1778-9ish riding habit, 18th century, projects

Riding Habit!

I’ve mentioned it a million times, but I really truly AM making a riding habit for Colonial Williamsburg.  It’s going to be March, which could very well mean cold; plus, I’d really like to have a very-appropriate-to-Williamsburg outfit; plus, riding habitses are fabulous!

I’ve been mulling about it for a while now, and despite looking at tons of different inspiration images, I kept coming back to this habit from 1779-81:

Zoffany, detail from "The Sharp Family," 1779-81

I LOVE the waistcoat, with the gold braid and buttons, and I think that’s what sold me.  Of course, I need to do it in my colors, so I hunted down some forest green wool from Mood Fabrics (which, shockingly, has decent prices on some fabrics, including wool!).  Olive is modeling the fabric for you; the bit in the bottom left of the pic is the best capture of the color (it’s not blue, as it looks in the pic):

I’ve been doing tons of research, although there’s limited information out there about habits.  And, of course, I’ve been madly working on my 1780s stays, as I want to wear them under this.  So since I FINALLY got the stays wearable, I was finally able to start on the habit… with only a few weeks left to go before my trip!  So, sadly, all my plans for a totally authentic hand sewn habit went out the window, and I am machine sewing everything I possibly can that won’t show (and, even, bag lining so that I can machine and not have it sew).  I’m laughing as I’m working, because I am using really authentic materials… but modern/theatrical techniques!

Unfortunately, there are only a few options out there for pattern resources for habits:  Janet Arnold and Norah Waugh both include patterns, but both are 1750s, which is stylistically somewhat different from late 1770s.  So while I’ve used both as references for draping, I’ve had to make some educated guesses; most especially, knowing that habits followed men’s fashions, I used the 1760-90s coat in Costume Close-Up for ideas on how to handle the cutaway front and back pleats.

Here’s the waistcoat in progress, with trim, and with buttons; I did handsew the bust dart, and will be hand sewing the buttonholes:

You can see that I changed the waistcoat back; when I first made it, I did a triangular cut-out with the quick & dirty, but still period, linen tape ties (instead of spiral lacing) — but, of course, the bias totally stretched.  Then I remembered that when Janea Whitacre showed us this option (in the Brunswick workshop), she did the square cutout — right, on the straight of grain!  So I redid that.

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  • Reply Jenny-Rosw February 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Oh this is going to be so lovely and perfect for Williamsburg in March! :>

  • Reply The Aristocat February 20, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Oh, it’s going to be gorgeous!

  • Reply Trystan February 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Ooo, love the white w/gold waistcoat!

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