How Should a Lady Dress?

‘I should be guilty of a grave sin of omission if I did not in this chapter make some allusion to the difference in female hunting costume between the beginning and the end of the century. The long skirt is now only familiar to us through the drawings of Mr. John Leech. The marvel to us is that our forefathers allowed ladies to wear such a dangerous garment, which gave the wearer no chance of extricating herself if she met with an accident. A lady might just as well go for a country walk in a drawing-room dress, with long train and feathers, as attempt to ride to hounds in the skirts which Mr. Leech has depicted. But though the long skirt was discarded before 1850, it is hardly five years since the apron usurped the place of a skirt in a riding habit, in spite of the fact that for many years experts had declared in favour of some such garment as the present apron. Not only was the skirt liable to catch in the pommel of the saddle, causing the wearer to be dragged in the event of a fall, but its continuous flapping was liable to irritate a horse. Many were the remedies suggested and patented before the apron was adopted. At first the scantiness of the apron was objected to, and if Mrs. Grundy could have had her way, the garment would never have been seen in the hunting-field. Fortunately, Grundyism, or false modesty, has been at a discount for many years. Even Lady Florence Dixie’s proposal that ladies should hunt in rational costume was abandoned chiefly because it was demonstrated that a lady riding like a man could have no grip on a horse. When this had been demonstrated the proposal was regarded as a crank and relegated to oblivion. But it will be remembered that at the time it had many advocates, who wished to assert by outward and visible signs the independence of the sex in the same way as certain lady cyclists are doing at the present day.’

A Century of English Foxhunting, 1900, By George F Underhill


Didn’t know what was about to hit him, did he? Here’s one of the John Leech drawings from Punch, and another, although neither are the one I’m thinking of, which showed a lady having a wardrobe malfunction in the hunting field.

Published by Susanna Forrest

Writer Amazons of Paris, The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses.

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