*Please note that the original title of this project was “The Regency Spencer Project”, and that post titles have been updated with the name “The Regency Redingote Project” to reflect the evolution of the project*
The first step in starting a new project is research, research and more research. When I teach design I explain that even if you completely stray from the research later, it is important to not design from ignorance. One can intelligently decide the level of historical accuracy and add subtle depth to the design when one understands a time period.
Although my research in real time has been rather scattered, I am breaking it down into several distinct parts here on the blog:
- Phase I – General primary source research – Riding habits and the styles they have inspired
- Phase II – Fabrics, Colors and Materials
- Phase III – Tailoring and Stitches
Riding Habit, 1795, English (click for full desc.)
“. . . .One white and one blue under-waistcoat. Riding dress of scarlet cloth, with a capuchin collar, fastened in the waist by a belt. . . .”
Riding Habit, 1797, English
July 1799, English (click for full desc, p. 60)
“. . . .Blue, green, or corbeau jacket and petticoat, with black velvet collar, and double rows of Nelson’s Ball, gilt buttons. . . .” This one was of particular interest, as it wasn’t designated as a riding habit or a redingote (perhaps it is implied?), although it has the velvet lapels like I hoped to make. Also note that it is in two pieces-a separate petticoat and jacket!
It is important to note that these first three references fall earlier in the timeline by about ten years (my wardrobe project is set for roughly 1810). Realistically speaking, it is possible that a woman living in 1810 would keep an item of outerwear until it wore out, and re-work it to match the current style or make other garments from it.
Spencer, 1798/9, French
This is the only other one I have found that is not a fashion plate denoting it as specifically for a riding costume. The split sleeve with velvet border is a nice detail. It is unfortunate there is no front view.
“Amazon in linen dress, wool spencer, jockey hat.” This one reveals another clue that I was hoping to find – not just the collar in velvet but the lapel facing in velvet as well. This open view shows that the front facing wasn’t split into a contrast lapel and a muslin lining but that the whole piece is of the contrast fabric. The black fabric here looks like it might be a fur – perhaps astrakhan – with its curly texture rather than a velvet.
“Velvet hat. Loose-fitting coat from Florence.”
Red, green and blue seem to be the most popular color for these garments at this time, although this is a very small sample to examine. You can see more French riding habits here (blue, 1802/3), here (navy wool broadcloth, 1802/3), and here (gray 1802/3) but none of them have contrast lapels. But another one in buff color, here (1799/1800) does!
According to an essay by Janet Arnold, women’s riding habits took after men’s fashion beginning in the 17th century, although there were hints of this in upper class women’s choice of riding clothes as early as the 16th century. Whether this styling was done for the sake of fashion or for the practicality of riding and hunting in rough terrain is unclear, but riding habits for women were made by (male, typically) tailors rather than dressmakers. She notes that around the end of the 18th century the riding habit was still styled after menswear, but followed the silhouette of women’s fashion as the waist rose and the skirts slimmed. “Hunting pinks”, the now traditional red jacket with black velvet accents worn for fox hunting in England developed as the standard for riding clothes in the 19th century. (1)
Arnold specifically notes:
“By the time Jane Austen wrote the words, ‘Her habit therefore was thrown off with all possible haste’ in Northanger Abbey in 1798, the word ‘habit’ had become synonymous with ‘riding habit,’ and was used for travelling and walking as well as riding. Catherine Morland travelled first in General Tilney’s chaise and four, and then in Henry Tilney’s curricle, from Bath to Northanger Abbey wearing a habit with a new straw bonnet. On arrival, ‘having given a good shake to her habit’ to remove the moisture from ‘a thick mizzling rain…she was ready to be shewn [sic] into the common drawing-room.'” (1)
(1) Arnold, Janet. “Dashing Amazons: The Development of Women’s Riding Dress, c. 1500-1900.” Defining Dress: Dress as Object, Meaning and Identity, edited by Amy de la Haye and Elizabeth Wilson, Manchester University Press, 1999, pp. 10–29.
(2) Cunnington, Phillis, and Alan Mansfield. English Costume for Sports and Outdoor Recreation: From the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1969