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My 1780-82 Riding Habit Inspiration

When I was trying to decide what to wear to Colonial Williamsburg last fall, I couldn’t get the idea of a riding habit out of my head. I’ve always envisioned wearing a habit surrounded by gorgeous fall foliage, and I figured this was the perfect opportunity. My blue-green habit no longer fits very well, so I decided to pick up my long-abandoned pink and grey habit project. I already had the shirt from my first habit, the grey wool petticoat and pink silk waistcoat assembled, and a pattern for the jacket started. Of course, once I tried everything on again, I quickly realized the pattern I made three years ago would not work and the waistcoat needed completely remade. So much for a quick project! Thankfully, I loved the way my aqua striped waistcoat looked with the grey wool, so I could focus patterning and constructing a new jacket to go with them.
When I started looking at images from approximately 1779-1784, focusing mainly on American and English portraits and prints, I noticed several distinct styles of riding habits. There was an extremely tailored and ornamented military-inspired style, something often associated with the Coxheath camp and all its aristocratic followers. Then there was the loose, unfitted polonaise style, which Nicole of Diary of Mantua Maker researches and describes in a great post here. Finally, there is a third style which seems to be something in between. Its more tailored and fitted than the polonaise style, yet not as ornamented as the Coxheath style.
There are many variations, but usually the style features a soft, large upper collar, with open lapels in the same fabric as the jacket, and a cut away front, that may or may not button closed. The jacket very definitely echoes the cut of a man's jacket of the period. There aren’t many images that show the waist unobstructed, but based on the way the bodice wrinkles and pulls, most of the habits of this style seem to have the skirts cut in one with the bodice, unlike earlier styles. I found it most in portraits and engraving featuring English or Scottish women either actively riding or surveying their country estates with their male reltatives.I can’t say whether this fact is significant or if the style was worn by in certain situations/regions, it will require more research on my part, but it’s defiantly an interesting topic to explore.
There are lots more examples in portraiture, but these are just a few that I specifically referenced when I was patterning my own jacket.

Posted: 9/27/2017 12:05:05 PM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1780s
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Project Details

1780-1782 Grey Riding Habit