Women's Horse Riding OutfitsLadies Riding Clothing
Riding fashion history: 1920' to 1940' s
Riding fashions history: Part 2. From a historical point of view, women's riding fashions reflected the roles of the woman in our societies at that age. Prior to the fourteenth centuries womens often ridden in the passenger seat or in front, but from the 1380s onward, side-saddle riding was associated with feminine virtues and cleanness, especially when it was of fine origin.
Woman who wanted to rid astride were described as "crazy, ignoble, ungracious desperados" and "violation of the law of good taste". Bicycling for girls became widespread in the 1890s, which led to changes in women's attire. Riding styles changed much more slowly, however, especially on the very traditional British and US eastern coasts, where riding was often associated with the elite.
In 1920 the right to elect US womens was given to them, and with these freedoms a progressive change in general attitudes towards women's freedom began. It was the West who brought the charges against this new worid, with the LA Times stating that "the side-saddle is a terrible weight on a horse and all righteous men believe that its era is over".
New riding styles required new riding clothes. Females who wanted to ride adrift soon found the perfect garment: breeches. Initially conceived in northern India, breeches were launched in the UK through the recent introduction of high profile sportswear. It was also in India during the 1830s when Britain was colonialised, and policemen brought it to Britain in the 1800s.
The Jodhpur was developed to have spots of leathers on the inside of the legs to protect against abrasion from saddles, and unlike conventional English riding trousers, the riding trousers were extended to the ankles instead of ending in the middle of the cow. British Savile Horse Riders perfect this new French style and it was very much loved by men for riding horse and motorcycle during the First World War.
This hip shape was useful both for riding in a hot climate and for riding in a comfortable environment, as stretched fabric has not yet been invention. Later, a leathern fit was added for even more convenience and safety, and breeches became part of the recognized riding apparel regulations. Conservatives may have been scandalised by females who adopted breeches, but some females were not prepared to sit and waiting for riding to be generally acceptable.
In the 1920s, Coco Chanel revolutionized women's riding fashion by creating her own breeches inspired by the clothes of the men around her. Self-assured, independant Hollywood celebrities like Madge Bellamy (above) were wearing classy breeches in the movie and the writer Margaret Mitchell (below) also adopted the new look.
Their coquettish elegance, their impudent dance and their choice of fashions certainly attracted attention in the courteous company of the age. Then in the nineteen-twenties and nineteen-thirties, some of them went one better and wore pants, mostly panty. They are both far ahead of their times, both in fashions and in their blunt resolve to wear clothes for themselves instead of just getting dressed to look at men.
1930' was a milestone in the world of fashions. Woman started using shorts, not because they wanted to do sport and a more convenient piece of clothing, but because they wanted to. 1933 the journal Women's World Daily asked the question: "Will a woman ever want to buy a pair of shorts? Do you want to use the traditonal side-saddle, or should you adopt the new and contemporary riding technique with breeches or overalls?
Because of this absence of consent, many first-class dressmakers and clothing stores began to provide equestrian clothing for women's saddles and equestrian sports. One 1927 Vogue edition (below) shows British women's saddle customs that had been import from Saks Fifth Avenue as well as a chopping coat with breeches, including the" "real"" shoes, mittens and cap.
It emphasized that the riding gear was "casual" and only suited for non-formal shows and heckling. The discussion about women's riding fashion went on. Well educated British girls ride, hunt and even point-to-point races well into the 1930'. There was a very gradual abandonment of the side-saddle by the British top class, some of them riding bestridden and some of them riding in the side-saddle.
Meanwhile, in the American West cotton ladies wore routine trousers and denim for ranching and renowned explorers like Amelia Earhart were helping to make breeches an exhilarating contemporary outfit. In the well-known British children's textbook "The Young Rider" wrote: "Girls today almost without exceptions are learning to knightly ride", and yet a magazine reporter, who reported from the 1931 Olympic Horse Show, reported that "riding on a horse can never make a woman look like a woman on a horse".
Celebrities like Bette Davis help to glorify riding breeches and promote their use. National Velvet from 1944 brought the concept that saddled girls are self-confident and able, with a young Elizabeth Taylor (above) leading the cake to the Grand National obstacle course win. But after the Second World War, prejudice about women's riding wear gave way to practice.
Females from all walks of life who fought for the efforts of conflict and tender fashion were just not suitable for this kind of work. British rural armies used to employ wives who worked on the farms with rides and other tasks during the fighting, and breeches were part of their formal outfit. Pictures by Rosie the Riveter replace those of woman in costly and filigree pre-war motifs.
Wars have had other consequences for fashions in general. In 1942, decorations were limited or even illicit on garments such as additional embroideries, knobs or bags. Riding wear manufacturers were confiscated to make army uniform, and the Paris based apparel industries partly crumbled after the IDF.
As almost no European trend messages were leaked, the US designer began to create their own unique styles. In a 1947 issue of Life Magazin (below), a title picture shows Judy Hall in chic but relaxed riding attire and shows how much women's riding apparel has developed in just a few years.
A versatile billboard from the same year also shows a female horsewoman without a cap, mittens and coat - far removed from the rigid and tidy riding clothing that courteous company only demands a year or two before. Christian Dior's New Look took the style scene by storm in 1947.
In the 1950', renowned clothing stores such as Gucci and Polo Ralph Lauren were built - the clothing industry was on the brink of a postwar heyday.