Two-Piece Navy, Wool Riding Habit, 1870s
Most women who chose to ride in the 19th Century were of more than moderate means. A lady would be required to be fitted for a riding habit of the latest style trends, and to have a horse specifically trained to carry a woman sidesaddle. The tightly fitted, plain bodice and less full skirt of this riding habit is indicative of the changing style of the women’s riding habit to suit the Victorian era fashions of the 1870’s. Before, riding habits were of varying colors, more voluminous in material, and more feminine lines. Often times, though, the long and picturesque skirts would prove dangerous to both the riders and the horses. By the mid-1870’s, the bodice styles of riding habits became more severe and masculine, and shoulder seams at their natural point rather than dropped. The skirts, too, became less full, and riders would wear chamois or soft leather breeches under her skirts to have a more secure seating.
This riding habit within the collections of the Museum of Texas Tech University has a fitted bodice, pointed in the center front and has a bodice opening which fastens with brown leather, buckled straps in the front. The high-standing collar, sleeve cuffs and squared tails in the back are also trimmed and fastened with the buckled leather straps. The long-trained skirt has two gores; an unusual cut with an inset that cups to allow space for fitting over the horn of the sidesaddle.