily embroidered silk and whole waistcoats were made of gold and silver brocade. As with gentlemen’s coats of the time, buttons were decorative rather than functional (the coat normally being held closed by the sash) and wrapped with gold threads and other passementerie treatments.
Informal wigs were worn to make the hair appear natural and flowing. However, the shape of the hair indicates men’s wigs worn by women rather than women simply wearing their hair loose. In the early years of the 18th century, the wigs were restrained in queues (pigtails) at the nape of the neck as were men’s at the same time. Masks were often worn to protect the skin from the tanning effects of the sun.
Riding Outfits in the mid-18th century
This style of Riding Outfit persisted through the early decades of the 18th century. By the 1730s, the wearing of hoops necessitated a waist seam to be added to the jacket and the silhouette changed dramatically. The skirts of the Riding Jacket became shorter and they were much wider than the male version.
Our first extant example is from the collection at Snowshill Manor dated circa 1730-50. This drab worsted wool jacket has its collar and cuffs faced with matching velvet. A canvas interlining stiffens the front of the jacket under the buttons and buttonholes. A facing of rose pink silk taffeta covers this. The skirts are not stiffened or padded as would be a man’s jacket of this time period. Instead the skirts are lined with the same rose pink taffeta that faces the fronts of the jacket.
A blue camlet riding jacket is housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London under accession number T.12-1957. An interesting combination of early and later elements, the jacket fronts have the waist seam now common on lady’s riding jacket, but the back of the jacket does not. It simply flares and falls into pleats like other women’s jackets of the time.
Another specimen from the V&A, accession number T.197-1984 shows more interesting elements of riding costume. The sideways flap on the outer sleeve seam that was known as a mariner’s cuff, was breaking out of its origin on seaman’s clothing. It was becoming a fashionable feature of civilian coats in the 1750s and soon began to appear on women’s riding habits as seen in the example at right. This example also has no collar and no waist seam, which would point to an earlier date if it were not for the presense of the mariner’s cuff.
V&A number T.554-1993 is a rare surviving example of a heavily-decorated lady’s riding jacket. Although men’s frock coats were laced and embroidered extensively, mid-century lady’s riding jackets appear to have erred on the side of simple elegance. However the example at right is adorned elaborately with silver lace and braid. The front edges of the jacket and the neckline are trimmed as are the back vents of the skirts. The pockets and mariner’s cuffs are both surrounded and covered by this wide braid. And the buttons and buttonholes are looped with it so that the whole front of the jacket becomes a glitzy tableau.
The trim on this example consists of three parts: a wide ribbon of silver thread woven in a geometrical pattern, and a narrow guimp of silver on either side.
Arnold, Janet. “An early Seventeenth Century Woman’s Riding Doublet or Cassock.” In: Waffen- und Kostümkunde, Vol 22 2 (1980) pg 113-128.
Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses and Their Construction c1660-1860. 1964: Macmillian Publishers Ltd., London.
Ashelford, Jane. The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society, 1500-1914. 1996: National Trust Enterprises Limited, London.
Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion. 1987: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York.
Bradfield, Nancy. Costume in Detail 1730-1930. 1997: Costume and Fashion Press, New York.
Hart, Avril and Susan North. Fashion in Detail. 1998: Rizzoli International Publications, New York.
Payne, Blanche. History of Costume. 1965: Harper Collins, New York.
Ribeiro, Aileen. Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe 1715-1789. 2002: Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.
Waugh, Norah. Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600-1930. 1964: Routledge, New York.
Victoria and Albert Museum http://www.vam.ac.uk/index.html
For more, purchase this pattern.
This information © 2006 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History
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