Ride kjole – Victoria. Approximately Size guide:
Mankind’s love of horses is older than recorded time and continues today. Nothing compares to a gallop; your mount gliding swift and even, barely making contact with the ground, rider and steed as one, practically on wings. Early in the 1800s the male wardrobe was entirely designed around travel in a saddle. As the century wore on, infrastructure throughout Britain improved, people started to journey more by carriage, train, and finally automobiles. The clothing reflected this trend, but overall, most men could climb on a horse anytime, whatever they were wearing, and ride comfortably. Of course there were exceptions, like formal wear, court dress, &c., but even those outfits only required the addition of a decent pair of boots. This option wasn’t true for women.
The Victorian’s adored horses and wealthy ladies often rode daily, for travel, exercise, pleasure, and hunting. Due to their lavish wardrobes, the styles and expense, riding habits were crafted specifically for equestrian pursuits. This wasn’t a new fashion trend, but previously only a small portion of ladies rode recreationally, while during the 1800s the upper and middle-classes grew considerably, and with them thousands of fashion-conscious females with a desire to ride and be seen riding. The word ‘habit’ comes from the old French abit, meaning clothing, and originally referred to ecclesiastical attire, but came to mean any outfit for a specific purpose. Riding habits have always taken cues from male dress through the centuries, and examining examples from Victorian times doesn’t veer from the practice.
Habits were commonly dark coloured, to hide the dirt that naturally goes with riding, but light colours were used for summer. The best winter habits were made of very expensive velvet, usually of deep dark colours. Velveteen (cotton), developed in the late 1700s, could be used to produce a habit that looked like velvet, but was not as warm. Felted wool was the choice of most women; warm and practical. The quality of the wool, depth of the colour, and skill of the tailor determined the value. Expensive summer habits were made of silk, with yards and yards of pleated skirting. As cotton manufacturing progressed (and sateen was developed) less costly warm weather habits were made that looked like silk.