Women from 1850 (this time with riding habit)

Victorian fashion plate

(Click on the picture for larger version.)

Date: 1850
Originally published in: Le Moniteur de la mode
Description: These two women actually manage to look rather natural in this scene - it is not a case of a morning dress and an evening dress sharing a bench in a garden (the arrangement of the models shown on these fashion plates does not always have much to do with logic), but two women dressed to be outdoors, in the daytime - which is exactly where they are.

The woman to the left, the one in the light blue dress, shows an ordinary dress - though with more trimmings than were always common even on fashion plates. She has the typical wide dress for the time around 1850, the slim waist and the sloping shoulders which were an ideal back then. The sleeves are long and indicate that this is a dress meant to be worn in the day time, or less formally (if you had the money you were expected to change for dinner - and if you could afford this dress, you had that kind of money! But as I have pointed out before, these prints were inspiration for people with less means too, they just did not make them quite as fancy but a liking for fashion among not just the richest is not a phenomenon new to our time).

The dress, or skirt and jacket to be more precise, to the right shares the same silhouette on the upper part of the woman's body, but the skirt is not as wide. This is a riding habit and meant to be at least a little bit practical (in reality it still meant that women couldn't sit in a normal saddle on a horse but had to have a ladies version where they could have both legs on the same side of the horse's back). A riding habit was of course really a garment only meant for the rich and idle who could keep riding horses - horses were common back in the good old days, but that does not mean everyone kept one, least of all for riding - which could explain the light, rather impractical colour of the skirt which ought to require washing up after just one outing, suggesting a lot of servants who could take care of that. More often riding habits were made of darker materials which could take at least some dirt.