V259: Starting on the Snowshill 1730-50 Riding Habit

You know when you have tons of stuff to get done for a major costume event or trip, and yet Costume ADD strikes and despite being ridiculously short on time, you simply must get into something totally new?

Yes, that.

Going into Autumn here in Northern Nevada, we sometimes have the rare opportunity to enjoy both blazing golden aspen trees *and* snowfall at the same time.  Usually the leaves are all gone by the time the snow comes, but maybe, just maybe, this year we will get a concurrent leaves+snow day, maybe even two days, and I aim to be ready for a potential American Duchess holiday photoshoot on that elusive day.

Enter the riding habit.  With most costume events taking place in the Summer months, I don’t have much/any Winter gear.  I’ve had this fabric for more than a year, though, with the plan to make the well-known Snowshill riding habit jacket found in both Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860 and Costume in Detail: Women’s Dress 1730-1930.  Here is the original jacket in the National Trust collection:

Snowshill Manor © National Trust / Simon Harris

This is Janet Arnold’s (Patterns of Fashion 1) rendition:

And these are Nancy Bradfield’s (Costume in Detail):

There is also this gorgeous traveling outfit from Marie Antoinette, made up in blue-grey velvet with silver trim, and a matching taffeta skirt worn over side hoops:

One of the reasons I’ve been procrastinating for so long on making this jacket up is because I wanted to have the time to really niggle in on the tailoring.  I’ve never done any proper tailoring, but I would like to try, as I know it has a profound effect on the way a jacket hangs and fits, particularly around the shoulders.  I’ve acquired some hair canvas, and have been reading up on Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, in Couture Sewing Techniques, and The Practical Work of Dressmaking & Tailoring, the last written in 1902 and available for free on Google Books.  I would also like to try The Victorian Tailor: An Introduction to Period Tailoring, and apply the techniques to women’s coats and jackets like this one.

The original jacket bodice is lined with stiff linen, with additional canvas stiffening the front edges of the jacket.  The skirts of the jacket and the CF facings are pink silk.  No other mention of tailoring techniques is made, although from what I perused last night, these “guts” are right in line with those interfacings used in contemporary men’s frock coats.

My velveteen is fairly thin and actually has some funky stretch in it, so I plan to start off by interfacing the bodice pieces completely with the hair canvas, then going from there with stiffening the front edges further, and applying all the linings by hand.

The tailoring is a new thing for me, so I will blog along on anything good/bad/ugly!


  • Mistress of Disguise

    September 16, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Ooo, yay for winter wear! I've been trying to come up with some ideas for warm clothes, too, since I'll be hitting Williamsburg in December. Brr! I can't wait to see how your riding jacket comes out, but if it's anything like your other work, then I'm sure it will be smashing! 😀

    • Lauren R

      September 16, 2012 at 7:27 PM

      Oh man, CW in winter! All the wreaths! We're going early next month – hoping for beautiful fall color. You'll need the warmer clothes more than I. Get to work! lol

  • Kleidung um 1800

    September 16, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    Gorgeous project! I can understand why you have squeezed this into your busy schedule 😉
    Looking forward to following the process/progress of tailoring!

  • Shirlee Fassell

    September 16, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Great riding dress. Looking forward to seeing it come to life. We had snow on Oct 31 last year while the leaves were still on the trees and it was a disaster! It took the town 13 million dollars to clean up the mess and we had no electricity for 7 days!!

    • Lauren R

      September 16, 2012 at 7:28 PM

      Oh yikes! I hope it's not such a tough winter this year. We didn't have a winter at all last year – no snow! This year is supposed to be "big," but we'll see.

  • Hallie Larkin

    September 16, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Lauren, a resource you might want prior to starting is Kannick Korner's, "The Workmans' Guide to 18th century Tailoring Stitches and Techniques". It is specific to the 18th century unlike the later Victorian guides ant tutorials. At 12.00 it is a bargain, especially for a first attempt at tailoring. http://www.kannikskorner.com/books.htm

  • Clare

    September 16, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    I love this jacket style! Fabulous! I look forward to seeing your version. I've been looking back over 18th century jackets myself – I've just started a corsetry course and have in my head a peplumed corset, inspired by 18th C jackets. Love it!

  • Anonymous

    September 16, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    Lol! I've decided to try my hand at enlarging a Victorian pattern from a book. My first go at going from Victorian minature to modern life sized. I'm terrified so I've been procrastinating but I want it done for Halloween….So many ideas no time/money/courage…..

    • Lauren R

      September 16, 2012 at 7:32 PM

      Wanda, you will rock it. 🙂 Definitely make a mockup though – the proportions in those original pattern are WAY different, and even when we're wearing corsets these days, we're not shaped the same, particularly in the shoulders and width of our backs (posture too), as well as waist sizes and length of waists. Don't be afraid to slice and stretch and lap that pattern – it's what Victorian ladies would have done too 🙂


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