On Your Horse!

Riding Habit, 1916

The horse was essential to life at the end of the 19th century, with riding considered an acceptable form of exercise for females and a necessity for country women who wanted to independently visit family and friends on nearby properties. For those of a certain status, an elegant, well-tailored, and durable riding habit was considered essential, along with the costs associated with owning a horse, a side-saddle, and stables.

This riding habit belonged to Alice Gibson, nee Broomfield, and was worn in the late 1800s on her family property, Lower Bow Hill, at Dollys Flat near Wingham, and possibly on her husband’s property, Inglewood, at Wherrol Flat. Alice would have worn this outfit while riding to church, visiting family and friends, and for leisurely rides on the property. The Broomfield family held a prominent position in the local farming community.

The garment showcases excellent tailoring skills and a solid understanding of design, particularly with the complex skirt required for riding side-saddle. Sidesaddle riding is a form of equestrianism that allows female riders to sit aside rather than astride a horse. This style of riding dates back to antiquity and developed in European countries during the Middle Ages as a way for women in skirts to ride horses in a modest manner while wearing fine clothing. While in the 20th century it became socially acceptable for women to ride astride while wearing split skirts and eventually breeches, sidesaddle riding still holds a place in certain traditional and ceremonial contexts.


Who wore the riding habit?

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