Victorian riding habits – bespoke and stock items

1860s Riding Habit-4

We have recently been doing a few habits, so I thought I put a post about them together:-)

Over the winter I have been working on a  bespoke one – based on my 1885 version , but in luscious bottle green superfine wool, with  burgundy braid decoration. The colour combination worked very well and suited the client’s colouring ( and the horse’s ) well – and we were lucky enough to grab a few photos when we delivered the habit to sunny Devon.

Devon Riding Habit-1

Devon Riding Habit-2 Devon Riding Habit-7

Devon Riding Habit-10

Devon Riding Habit-17

Another bespoke habit  for another client is  happening  too, I will post the photos as soon as the work is finished and we get some pictures.

In the meantime, let me introduce to our latest batch – somehow earlier habits, destined to become stock items.

It all happened as  I was working on a certain secret project ( details soon)- we had a horse booked for a side saddle at Historic Equitation, and the day before I found myself  ending the commission work earlier that expected – so had a few hours free, and  6 metres of some rather lovely green cloth…. the temptation was too much! I  went for the simplest look I could think of: no decoration, purely utilitarian,  roughly 1860 look -with big skirts and plain, short bodice  – based on this look.


The cloth was fantastic – it draped beautifully. W e used the habit for the shoot and for some riding, and had a short photoshoot at home too – with and without petticoat ( period solution as either  corded petticoat or turkish trousers in the same fabric ( so that when the skirt billowed at speed while riding, the legs would be modestly covered). As  you can see, the skirts are very long  to cover the legs, and although they look lovely when mounted, they are a bit of a pain while walking.  Ladies either carried the skirts, flashing the petticoat, or used buttons t o hitch them up – as  shown on this fashion plate from La Mode Illustree


btw, lots of more images on my Pinterest board 

I was wearing a corset,  white blouse and a velvet ribbon neckband,styled my hair and restyled my top hat a bit  to achieve the look:-)

1860s Riding Habit-13

1860s Riding Habit-7

skirts on a petticoat here ( shamefully modern bridal one….)

1860s Riding Habit-1

1860s Riding Habit-3

1860s Riding Habit-9

Once we were done with shooting, I  shared the photos and  put the habit in our online shop – and was flooded with likes, shared, questions etc – and the habit sold within 12 hours, surely  a record! not only that, there is now a queue of side saddle ladies awaiting news whether it fits the lady  who bought it – just in case she returns it….

As a business minded person, I just couldn’t  ignore this situation – and since   had a bank holiday looming ahead ( which I had hoped to leave free  to rest – silly me…), I decided to act on it.  Luckily I was picking some cloth for commissions from my wool merchant, and while at it, I picked a few lengths suitable for habits…


A very busy time with a sewing machine followed –  and I just managed  to get 2 habits done for another scheduled side saddle session – this time with lovely Jane on her Zara at a very well kept Wakes Manor Livery Yard

Corseted Sidesaddle-42

I experimented with a slightly later look for these two – the first one was  based on  a fashion plate from Harper’s Bazar, 1873 ( the sitting lady)


I used the lovely soft dove grey cloth, edged with black and decorated with velvet ribbon.

Work in progress…


It is a size ( or even two) too big, but with a loosened corset it looked  well enough – sadly I didn’t have a size 14/16 model  at hand ( working on it..)
Corseted Sidesaddle-31

Corseted Sidesaddle-36

Corseted Sidesaddle-53

Corseted Sidesaddle-44

The habit is now available in our online shop, at a discounted price -details here

The second habit was based on this one from the MET 


I liked the edge treatment and tried to emulate – I used piping and topstitching combination


and  it fitted me well  – really like the look!

Corseted Sidesaddle-11 Corseted Sidesaddle-19 Corseted Sidesaddle-27 Corseted Sidesaddle-20

Then it was Jane’s turn – it fitted her well too –  and kudos to Jane who wore a corset for the first time – and not only wore it, but rode and jumped in it too ( part of  a secret video project I am currently working on..)

Corseted Sidesaddle-78

Corseted Sidesaddle-118

Corseted Sidesaddle-122

Corseted Sidesaddle-91 Corseted Sidesaddle-82 Corseted Sidesaddle-99 Corseted Sidesaddle-126

 and yes, there is a corset underneath all that!

Corseted Sidesaddle-127

 This habit is also available in the shop – Here

 I have enjoyed making these – and now have plans over summer to work on a few more models in a few sizes options – I already have nice berry coloured cloth and dark green twill put aside for the purpose:-). Although they are stock items,  each habit will be a little bit different, so that  each is unique – nothing worse than going into the Historical class  and finding another lady wearing the same model! And of course if you want something special there is the bespoke option with fittings (  and a different price bracket too….)

Many thanks to all involved in the project so far – greatly appreciated! And a big thank you to the photographer – images courtesy of Pitcheresque Imagery 


1810 Riding Habit


 1810 Riding habit.


Today we are looking  at  yet anothern of my favourites,  a Regency riding habit,  closely based on the exhibit from the Kyoto Costume Institute ( if you have the book, it is on page171-173,  inv AC5313, 86-2AB –  or simply find it here. I am not really a fan of Regency fashions as they are not exactly flattering for my figure, but this habit did catch my eye and my imagination because of its simple elegance and surprisingly, not such a high waistline.  And so, after craving it for the last two years or so, the time had come for me to tackle the project about 2 years ago – and if you fancy having a go as well, I hope you find the information and the instructions below useful.

 1. close up of the original  habit

riding habit 1810

 Background information and research.


Those two photos were all I really had to go with. I did write to the Institute asking if it was possible to obtain more information regarding the cloth, lining or the buttons – or maybe just a few more images, but was very politely told that the museum did not provide that service.  So all I had was a short description stating that it is ‘a Riding Suit, c.1810; black wool broadcloth; set of tailored jacket and a skirt of appropriate length for horse riding’.

Not much then – but a start.

The decoration on the front of the jacket is very similar to another item from the institute, a hunting Jacket – a spencer (INV.AC3187 80-8-1, dated 1815). The length of the spencer is also reminiscent of the one of the riding jacket.

The back of the jacket closely resembles that of the riding habit in Salisbury museum described in detail by Janet Arnold in her Patterns of Fashion 1 (page 46). The Salisbury museum skirt features there would also be suitable for my project – there are differences between the original I had in mind, but after careful deliberation, I decided to stick on to the well documented source and pattern instead of doing more improvising.


The idea was then to use the pattern from Janet Arnold for the skirt and the back of the bodice, and improvise the front of the jacket – and as i have discovered a little bit later on, exactly what another excellent costumier had done before – though she seemed to have opted for the hunting spencer front instead (



 Materials needed

Black broadcloth wool – 3.5m;

Silk taffeta (lining of the jacket, plus skirts bodice) – 1.5m

Linen (lining for the skirt bodice (0.5m)

40 Wooden moulds for the jacket buttons (or just use ordinary buttons)

2 small and 4 tiny buttons or moulds for the skirt bodice closure

A strip of buckram for lining the collar

Black and white linen thread,

Beige silk thread

2m of linen tape for the skirt ties

Hooks and eyes if you plan to attach your jacket to the skirt


  The skirt.

The skirt is attached to a small silk bodice, lined with linen.  There is no mention of the skirt being lined at all – not surprisingly though, since lining the skirt with silk or even linen, would render it even more slippery and compromise the rider’s grip. My 18th century habit  has a skirt lined with silk, as that’s what the original had for lining, and whereas it rides well and I wouldn’t have problems riding in a show in it, I would not take it out hunting. Considering the fact that in the Regency period side saddles were not the safest contraptions (the leaping head that provides so much more secure grip was yet to be invented), and taking into the account the fact that due to the fencing off the countryside jumping the fences became a necessity, a spirited lady who wished to follow the hunt needed all the help she could get. Indeed, it is believed that some were even strapping themselves to the saddles to help them over the fences  – not the safest idea really. All things considered, it looked as the lack of lining made sense – many thanks to Gini Newton and Becca Holland for helping me out with this issue! )

2. the-inconvenience-of-wigs-carle-vernet-1758-1836-the-lewis-walpole-library-yale-university


The pattern –  Janet Arnold. I scaled the bodice pattern to fit me, but left the skirt as it was without any changes.

The  skirt bodice construction:

3. linen mock up pieces - later used as lining

3. linen mock up pieces – later used as lining

1. Cut out the pieces in calico or linen to form a mock up. If you are lucky and your mock up doesn’t require any serious changes, your linen mock up can serve as the lining.

2. Pin or baste the pieces together, leaving it open on the right side. Try on – either on yourself or on a pre-prepared dummy. Make sure you try it on the underwear you are planning to wear with it – especially if you are wearing Regency stays – the bust position is very different to the one the modern bra gives – particularly true for more ample bosoms.

3. Adjust as necessary till you are satisfied with the outcome. Unpin the pieces and use them to draw the pattern.

4.  Cut out the bodice in your top fabric and lining.

5. Sew the top pieces together: first insert the little gussets in the front pieces, and then sew the back pieces and left front together. Add the shoulder straps. The right piece with the gusset is on its own for the time being, it will be stitched directly to the waistband of the skirt later. Press the seams open.  Repeat the same steps with the lining pieces

4. top fabric sewn together

top fabric sewn together


4. Fold the top edges of the silk and stitch it down.  Snip the curves and notch to avoiding bulk- the fabric should lay flat on the curves

6. top fabric edges folded and  pinned up ready to be  sewn


8. silk bodice with edges secured

silk bodice with edges secured

5. Pin the lining to the top pieces and stitch them together.  Press.

Note: if you prefer to save time and use the sewing machine, simply skip the step 4 and 5: pin the lining and top fabric right sides together and sew alongside the top edges. Turn outside out and press.


You now have the bodice ready, time for the other components – the skirt, bustle pad and the pocket.

The skirt.

  1. Cut the fabric according to the pattern.
  2. Sew the pieces together.
  3. Hem the skirt – an inch wide hem seems to work fine, giving it enough weight, but smooth finish too.
  4. Place the skirt on a flat surface and pin the tapes into position.I used the same position as in the original, but do try it out first to make sure that the tied up skirt is not too short or too long. Stitch them securely, but make sure the stitches do not show too much on the right side.

10. pinning the tapes inside the skirt

  1.    Cut small tabs and place them on the hem directly below the individual ties. Stitch firmly into position – only at the short sides, making sure the tapes can pass under them freely
11.a tabs in place! (4)

tabs in place!

  1.  Cut out the waistband – it should be long enough to go around your high waist with a small overlap, and quite narrow.
  2. If you plan to have a watch pocket , cut it out now in two layers of silk or linen – it should be big enough to accommodate your watch  (or a ph0ne….). Place right sides together, sew, turn out and press.

12. pocket ready

It is time to put all the pieces together – and it is not an easy task!

  1. Pin the bodice parts onto the waistband. Try to waistband on and make sure the pieces are in the right position.  You might discover it is easier to simply put the waistband on the dummy, then pin the pieces onto it – saves time. Mark the final position of the bodice on the waistband and sew – make sure you sew only through the top layer of the bodice.
  2.   Pin the skirt onto the waistband– the front part is mostly lying flat, the back will be cartridge pleated. At that stage you are simply making sure where to start the pleating!
  3. If you are happy with the position and know how much fabric has to be pleated into how much space, prepare a needle with a long and strong thread and sew a running stitch through the skirt to be pleated. The pleats should be small – depending on how much fabric you have, you should have your stitches around 1cm long. Draw the thread to see if the pleated section matches its place on the waistband. If it does, tie a strong knot in the thread to make sure the pleats stay together.
  4.  Sew the skirt onto the waistband – use the machine for the front parts where the skirt lies flat, and then, with a strong thread attach the cartridge pleats

13. attaching the cartridge pleats onto the waistband

  1.  Try the skirt on – again a dummy is a good option as well.You can now mark the position of the buttons on the shoulder straps – do not do it earlier on as the weight of the skirt will change the position of the bodice a bit!
14. trying the almost finished skirt on a padded dummy

trying the almost finished skirt on a padded dummy

  1.  If everything fits snugly, attach the pocket to the waistband. Then sew the lining onto the waistband, covering its insides

15. all pieces together - not the waistband can be covered by the lining of the bodice

  1.  Cut out the little bustle pieces, place right sides together and sew along the outside edges, leaving part of the inside open. Turn inside out and stuff with some scraps. Pin  or sew shut  and stitch to the waistband at the back of the skirt

18. bustle pad stitched in position

  1.  All that needs to be done now is to sew the buttons on ( I covered mine with taffeta, using tiny ones on the shoulder straps and bigger ones at the side closure then make the buttonholes.

20. side closure buttons

The skirt is ready now!  Here worn tied up to facilitate walking around..



 The jacket.

As mentioned before, I decided to use the pattern for the back from Janet Arnold and to improvise the front.

  1. Cut the back pieces in calico using a scaled pattern from J. Arnold. Cut all the back pieces including the peplum gussets etc. Also, cut out the sleeve.
  2. Draw a simple piece or the front – the important measurements here are the width – front to side seam at the bust and the waist level, the shoulder seam and the front length.
  1.  Pin the parts together and put the jacket on the dummy. Pin the back piece onto the dummy and start working on your experimental piece. Mark the waist position, the length in front, back and sides. Mark the darts.  Once the front starts to resemble a piece of clothing, take it off the dummy, adjust the corrections, and sew the mock up parts together.
  2.  Put it on the dummy again – if the back and sides are ok when the front is closed, you can now work on the shape of the lapels. Mark how long you want them to be, where is the best place to attach the collar, how high you want it to button up. Draft a collar pattern and experiment with that too.


  1.   Adjust as many times as necessary till you are satisfied with the look. Then take the mock up off the dummy – it is a good idea to try it on now on your own body too.
22. paper pattern for the jacket ready

paper pattern for the jacket ready


Note – it hugely helps if you have another person who knows her/his way around patterning helping  – then you can skip the dummy process and have the patterns adjusted directly on yourself.

  1.  Unpick the seams, perform any necessary corrections and voila! You have a pattern.  You can now use your calico pieces as a stock pattern or use them to copy the pattern on a paper.
  2.  Cut out the pieces in your lining fabric

23. lining pieces cut out

  1.    Just on the safe side (if you are not lucky enough to have another costumier at hand…) pin the lining together and try it on  your stays and skirt. Any corrections here should be small, but better to see them on the lining than on the top fabric.  Here, although the mock up seemed fine,  I discovered the shoulder seams still needed adjusting
24. lining pinned, tried onto the corset and the skirt for one final check

lining pinned, tried onto the corset and the skirt for one final check

25. lining pinned - back view

lining pinned – back view

  1.  Adjust if necessary , transfer any corrections onto the pattern and then and sew the lining pieces together

26. lining stitched together

  1.  Cut out the top fabric pieces.  Stitch the darts in the front parts first. Sew in the back gusset, then the front pieces and then the little side and back peplum pieces. Sew the shoulder seam.

27. jacket top fabric stitched - back view

  1.  For authentic looking finish – and if your fabric is difficult to open seam press, couch the seams down with linen or silk thread. Fold the edges and stitch them down.
  2. The sleeves – sew the top fabric sleeves – you can leave the cuff part open, or closed. Couch down the seam.  The lining: stitch the cuffs to the lining of the sleeves first  then sew them shut.
30. lining sleeves with the cuffs attached

lining sleeves with the cuffs attached


31. lining sleeves ready

lining sleeves ready

  1. Insert the sleeves into the armscythes. Pin carefully from underside first.  When you reach the top part of the shoulder, you will see there is some fabric left. Either form it into small pleats to fit the armhole, or, as I did, use a strong thread to sew a running stitch near the edge and gather the pleats as you would have done for cartridge pleating – though here is simply helps to control the tiny pleats. Pin the section in place. Sew the sleeve in and repeat for the second sleeve and for the lining sleeves.
  2.  Time for the collar.  You should have the pieces cut out – both top side and lining in wool

the collar pieces

  1.  Take the top fabric piece and attach a small piece of buckram using parallel rows of stitching.

collar inside – attaching the buckram

  1. Sew the reinforced collar onto the jacket.
  2.  Put the lining in. Pin it carefully to the bodice and sew. Once you have done the bottom hem, and attached the lining in front and upper parts, do the same do the wool cuffs at the sleeves

detail of the lining stitched to the bodice

  1. For the front, I have decided to use a facing. Cut the facing part big enough for the front part of the jacket, you will need 2 pieces. Stitch them carefully to the front, upper and lower edge of the jacket – and to the lining near the dart.

facing pinned in ready for stitching

  1. Pin and stitch the collar lining into place. Mark the position of the front buttonholes than set to work on them – either on a machine or by hand.



buttonholes and buttons in place

  1.  If you are lucky enough to have appropriate buttons ready – all that remains is to sew the buttons on. If not – make the buttons using moulds and bits of your top fabric.
  2.  Sew the buttons to the front edge, then proceed to add the decorative ones on both sides of the bodice, at the cuffs (if you want to have buttoned cuffs, that is), and at the peplum


Your habit is now ready!

The whole outfit is worn over a chemise and stays (here once made using a Mantua  Makers pattern – minus the lacing on the hip gussets. The others I had with lacing on tended to dig into the flesh when riding…).


Then a linen petticoat, and a habit shirt with frilled cuffs, with a simple silk stock.


My hat here is a simple silk topper with some rooster feathers attached.


and the result – photos  on foot – from an event in Hereford





And with a mount..







Side saddle pictured  here is of a Victorian design – much safer to ride in than the Regency ones, and the skirt works reasonably well, although it has to be said that without a help of a groom who would hoist me into the saddle and help the skirt lie flat over the pommels, it was very difficult to get the folds lie correctly and to adjust the length. Still, the skirt seemed to be reasonably secure to be ridden in, though the cut means it is not perfect for the Victorian saddle.    but more about the Victorian habit in a few days time…. 🙂



Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion, Macmillan,  New York, 1984

The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute; Fashion, a History from the 18th to the 20th century,  Taschen, 2002

Digital Archives of Kyoto Costume Institute: [Accessed 8/01/2012]

Steampunk Amazones Collection, Part 1


Well, I love Steampunk – mostly because it combines a few of my passions: history, clothing, culture.  with this collection I sought to add to the mix and enhance my perception of Steampunk through some more of my passions – horse riding, side saddle, and different cultures.

 After a few months of drawing, researching and picking up bits and pieces that vaguely went with the idea, the first sketches were ready – we had 7 amazones, from different continents and backgrounds. A few weeks later, most of the fabrics etc were assorted ( I wanted to use the stuff I had in stock, so sometimes the choice was a bit limited.) A bit of a disaster struck when we realized we wouldn’t be able to shoot the collection in the original venue as the friend who worked there, my side saddle mentor Becca Holland,had her hand in plaster and was off sick, plans had to be changed – and soon we had a solution: splitting the shoot in 2 parts, with one part taking place in the North, and one local. Atkinson Action Horses were recommended by a friend, who trains there – and the plan was hatched. We could have an action photo shoot and at the same time we got a model – not only a rider but a falconer, running Flight and Feathers Historical Falconry.

The result of the cooperation are below – let us meet  the first 4 Amazones

1. North America: The Neonavajo ( working name: Pocahontas…). having always been inspired by the Native American Indians ( my childhood nickname was Apache! ), this collection was just a perfect medium for playing around with leather, feathers and beads. The model for this look, Amy, was chuffed at being the Steampunk Pocahontas – and pulled the look off admirably!

 The initial sketch:


Finished outfit


The skirt was just a fun idea – 6 panels laced together – and unlaced for riding. the corset was perhaps the most demanding piece form the collection –   there is a fashion layer, coutil layer and a cotton lining. it is fully boned and sports external waist tape – all embroidered. Flossing, reminiscent of eagle feathers took quite some time ( and sore fingers…) as did the beading- we used different kinds of beads and metal bullet cases. My husband even produced some matching necklaces:-).

 To finish the outfit off, I Steampunk’d a jacket ( from Next) that I purchased at the Stamford Steampunk market – simply added beads, bullets and cogs. feathers, funk 70ties boots and some weapons, including the guns from RP Outfitters, completed the look.  The horse chosen for this character played his part extremely well – Badger was very patient and charismatic. He was fine with people putting tassels, braids and feathers on him, shooting bows off him – perfect.





2. Europe: The Ringmistress ( still looking fora better name…)

 This was the least time consuming project as I utilized gear I already owed – the jacket i made as a part of my 1885 Riding Habit, and a corset ( 1884 Higby Patent)

 this was the original habit:


 and that was the sketch for the Amazone:


 Add a Steampunk topper and my hunting whip, and sorted!


and without the jacket, with just the corset, worn on my old salsa top ( !)


 I also wore lovely earrings from The Navigatrix🙂


My stead was a hunter, Charlie. Charlie was one of of those horses who do not care much about anything unless they are ridden. so for the static shoots, he was half comatose, happily dozing away.  Things changed once I climbed on board and soon Charlie was cantering around the school.



 alas, the Steampunk topper, unlike my proper one, did not sit tight enough and was blown off shortly after… still, we did have a good run!


looking awake and happy. As is Charlie!

3. Africa ( and Middle East): The Neobedouin.

One of my favourite characters – I spent some time with the Egiptian Bedouins, crossing the White dessert, Black Dessert, and the Great Sand Sea, before staying in  Siwa, a Bedouin oasis ( and going for some sand surfing…). they were great folk, polite, with great sense of humour – and completely bonkers mad, especially when driving was involved. Great people. Not surprisingly, I have already  used the character in my previous collection – this one just needed  a slightly different look.

the sketch:


and the realization:


Amy was modelling thins one – and the outfit consisted of loose linen pants, original gallabiya in silk/linen -brought from Egypt a few years ago, adapted for riding. The underbust corset in sateen was decorated with leather strips, gold braid and  quite a lot of Egyptian coins… Headdress – lots of scarf ( including my Nubian one from Aswan), braid and a silk mask, based on the original mask Bedouin women wear. the hip chain and amber bracelet were provided by The Navigatrix, the gun by RP Outfitters.


The mount was a spectacular Spanish Stallion, Almonzor.  A truly magnificent beast, very well schooled – and looking quite dashing in the Scythian tack…


 here Almonzor just showing off…


 Amy also brought her young kestrel, Shira 🙂


4. Asia: Mulan? ( again, still looking for a better name..).

 Here I again combined things i love – I adore Chinese and step people clothing – and have bee fascinated with them since my tender teenage years – I have been training kung fu since i was 16, and i am now learning Mandarin. putting the martial arts, costume and equestrian ideas together was just fun.

The design:


and its rendition:


with Shira!

The outfit had several layers – loose silky pants, silk kaftan, leather corset and matching collar here – but there are also separate sleeves that hook up to the collar, and another kaftan, in metallic cloth, with a belt.


As for the mounts, we first selected another gorgeous stallion


 He wasn’t particularly impressed with having to work on his day off, and standing still was just not cutting it.  He playfully headbutted me, then kicked the owner, Ben and legged it, seeking greener pastures.



 After a few rounds around the paddock, he consented to being caught and Ben rode him a bit – perfectly fine. still, for safety sake,we decided to get a bit more sedate mount for the shoot, and so Seamus was brought in to stand  by for Mulan’s ride. and he was perfect:-)



we did a few charges on him too – alas, i forgot that we were shooting a fierce warrior so I was smiling a lot – not best for the shoot:-(



a tad better, but you can still see the smirk.. 🙂

and there it is – 4 amazones, the next 3 are in Part 2 – here


photography – believe it or not, my husband ( after a  course with MOckford Photography)

Horses and Location: Atkinson Action Horses

Kestrel: Feathers and Flight

Clothes – me- So Prior Attire and our Steampunk branch, Off The Rails

jewellery, as indicated earlier – The Navigatrix

Steampunk guns: RP OUtfitters

models, Izabela PItcher and Amy Wallace

Many, many thanks to Ben and Fran from Atkinson Action Horses –  you were a great help- providing professional and friendly advice and service – the horses were turned out spotlessly ( i thought  me and Amy would be doing the horses ourselves, so that was a huge bonus – we had more time to make ourselves look pretty! ), and they were stunning and well behaved, including the young naughty boy  🙂

Huge thanks to Amy to not only agreeing to the wild idea, but also arranging the shoot, modelling and bringing her kestrel – you both looked superb!

thanks to Sarah from SDWD, who did a make up and hair trial with me!


one eye for Mulan, one for Neobedouin…

and kudos to Lucas Pitcher who took the pictures and edited them so promptly!

jut to finish it off:, a few behind the scenes shoots… 🙂


getting ready


grace, poise and dignity – yep, that’s me…


whooa! my hat’s falling off! 🙂


Shira, like every girl, was interested in make up. a lot.


She took a strange liking to Lucas and sat on him a lot. Shat on him a lot too…Image


Ben showing us how it is done – mark his broken foot…


naughty boy about to headbutt me, bless the young beastie!


look, no hands!!! 🙂

well, that is it for now – the part 2 soon – after that the collection will be shown at the Fashion show at the Steampunk Asylum in Lincoln – and then some outfits will be put on sale:-)

Some Fun on the Side


Or, in other words, some of my side saddle adventures:-)

I have been riding since I was 8 –  and although I did some show jumping and cross country work in my teenage years, I was always more interested in doing things a bit differently – loved hacking and covering distance – going on  long trails was always welcome!  In the Uk, I spent a few years riding for a cavalry regiment for the English Civil War Society –  swashing my sword and firing carabines from horseback was by far much more interesting!


at the battle

I have tried some horseback archery and Roman riding with a group Comitatus – great fun!


doesnt show, but have just thrown a plumbata at a poor bloke with a big shield…

Nowadays I mostly hunt in Devon and Somerset, riding lovely thoroughbred horses blessed with amazing stamina – going up and down those hills there for 6-7 hours sometimes is by no means a mean feat!


at the meet – immaculately turned out and clean. 7 hours later, at the end of the day – not so much…

But I have always wanted to give a side saddle a go – to canter through the fields as a real lady would, all style and elegance. Well,  in the recent years SS seems to have been enjoying a come back – and so an opportunity arose one winter, a few years ago, when I was introduced to Michelle who hunts sidesaddle on Exmoor.


Michelle on her Joseph, all elegance – and me on Zeberdee, warmly wrapped up agains one of the coldest winds ever – more of a wild west hussy than a lady…!

The first lesson went well, and I rode a few times under Michelle’s tutelage – but alas, it turned out to be pure torture! my right knee was in agony after about 20 minutes. and so I thought that my wonky knees were not really designed for side saddle.  I didnt know much about it then and it wasnt till I met Becca Holland, currely working at Audley End House, who suggested that maybe the saddle was just too short for me.  Michelle is petite – me – not so much!


the first time…

Spirits were raised and i was determined to give it another go. As i just got engaged at that time, i wanted to ride side saddle after the ceremony – so I also had another excuse to learn the skill!

The first lesson was a success – the saddle was bigger and I was really comfortable in it – no knee problems! The mount, lovely, grumpy Henry, was gentle and understanding, and Becca is simply a superb teacher…


still a bit insecure…

I also discovered that turning to your left can end up badly – my first fall was even captured on the camera ( almost, before hubby turned it off and rushed to rescue – unnecessarily asmy bowler hat was made of sturdy stuff an survived the impact… )video here .

but after a few more tips, I was much more confident and the canter/trot transitions were coming along nicely  


yupee! cantering on a very sleepy Henry, it seems…

After that lesson weather worsened and all I was able to do is to plod around on the frozen grounds, modeling my growing collection of habits.

Here at a show and tell event,  sporting a 1785 riding habit in wool – double wool vest , wool skirt and jackets meant I was not frozen!


out in style… with becca keeping an eye over me:-)


Audley End in its wintery glory


and a view of the habit, getting ready in the stables:-)

  And another one,  this time 1910 habit…


wool habit and lovely Jack at the ready


close up of the habit

But then the spring came and we started training more – and after a few more lessons, and no more falls, I was allowed to go outside and play in a bigger field.

Soon it was time to try something else – jumping! and to make sure I do it properly i was asked to do it without a bridle…video of the first very awkward jump here



As my jumping progressed, we started to add toys – at one lesson i did a lot of jumping and throwing speers at boars – at another i was piercing balloons with a sabre – endless fun!


our toys…

In the end, i was able to do Becca’s favourite trick – jumping over a table and snatchign a glass of champagne  while flying over – here is my practice run!



We also included a dress rehearsal before my wedding – just making sure if the Victorian undergarments worked. they did – though I must say we naver had so much audience as when doing the dress rehearsal training!



and a bit more ladylike trot around…

Alas for my wedding henry had an injured tendon, so I was using one of the hunters – poor boy had a saddle only once before, but luckily it fitted, and  despite the owner’s fretting we were able to canter away just after the ceremony! vids here and here


cantering away, with my new husband!

Since then another habit was made… this time 1885, in blue wool, with elaborate frogging


a new habit and a new boy – Jimmy!

We have also had the pleasure to witness the first side saddle point to point since 1921 –  a few piccies here…


Becca flying over the fences on a borrowed pony


the winner, Susan Oakes and Lizzie Harris – not competetive at all… 🙂

This spring i hope to continue the training so that next season I am able to do some hunting  aside – fingers crossed.

in the meantime, have a look at Beccas Video: How to ride Sidesaddle like a Victorian Lady

or visit the blog of  the Flying foxes –


following huge interest in the habits: they are made by me! check or our facebook page🙂



there are also articles how to make them available on amazon:

the 18th century one

the 1810 one..

and the most asked for, the blue , 1885 habit


04/2014 update – a few more  habits and ss adventures happened:-)

a nice training session at Thurleigh Equestrian Centre, sporting my blue habit…





and a Steampunk shoot too  ( from the Steampunk Amazones Collection)




 Then a green habit for a customer – love the colour choice here! 🙂

Devon Riding Habit-1 Devon Riding Habit-9

and the newest, 1860(ish) habit – a stock item the shop:-)

1860s Riding Habit-1 1860s Riding Habit-5 1860s Riding Habit-13

Sankt Wendel Tournament: the commision and the event


 Last year I  was commissioned to prepare several outfits for The Grand Tournament of St.Wendel. As I am now working on a similar order ( 4 Tudor coats for Griffin Historical ), my mind inevitably wandered back to the previous commission –  it was simply so much fun to research the garments, make them, and then see them in action at the tournament.

 The garments in question, 12 early 16th century coats ( Rock, or wappenrock ), plus two Durer gowns, were commissioned by a friend of mine, Arne Koets – an excellent jouster currently working for a Buckebrug museum.


Christina in her new silk gown

  Almost all the garments were to be ready in September, delivered in person. the exception was a separatelly commissioned late 15th century robe and a dress based on Durer ‘s Nuremburg dress; both items were sent  over in June. 

 The rest of the garments were made in the few weeks leading to the tournament, and were a joy to make. I was given a relatively free rein within the set parameters, at least as far as the finish and decoration went. ‘The more varied the better’ was Arne’s look on the matter and so I set about making 12 garments, in different colours, sizes, with different finish – with velvet ribbons, without ribbons, with simple slashing, no slashing or a more complex slashing pattern. Posting  the finished garments on my FB page meant I could adapt the design as I was going, since it was easy for Arne to see the work on daily basis and to give immediate feedback.


my hubby posing in one of the freshly finished rocks…


 All the coats were fastened using brass hooks and eyes, plus linen tape ( dyed using natural pigments) with aiglets – both purchased from Annie the Peddlar.


points at the ready!

Apart from the coats, the order included headdresses – and again, i was free to decide what kind and make sure they were varied enough.


berets, hats, caps – you name it, all with ribbons or/and feathers

 I finished it all in good time – in fact, I even managed to get myself a suitably german headdress, to mix with the crowd….


at the event, sporting my new German hat!

All the gear was packed into the car and off we went, driving to Sankt Wendel, in South Germany –  just off the Black Forest, so a beautiful place. We arrived Thursday night, in  time to try on the other Durer gown, just in case we needed any adjustments – the two gowns plus the coat for Arne’s were not generically sized, but made to measure, with distant toiles. Fortunatelly, the gown fitted perfectly!


trying the dress on…


Then it was time for sleep – much needed after such a long drive!

The next day  marked the beginning of the tournament. After the morning briefing, detailing everybody’s roles, timing, performances etc, folks went about their business. The site  consisted of a recreated early 16th century encampment and the display arena and there was a lot of work involved in getting all the equippment ready.


Dominic, a jouster from England putting his steed through his paces in the arena

 Since the event was starting at about noon, there was time to try on different outfits and see which coats matched who, and there were some who found some time to give the horses a warming up exercise session:-).

  Then it was time for everybody to get ready for the first display of the day – a hunting party, flying birds of prey.

  Folks got dressed up, mounted up,  hawks and horses ready and  the public waiting. the weather wasnt fantastic, but nothing to worry about –  indeed the slight drizzle didnt iven have any impact on my silk velvet gown ( luckily!)


getting ready…

The ladies, sitting in early side saddles, opened the parade, both looking splendind in their new gowns ( no false modesty here!;-)  )


the ladies mounted and ready to go hunting

 Then  the  menfolk followed – first the mounted knights…


Joram and Dom


And then the foot followers…


Griff with a bird!


and guys with the hounds


We watched the show together with hundreds of spectators, who didn’t seem to mind the drizzle too much. Once it was over, it was time to get ready for the more exciting show later on – proper jousting. Alas,Lucas and I had different business to attend to so after the first show we said our goodbyes and left for Poland – another very long drive…

 Still, the event was a great success, you can see the official video from the tournament here! : 

 The video contains footage from the event itself, as well as the interviews with the participants, the research information on the tack, weapons, saddles etc and lots more:-)

And more photos of the costumes here:


Arne looking resplendant in his new gear