Sunday, February 08, 2009

1740's Riding Habit

Another weekend, another Williamsburg workshop. This time we were learning to draft/drape 18th century riding habits. The riding habit above is one that the Williamsburg Millinery shop reproduced, and is an almost exact replica of a riding habit at the London Museum.

I went into the class only knowing that I wanted a green riding habit, with worsted wool in hand. I had no idea what style of riding habit I wanted to make - we watched a slide presentation showing habits from the beginning to end of the 18th century. Although I loved some of the later century riding habits (especially the hats), the riding habit on display had caught my eye and I was in love with it. When the instructor asked me what I wanted to make, I pointed over to the mannequin and said "I want that." And so, the 1740's riding habit project was born.

I took a close up picture of the back to show the pretty hand-detailed stitching, and the gorgeous point in the back of the riding habit. It's lined in the same blue silk taffeta that the waist coat is made from. I'm a little daunted at the prospect of figuring out how to drape the skirt of the coat by myself, as well as a few finishing details that I'm unsure on (cuffs, collars??).

At the workshops, we only work on the tops - the skirts are simple and something that we can do on our own at home. We get a basic fitting basted down, and then we're expected to finish up everything on our own. This is as far as my riding habit got. I have chalked on lines on the green wool which will take out some more fabric - right now it's able to close all the way down, but I actually only want it to button down to the bust gusset. I also have sleeves, but I didn't get a picture in them. They're very narrow and fit perfectly.

Here is my fitting partner - she had made her skirt and riding shirt ahead of time (I still have to make mine). The top was drafted by me. I think it went pretty well. I had some very minor corrections from the instructor, but otherwise I'm getting this draping thing down.

The instructor brought along an 18th century sidesaddle was pretty neat. We were allowed to sit in in and get a feel for what it might be like. How funny that this class was only a week before I started my sidesaddle riding lessons! I don't think the saddle above would qualify as a 'safety' sidesaddle that modern ladies use, but it's still fun.
I just HAD to bring back a picture of this Lady Worsley riding hat because I just drooled over it. There were so many feathers on that hat!! I tried it on and really liked it, but I'll have to figure something else out since my riding habit will be far too early for this look. Apparently ladies didn't wear tricorns after the 1730's (if you were British, anyway). I'm thinking I might take on an Austrian persona when wearing my 1740's riding habit so that I can wear a tricorn. Marie Antoinette was pictured wearing a tricorn in the 1770's.

I'll enjoy finishing this project, but it is definitely on hold for now. I'm putting the final touches on my regency ball gown before George Washington's Birthday ball (on Valentine's day), and then it's time to start some SERIOUS CostumeCon sewing.


Jenny-Rose said...

What a neat workshop - I love your inspiration habit - lovely! Interesting about no English tricorns after 1730. So what did they wear instead? Do you know if that is the case for the Americas too or just England?

Anonymous said...

Who told you they didn't wear tricorns after 1730? What was their source? Was a reference given? Cause I don't really buy it. That seems too early a date to me. I'd do some research of your own. Books by Aileen Ribeiro might be helpful since she uses paintings as her main source, which may be the best place to see whole ensembles together.

I'm a bit curious about the riding habit, while it's quite similar to the one I'm doing it is, in fact, not the same one. I also don't remember seeing this one, and I poked around through their whole section of riding habits (which were primarily 19th c. or 20th c riding jackets). I feel sure that if I had seen this one at the museum I would have done a study of it aswell. You don't by any chance have access to an Accession number for the one Williamsburg copied do you?

Anyhow, awesome workshop! I'm looking forward to seeing how your's turns out, the colours sound very yummy. Do you have pics of the fabrics you can post?You're very fortunate to be able to go to things like these. We don't have anything like these in Canada. Maybe I should start one! Lol

Iena said...

Hey guys,

We were viewing slides with pictures of English ladies in riding habits, starting in 1710, leading up to the 1790s. The instructor was the Tailor of Williamsburg, and he says he's never come accross any historical image or evidence that the tricorn was worn after 1730 with ladies' riding habits (he begs us to send along evidence if we find some).

The later paintings in the 40's showed a very ugly almost jockey-like hat that I would never consider wearing. Then, there were lots of round hats with the front brim turned up through the 50's and 60's. Very plain for the most part. The 70's brought flat highly decorated styles that accomodated the tall hair, and the 80's are full of 'big' and tall feather hats.

I do recall seeing the slide that was the original for their reproduction riding habit. Unfortunately they don't hand out the slide show as part of the course, and I don't have access to the accession number. :(

There is a photo of me towards the end in the colors I've selected (a VERY rough fitting, with no sleeves in my underpetticoat). That's what it'll look like once I get going.

Florence said...

I don't know about the English but there is an absolutely sweet little black tricorn (trimmed with silver metallic lace)worn by the Countess Sophia Maria de Voss in a portrait by Antoine Pesne from 1745that appears in Boucher's "20,000 Years of Fashion"(p. 317). I couldn't find an image of it online!

There is also another portrait by him of Princess Amalia of Prussia wearing a black tricorn that is online but I couldn't find a date for it.

Clearly people in the the German and Austrian areas of Europe were wearing tricornes in the 1740s so that seems like a great pick for your persona!

Hope this information may be of some use to you!

Jeannie said...

The instructor was specifically talking about American (and I think also the English) women wearing tricorns. The French and others did wear them. It's a shame, since tricorns are such cool hants!

Biz said...

I hoping to make a habit much like Lady Worsley's for a costume course this spring. I love how it's rather scandalous with its military style, except I am going to mimic a royal navy uniform instead of army. That's really a shame about the tricorn hats not being worn in America past 1730 by women. I'm tempted to make one anyway to match my habit since I will already be borderline cross-dressing. :-p

SueSwift said...

You used worsted wool--would that be a typical choice in the late 1750's? I'm writing a novel set in 1759 Scotland and finding some difficulty locating info about fabrics that would have been used.

Any info greatly appreciated!

Sue Swift/Suz deMello

Costume Diva said...


Unfortunately, I'm not an expert on riding habits, and the class was almost two years ago at this point. I know that our fabrics had to be approved by the Williamsburg Tailor before we could use them. The class had people using worseted wool and flannel wool. We definitely reviewed the different finishing techniques for worseted vs. flannel. There were 18th century terms for the different kinds of wools...but I can't remember them and all my class materials are in storage. Sorry I can't be of more help, but best of luck with your novel.