Victorian riding habits – bespoke and stock items

1860s Riding Habit-4

We have recently been doing a few habits, so I thought I put a post about them together:-)

Over the winter I have been working on a  bespoke one – based on my 1885 version , but in luscious bottle green superfine wool, with  burgundy braid decoration. The colour combination worked very well and suited the client’s colouring ( and the horse’s ) well – and we were lucky enough to grab a few photos when we delivered the habit to sunny Devon.

Devon Riding Habit-1

Devon Riding Habit-2 Devon Riding Habit-7

Devon Riding Habit-10

Devon Riding Habit-17

Another bespoke habit  for another client is  happening  too, I will post the photos as soon as the work is finished and we get some pictures.

In the meantime, let me introduce to our latest batch – somehow earlier habits, destined to become stock items.

It all happened as  I was working on a certain secret project ( details soon)- we had a horse booked for a side saddle at Historic Equitation, and the day before I found myself  ending the commission work earlier that expected – so had a few hours free, and  6 metres of some rather lovely green cloth…. the temptation was too much! I  went for the simplest look I could think of: no decoration, purely utilitarian,  roughly 1860 look -with big skirts and plain, short bodice  – based on this look.

8a790f450993e4324fccb0f9242ec39f

The cloth was fantastic – it draped beautifully. W e used the habit for the shoot and for some riding, and had a short photoshoot at home too – with and without petticoat ( period solution as either  corded petticoat or turkish trousers in the same fabric ( so that when the skirt billowed at speed while riding, the legs would be modestly covered). As  you can see, the skirts are very long  to cover the legs, and although they look lovely when mounted, they are a bit of a pain while walking.  Ladies either carried the skirts, flashing the petticoat, or used buttons t o hitch them up – as  shown on this fashion plate from La Mode Illustree

IMG_20150504_195434

btw, lots of more images on my Pinterest board 

I was wearing a corset,  white blouse and a velvet ribbon neckband,styled my hair and restyled my top hat a bit  to achieve the look:-)

1860s Riding Habit-13

1860s Riding Habit-7

skirts on a petticoat here ( shamefully modern bridal one….)

1860s Riding Habit-1

1860s Riding Habit-3

1860s Riding Habit-9

Once we were done with shooting, I  shared the photos and  put the habit in our online shop – and was flooded with likes, shared, questions etc – and the habit sold within 12 hours, surely  a record! not only that, there is now a queue of side saddle ladies awaiting news whether it fits the lady  who bought it – just in case she returns it….

As a business minded person, I just couldn’t  ignore this situation – and since   had a bank holiday looming ahead ( which I had hoped to leave free  to rest – silly me…), I decided to act on it.  Luckily I was picking some cloth for commissions from my wool merchant, and while at it, I picked a few lengths suitable for habits…

IMG_20150501_121644

A very busy time with a sewing machine followed –  and I just managed  to get 2 habits done for another scheduled side saddle session – this time with lovely Jane on her Zara at a very well kept Wakes Manor Livery Yard

Corseted Sidesaddle-42

I experimented with a slightly later look for these two – the first one was  based on  a fashion plate from Harper’s Bazar, 1873 ( the sitting lady)

IMG_20150504_194234

I used the lovely soft dove grey cloth, edged with black and decorated with velvet ribbon.

Work in progress…

IMG_20150503_130731

It is a size ( or even two) too big, but with a loosened corset it looked  well enough – sadly I didn’t have a size 14/16 model  at hand ( working on it..)
Corseted Sidesaddle-31

Corseted Sidesaddle-36

Corseted Sidesaddle-53

Corseted Sidesaddle-44

The habit is now available in our online shop, at a discounted price -details here

The second habit was based on this one from the MET 

05b81881d25105db76edb20055b61b54

I liked the edge treatment and tried to emulate – I used piping and topstitching combination

IMG_20150504_182415

and  it fitted me well  – really like the look!

Corseted Sidesaddle-11 Corseted Sidesaddle-19 Corseted Sidesaddle-27 Corseted Sidesaddle-20

Then it was Jane’s turn – it fitted her well too –  and kudos to Jane who wore a corset for the first time – and not only wore it, but rode and jumped in it too ( part of  a secret video project I am currently working on..)

Corseted Sidesaddle-78

Corseted Sidesaddle-118

Corseted Sidesaddle-122

Corseted Sidesaddle-91 Corseted Sidesaddle-82 Corseted Sidesaddle-99 Corseted Sidesaddle-126

 and yes, there is a corset underneath all that!

Corseted Sidesaddle-127

 This habit is also available in the shop – Here

 I have enjoyed making these – and now have plans over summer to work on a few more models in a few sizes options – I already have nice berry coloured cloth and dark green twill put aside for the purpose:-). Although they are stock items,  each habit will be a little bit different, so that  each is unique – nothing worse than going into the Historical class  and finding another lady wearing the same model! And of course if you want something special there is the bespoke option with fittings (  and a different price bracket too….)

Many thanks to all involved in the project so far – greatly appreciated! And a big thank you to the photographer – images courtesy of Pitcheresque Imagery 

1785 Riding Habit

 

 

Image

I have always admired the simple elegance of 18th and 19th century riding habits. They were practical, sturdy garments but with undeniable air of sophistication and grandeur.  Especially the 18th century ones- How can a girl resist one of these?

Image

sir Joshua Reynolds, Lady Worsley, 1776

 

or these…

Image

riding coat, Victoria and Albert muesum, around 1760

More habit pictures across the ages on the Pinterest board

So when I stared learning how to ride side-saddle, I thought that would be a perfect opportunity to make one. My heart was set on the later 18th century one, found in Victoria and Albert museum.

 

Image

 

Image

It was made in glazed red wool, lined with glazed linen and faced with wool.

Since I intend to use my habit for hunting, red wasn’t the best option – too similar to the pink coats of the hunt service folks!  Dark green was the second best choice.

 The materials I used were:

Thick wool for the jacket – 2 m- I chose to make the jacket thicker than the skirt mostly because of the temperatures one faces during winter hunting

2 metres of left over wool for toile

4 metres of regular wool for the skirt and waistcoat

6 metres of silk taffeta

0.5 metre of linen for the waistcoat

16 buttons for the waistcoat

35 buttons for the jacket

Gold metallic braid for the decoration ( I used up about 6 metres)

Gold metallic thread and some embroidery silks

Silk and linen threads for stitching.

 

The whole outfit was hand stitched – but obviously if you prefer modern techniques,  machine can be used to save up on time!

 

The skirt:

That was the easiest part. . I made mine out of a big rectangle of fabric, lined with silk and cartridge pleated to a narrow waistband.  You can fins detailed instructions in my article on the 17th cent banqueting gown – I used the very same techniques – though I made the hem folded deeper and lining is shorter.   (http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com/historicalperiods/medievalrenaissance/417-a-banqueting-gown

 

 The waistcoat.

I could not actually see much of the waistcoat worn with the original habit, but I found images of a very similar one and used them as my inspiration. Apart from the collar, both waistcoats seem to be double breasted and the cut wouldn’t be that different.

Image

riding habit waistcoat around 1790 victoria and albert museum

Image

riding habit waistcoat back

It was relatively easy to work out the pattern from the pictures I cut toile first, experimented with it and amended it till I was satisfied with the fit.  I wanted mine to fit me with or without stays, which was a bit tricky. I decided to line the front layer with wool as well – as it can get quite cold on longer rides!  The back is made of two layers as well, though this time of linen .

Image

 

Image

I started work on the back first –  stitched the top and lining layer together at centre back ( leaving about 4 inches undone – that’s when the two parts will be joined later) and bottom hem, turned over and pressed. Repeat on the other half of the back. Once ready, stitch them together at the top and worked the eyelets in linen thread.  Lace them together – it is easier to work with the bits being laced instead of flapping around.

Image

Image

 Next, add the two fronts on each side – only the top layer first, on both sides. Try it on and make sure the front is flat and the lapels are even.

Add the collar – I interlined mine with buckram to make sure it looks and is as still as the original seems to be, and lined it with wool. Once the collar is in place, you can line the front with another wool layer. Finish off the inside seams and the hem, put it on and mark the position of the buttons and buttonholes.

Buttons are a story into itself.

I couldn’t find any decent metal buttons that would be correct for the period, so decided to cover and embroider my buttons for both the waistcoat and the jacket. In the hindsight, I should probably have allowed for a more time – they do take quite some time!

I used the same cloth I made the waistcoat and skirts from. I divided it into small squares, each big enough to cover the button plus some extra, and stretched it on a tapestry frame

Image

button making, cloth stretched on a tapestry frame

Image

button making, cloth stretched on a tapestry frame and divided into squares

I worked in stages

  1.  Make a loop using a thick gold thread – make several in one go. My loop was long enough to go around the button twice.
  2.  Couch the loop down with silk thread – took me ages!
  3.  Embroider the stems with green silk thread
  4. Embroider the  flower in yellow silk thread

I worked on several buttons at the same time – I would make around 6  or 7 and then start the process all again.

Image

looping the gold thread to form the outline of the button

Image

loops, couching and embroidery

Image

cloth taken off the frame

When the embroidery is finished, detach the fabric from the frame and cut the fabric along the lines. You now have lots of squares with embroidered bit on it. Put your button (I used flat wooden ones) on the left side of the square, covering the embroidered bit.   Trim the rest of the fabric so that there is enough left to cover the button. Now you have a circle of fabric – use it on other square pieces so that you do not need to measure things up every time. To cover the button, sew a running stitch near the edge, place the button inside and pull on the thread.  Stitch the edges together. More detailed instructions can be found here:

http://www.craftpudding.com/2007/06/covered-button-tutorial.html

Image

Work the buttonholes and sew the buttons, and the waistcoat is ready.

 

The jacket.

I had to be bit creative with the pattern. I did not have access to a detailed pattern for a habit from that period, so decided to adapt the slightly earlier one from Janet Arnold. I simply changed the front by adding lapels and adapting the shape of the skirt.

Image

I must add that originally, working strictly from the picture, I couldn’t see any waist seam – so I cut my jacket without one. However, 400 Years of Fashion, presenting the V&A collection states that there is a waist seam…  which means I will have to remodel the jacket.  Oh well…. If you want to make skirts separate, just follow the pattern from Janet Arnold!

The method.

As always, cut out the toile first. – I this instance it was even more important than usual, as I wasn’t using a pattern I was familiar with or a commercial pattern – I had to check if the fabric hung and fitted correctly.  That was why I decided to use a thicker fabric for the toile – calico toile would no doubt make it easy to see the fit, however it could not mimic the behaviour of heavy and stiff wool. To achieve that,  I used bits of older, low quality  wool I had. And it worked! I basted the pieces together – I included the sleeves since I wanted them to fit closely but somehow allow me quite a lot of freedom of movement – and checked the fit. It needed some adjustments, so I undid the relevant seams, corrected the cut and basted the seams again. I had to repeat the procedure twice before I was satisfied, and then I simply undid the basting and used it as a template for cutting out the top layer and the lining.

I started with top layer, stitching first the back and then the sides and the shoulder seams.  I left the skirts un-pleated – I will do the pleating once the lining is in place.

Image

 

 

Image

hand sewn side seam detail

Lapels- you have a choice how you want your lapels and buttons done: you can either have real buttonholes on them and sew the buttons to the jacket, so that they do button back – or have a fake buttonhole/button arrangement and secure the lapels with hooks and eyes. Mine are the former.

I market the buttonholes and the line for the braid decoration. I cut the line – just enough to allow for the button – and worked around it to prevent fraying. Then I added the gold braid decoration. Having finished with the lapels, you can now sew on the buttons.

Image

The next step was to make and add the sleeves I stitched the two part sleeve together, right sides together, leaving the cuff part unstitched at that point. I turned the sleeve out, with right sides up, and then finished the cuff – so that when it is turned back, the good side of the seam shows.  Proceed to add the buttonholes/button decoration – again, you can have either false ones or the functional option and I opted for the functional way – real buttonholes and buttons on the main sleeve.  Repeat on the other sleeve and when finished, set it into the armhole.

Image

The pockets were next.  Start with the pocket itself – mines are from silk. Cut out and stitch the two layers together. (pic.26) Mark the position of the pocket on the skirts, and cut the opening matching the opening of the pocket. Turn the pocket out, so that the left side is out, and set it into the slit, carefully securing the silk to the wool

Image

Pocket flaps – cut them out, making sure they are a bit longer than the actual pocket slit, line them, it you want to, and add the buttonhole/ decoration.   Pin it in place and stitch them to the skirts with a strong linen thread.

Image

sewing the pocket in…

Image

pocket flaps

 

Lining – stitch all the lining together – back first, then front and sleeves and set into the jacket. Pin carefully and let it hang together for a while. Adjust the pining at the hem if necessary and sew it in – at the front, neck hem, the cuffs (or rather before the turn back cuffs start).

Collar was next – again, I made a mock up collar first and experimented with it until i was satisfied with the way it looked together with the lapels. I stitched it to the jacket, lined with another layer of wool and worked the buttonholes so that it buttons down to the jacket.

All that remains now is pleating the vents – I did it precisely as shown in Janet Arnold, and secured them with the buttons and then added buttons at the top, purely for decoration.

Your habit is now ready – all you need it the undergarments, boots, gloves and a tricorn – and a –hunting you can go!

Here pictured at End Audley Hall – it was rather frosty on the day, with minus temperatures, and yet the wool kept me warm and snug.

Image

Image

 

Image

 

Image

Image

Image

This article was originally published in  Your Wardrobe Unlock’d over a two years ago –   and looking back at it from the time perspective I think i need to make another one, updated…. maybe the earlier version? still have enough of the green wool to make a 1760 jacket…. 🙂

 

 

Bibliography:

Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion, Macmillan,  New York, 1984

400 Years of Fashion, V&A Publishing, London,  2010

Craftpudding,  http://www.craftpudding.com/2007/06/covered-button-tutorial.html [accessed 28/01/11]

V&A museum online:  http://collections.vam.ac.uk/  [accessed 28/01/11]