VICTORIAN circa 1885
Kathy is wearing a genuine Victorian satin-velvet travelling habit that was made circa 1885. Purchased from an American collector from Philadelphia it is uncertain whether the habit was originally American or British.
The midnight-blue habit is fully lined with heavy-polished cotton. The ‘leg-of-mutton’ sleeves came into popular fashion in the mid 1880’s and the long jacket fitted to the shape of the waistline was an alternative to the bustle, which could not be worn comfortably while riding.
The hat is silk with a silk ribbon and ostrich feather decoration. The wearing of a veil does not seem to have been a common fashion at this period.
There have been some minor renovations over the years to the habit - a new section of lining added to the jacket, a replacement waistband; the collar and the three braided fastenings are new – but the rest of the outfit is in remarkable condition for its age.
(costume now sold)
COLONIAL circa 1780
It is 1760 and we go to the American Colony of Virginia. The roads were rough and rutted, not suitable for elegant carriages, so the ladies preferred to ride aside down the main thoroughfare of Williamsburg to attract the attention of the gentlemen, attend luncheon at the Governor’s Palace, or pay a visit to the milliner or dressmaker.
The blue on white vintage fabric is cut to an eighteenth century Dutch pattern of stylised tulips and other flowers; it has a drop front which is laced and boned, with a delicate kerchief of lawn. The lace cap beneath the hat and edging the sleeves is a tatted lace - an open type of lace which compliments the elegance of the gown. Lace was highly valued and was frequently an item used for contraband by smugglers. The hand-made gloves are also of lace.
The flat crown of the straw hat is typical of the Colonial period, and was purchased from Margaret Hunter’s milliner shop on Duke of Gloucester Street, Williamsburg.
(costume now sold)
'JANE AUSTEN' late eighteenth century
“It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Mrs Bennet was determined to secure such a husband for her eldest daughter, Jane. When a note comes for Jane to attend a dinner party hosted by Charlotte Bingley, currently residing with her brother and Mr Darcy at Netherfield Hall, Jane is delighted.
“May I have the carriage, Mama?” she asks, but Mrs Bennet has other plans.
“You will go on horseback, for it looks like rain and then you will be obliged to stay the night.”
So in the true manner of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Miss Bennet dons her grey habit and bonnet.
The habit consists of a close-fitting jacket, with the skirt and bodice joined in a single garment that emulates a military style. A pocket slit in the skirt conceals a poke-bag worn under the habit. The skirt has a train that ensures the legs are modestly covered when riding aside.
If there happens to be a gentleman in want of a wife, who has a fortune of ten thousand a year, owns a house called Pemberley and is named Mr Darcy, would he kindly await Miss Bennet at the entrance to the arena as her sister, Elizabeth, would like to meet him.
(costume now sold)
Napoleon III had created the Bois de Boulogne, a pleasure area to rival London’s Hyde Park. Considered a location for the sophisticated gentry, the park had become a rendezvous of elegance (and some ooh-la-la scandal!).
Society’s ladies and gentlemen would come on horseback to promenade around the lakes, and a tres belle mademoiselle, would want to attract the attention of a handsome monsieur.
She would show off her cream silk riding habit copied from the latest fashion magazines. With the invention of the sewing machine in the 1850’s mass production of riding habits became possible, but tailors still went to great lengths to ensure the correct fit of the jacket to ensure the lady’s figure was shown to best advantage.
Crinolines and bustles were not suited for horseback, so the jacket is fitted at the back to convey the appearance of a bustle, while allowing freedom of movement. The material itself is embellished with embroidery and the lace gloves are genuine handmade Victorian.
Trousers are worn beneath in case a windy day requires modest decorum. A petite heart-shaped hat and veil, and elegant drop earrings complete the ensemble.
Frenchman are permitted to cry, “Très joli!”
(costume now sold)
KINGS ROYAL RIFLES early 1800s
“ O’er the Hills and o'er the Main. To Flanders, Portugal and Spain,
The King commands and we obey… Over the hills and far away.”
The Green Jackets were made famous by Sean Bean in the TV series ‘Sharpe’, depicting the Napoleonic wars which ended at the Battle of Waterloo on Sunday 18th June 1815. Originally raised in America in 1756 to defend the Colonies against the French, the Regiment was to see action throughout the British Empire from France to India and South Africa, while today, the Rifles are deployed in Afghanistan.
The title The King's Royal Rifle Corps was bestowed in 1830.
Kathy’s Grandfather served in the Regiment during World War II, and she proudly wears his regimental badge.
In the Napoleonic Wars, wherever the army was sent, the women went too.
It is easy to imagine that the wife of the Commanding Officer, wishing to compliment the men, has obtained some green velvet and adapted the uniform of the Green Jackets into something more glamorous and feminine, so she may ride aside, over the hills and far away in a more elegant style.
(Costume has won several first place and championships)
'CATS' - dressage to music SSA Nationals, Addington
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD