Ever since I first started looking at 18th century clothing, I have been in love with riding jackets. But as I don’t own a horse, I thought my reasons for needing one would be nonexistent. I soon learned that riding jackets and skirts were the “sportswear” of wealthy women. This is what a woman wore when traveling. So again, the Bachman gives me an excuse to make a beautiful garment.
Riding jackets followed male fashion, resembling military coats in particular. It will be no surprize that many women’s riding jackets were at first classified as boy’s uniform coats, but the horizontal dart across the breast that characterizes many riding jackets mark it as a woman’s garment.
Riding jackets were usually worn with a matching petticote. I intend to wear mine with my quilted wool petticote and pocket panniers.
I began my riding jacket by outfitting my mannequin with the underwear and petticote I plan to wear with the garment. This ensemble consisted of my half-boned stays, pockets stuffed with linen scraps (to resemble panniers) and my wool petticote. This underwear can be seen at left.
Next I draped a muslin on the mannequin to get a general impression of how I should cut the linen for the lining of the jacket. At first, I didn’t understand the need for the horizontal dart that appears at center front on all the pictures of riding jackets I have seen so far. But since I was trying to replica this garment, I left it in. Soon I realized that the dart did and interesting thing . it kept the fabric close to the upper chest. The other 18th century gowns I’ve draped don’t have this dart because they have low necklines and therefore have no need of it. This dart just above the line of the bust makes the jacket smooth and well-fitted in the chest. You can see the affect in the pictures below.
After I fit the muslin, I cut the lining pieces out of linen and fit those in the same fashion. When I had the lining pinned to my satisfaction, I removed it from the mannequin and backstitched all the seams with linen thread.
Next I followed the same proceedure with the wool, first pinning it in place, then pressing it, then backstitching the seams with silk thread.
Next came the skirts. I made two muslins, front and back, based on Janet Arnold’s pattern draft in “Patterns of Fashion” and pinned them onto the mannequin. After some adjustment, I cut two front and two back skirts out of wool and silk The bodice of the original jacket is lined with white linen, but the skirts were lined with pink silk . I used silk that matched the exterior wool in colour.
- Janet Arnold. Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses & their construction c 1660-1860. 1977: Macmillan Publishers Ltd., London.
- Jane Ashelford. The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society, 1500-1914. 1996: National Trust Enterprises Limited, London.
- Nancy Bradfield. Costume in Detail 1730-1930. 1997: Costume and Fashion Press, New York.
- Linda Baumgarten and John Watson with Florine Carr. Costume Close Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790. 1999: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, VA.
- Ellen J. Gehret. Rural Pennsylvania Clothing. 1976: George Shumway Publisher, York, Pennsylvania.
- Avril Hart and Susan North. Fashion in Detail.
- Tandy and Charles Hersh. Cloth and Costume 1750-1800. 1995: Cumberland County Historical Society, Camp Hill, PA.
- Alexander Mackay-Smith, Jean R. Druesedow, and Thomas Ryder. Man and the Horse. 1984: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Simon and Schuster, New York.
- Nora Waugh. The Cut of Women’s Clothes 1968: Farber and Farber, London.
© 2002, 2003 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.