Of the several unique styles of women's dress in the 18th century, one of the most envied by costumers today is the riding habit and the later redingote. Riding habits were ensembles made for horseback riding and were molded off of menswear styles. 18th century riding habits are perhaps the first real example of a "borrowed from the boys" masculine meets feminine idea of fashion. Worn for more than just riding, habits were a stylish choice for ladies throughout the century!
|fig. 1, 1714 fig. 2, 1725 fig. 3, 1730|
In fig. 1 we can see a very early riding habit style circa 1715. The jacket/bodice of the ensemble is quite long and looks very like a men's frock coat from the same period. The large cuffs, over-sized buttons, and wide metallic trim all call to mind early 18th century military uniforms. She wears a tricorn hat and even carries a slim rapier looking riding crop, reinforcing the military feel of the ensemble.
All three of these earlier examples are made of silk fabrics. Fig. 2 also has a tricorn, though she carries it in her hand as opposed to having it on her head for her portrait. The gold metallic trim on this habit is a thing of wonder, so gorgeous! You can see how the habit is cut less like a men's frock coat and fits more like a woman's garment. The jacket is shorter, the sleeves slimmer, and the conical shape more pronounced. Fig. 3 looks even less like a proper riding habit that fig. 2, looking more like a redingote.
So what is the difference between a riding habit and a redingote? Not much as far as I can tell. It seems garments termed riding habits are more likely to actually be intended for riding and are made of wool or a more substantial silk. Redingotes seem to be more fashion-focused garments, created in the style but in lighter fabrics and with more embellishments. Redingotes seem more prevalent in the later part of the century, and were undoubtedly very popular in the 1780's and 1790's.
|fig. 4, 1747 fig.5, 1740 fig.6, 1748|
|fig. 7, 1750-1759, V&A|
"By the early 1700s, the riding habit was an established element of the fashionable ladies wardrobe, worn not only for riding and following the hunt, but also for travelling and informal daywear, both in town and country. It was a great deal more comfortable and warm than other fashionable dress, and made of more robust materials. It would have been worn with a skirt, referred to at that date as a petticoat, the generous amounts of fabric incorporated in the skirt meant that it was often recycled, assuming it survived the mud and heavy wear. Habits could be in a full range of colours, although certain shades were specificed for the jacket and cuffs when following a particular hunt. By the end of the 18th century, a contrasting colour for the lining was highly fashionable."
|fig. 8, 1760's fig. 9, 1760's fig. 10, 1771|
|fig. 11, Lady Worsley 1776, Joshua Reynolds|
|fig. 12, 1770-1775, V&A|
|fig. 13, 1760, MET|
|fig. 14, 1790's redingotes, print circa 1869|
|fig. 15, 1785-1795, Musee Galliera|
I simply cannot end this little overview of riding habits & redingotes without pointing you towards some amazing recreations by modern costumers. Check out Lauren's ice blue riding habit, Merja's recreation of lady Worsley's habit, and Samantha's green wool riding habit. Merja has also recreated a stunning redingote based on a fashion plate of Marie Antoinette.
Thanks for reading, have a lovely Thursday everyone!
All of the information for this post has been gathered from the textbook Survey of Historic Costume (5th edition) by Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Eurbank, from the links above or my own knowledge. I want to share the resources I come across with all of you as much as possible. The portraits used to illustrate today's post are credited to either the museum where they reside (whenever possible) or the source where I found them, and are linked via their fig. # underneath. Again I repeat my disclaimer that I am not a historian, and if you have corrections or additions for this post, please begin the discussion in comments as I would love to learn more!