From the mid 1700s British village woman mostly wore hooded cloaks for outdoor wear. Riding dress used tailoring in coat making.
Even by 1800
few women wore the highly tailored top coats known as the redingote. At the
turn of 1800 the art of tailoring
was only just developing into a fitted, contoured, make the best of the body
style we recognise today.
Below I show a selection of line drawings and pictures illustrating
redingotes and riding dress to the end of the Victorian era until the coat
itself became a fashion garment in its own right and was usually referred to as
a redingote, whereas riding dress had changed to a shorter jacket and side
saddle skirt or riding breeches. Forest green, black, and red were all
colours used for riding dress.
All thumbnails enlarge
Early redingotes appeared in the late 1780s and were versatile enveloping full-length
overcoats. The English redingote was made of good woollen cloth and was
generally lightweight, but it also had shoulder capes and buttoned across the chest. It was popular in many forms through the 19th century and basically began life
as an outdoor riding coat for inclement weather.
The caped redingote was a very suitable garment for wearing in rainy weather
because the layers of capes provide extra shoulder protection. A similar
technique of using a back half yoke sometimes just at the back, but often also
on the front is still added to raincoats today and provides an extra fabric
layer at the front chest and at the back shoulder blades level. Such extra
layering helps prevent the wearer from feeling soaked in a rain downpour.
Redingotes were used alongside mantles and cloaks for everyday wear often
because they were practical, utilitarian, unfussy and unnoticeable compared to
more ostentatious lavishly trimmed clothes. They were of course also used
In America when some women did men's work on farms and estates they often
abandoned side saddle riding for practical reasons. Being more forward
looking and less hidebound by the the then existing British etiquette of dress
American women borrowed from male dress and often adopted trousers and a riding
habit and skirt.
1860 Riding Habit
In England where side saddle riding for women remained popular for many years
full skirted redingotes with excess fabric skirts were worn to elegantly cover
the legs from view. They often also covered trousers hidden well beneath
the layers, but perfect if the lady fell of her horse. Respectability was
Riding Habits of 1863
The riding dress of the 19th century followed the huge gigot and leg of
mutton sleeve styles of both the 1830s and the mid 1890s. In the latter
era skirts though became a bit more
practical with fullness, but without trails of fabric. Ironically the fashion
for tailor made suits actually followed the severe lines of these tailored riding habits.
These line drawings on the next page show how the redingote silhouette changed over the years.
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