Obsolete Fashion: Along for the Riding Habit

Images via Wikimedia Commons.

Back in the day before cars, people rode horses places. Duh. But did you know women had a specific ensemble exclusively for riding horses?

With origins burrowed back in the 17th century and an end lodged in the early 20th century, the formal riding habit had quite a long reign in the womenswear kingdom.

Originally, the habit consisted of long hose called calençons, a tailored jacket, an equally tailored blouse, a hat, low-heeled boots – this is quite the mouthful! – gloves, and a cravat or stock. One source even reports that it included a mask to protect one’s complexion.

Through the centuries, the habit’s shape poofed and slimmed, but no matter its look or specific accessorizing, it always drew inspiration from the fashionable menswear of the day. Eventually, this menswear influence became so pronounced, that woman took to – gasp – wearing pants (circa 1914), and the once ubiquitous formal riding habit proceeded to become defunct.

Would you wear a riding habit?



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  1. Avatar
    Antoinette 04/05/2011 at 1:20 pm #

    i would keep the fitted tailored jacket and the cravat! ive always wanted to rock a top hat, but not sure how…lol

  2. Avatar
    Rebekah 04/05/2011 at 1:29 pm #

    In the equestrian world, riding habits are now kind of like a suit coat (English riding). I used to wear mine a lot as it was so classy.

  3. Avatar
    Yas 04/05/2011 at 4:17 pm #

    of course i would wear it,look how glamorous,lady like yet practical it looks

  4. Avatar
    Caitlin 04/05/2011 at 9:08 pm #

    I love the obsolete fashion posts! They are so fun 🙂

  5. Avatar
    Jo 04/06/2011 at 3:10 am #

    A hundred percent yes! Gorgeous!


  6. Avatar
    TheToastette 04/06/2011 at 12:35 pm #

    I work in a Victorian house and I love talking to guests about the ladies’ fashions, especially the riding habit! So lovely and elegant, it really made any sized woman look good!

  7. Avatar
    Chelsea 04/07/2011 at 12:08 am #

    Though not quite the same riding habit, I still wear one for Dressage. Except we wear britches and top hats are only for high level riders.

  8. Avatar
    jamie 04/07/2011 at 3:07 pm #

    Marie Antoinette made these popular in her time. She was criticized because the riding outfits looked to much like a mans. Antoinette even wore pants for a time. There is a great painting of her in paints that I have in a book.

    I would love a jacket that was tailored like a riding jacket and riding pants!

  9. Avatar
    Alejandra 05/17/2011 at 9:48 am #

    I used to love wearing these as young lady. I loved the long, full, fluttery skirts that swirled as I rode.

  10. Avatar
    Mallory 07/17/2012 at 4:48 pm #

    I love that type of look already, but I love horses even more. To be able to have a horse and look good would be perfect!

  11. Avatar
    Danielle 01/27/2013 at 3:34 pm #

    I positively adore the idea of multiple outfits in a day, and the riding habit was part of this lifestyle. The riding habit’s fitted and tailored jacket is classy and modest, yet it offered women a chance to participate in a male-influenced fashion and sport. It paved the way for more practical female fashions.


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    […] as consisting of any combination of jacket, breeches, jodhpurs, and even the early 17th century calençons (long hose), doublet (the jacket), petticoat, justaucorps (a different jacket!) and various styles […]

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