Monday, 3 June 2013

The Riding Habit

Being a lady included riding like a lady - in a side-saddle. But like everything else connected with fashion you did not just throw on a gown and then go out hunting with the King. No, a riding habit consisted of several essentials: jacket, shirt, hat, boots, gloves and so on.

The main design of a riding habit was very masculine compared to what the ladies of Versailles usually wore. One notable difference was the colours: a riding habit was almost always darker than the everyday-dress. And then there was the question as how to combine the exercise of riding with the strict rules of fashion? Between 1730 and 1750 women actually wore the panniers - or hoops - that gave their dresses that characteristic volume even while riding. However, even the most fashion-minded ladies must have realized the inconvenience of this and by the middle of the 1750's it was common to loose the panniers - of course they could be replaced by hip pads.

Back of a riding habit

The jacket was tailored which meant that it was close-fitting - another trait taken from men's fashion. But there was one point in which women's riding fashion stood out and that was the width of the jacket. Around 1730 (probably to keep the silhouette with the panniers intact) the jacket was considerably shortened and made wider. As fashions changed the jacket did not have to be closed. Around 1770 it was common to see a lady with her jacket only fastened by a hook. This created a completely new possibility to decorate your riding habit since the buttons no longer served a purpose.

The hats followed a gentleman's fashion as well and as such were often tall and made in dark colour. It was common to attach a veil to the back of the hat. Normally it was tricorn hats or top hats that were used for this particular activity.

Sophie Marie Gräfin Voss (1746)
Marie Antoinette (of course) also
follows the rules of fashion
     Princess Amalia of Prussia (c. 1740-50)

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