Dappled Grey is proud to feature this post by guest contributor Sara Griot, Designer/CEO, O’Shaughnessey Apparel.
I am often asked: “Who designed the first hunt coat?” or “What is the origin of riding jackets?” The short answer is nobody knows… for sure.
What we do know is that the coats worn in the hunter/jumper discipline evolved from the jackets worn by fox hunters. We also can be fairly certain that hunt coats were born in England in the very late 1600’s and worn regularly from the early 1700’s.
From Fantasy to Simplicity
Fashion in the period 1750–1795 in European and European-influenced countries reached heights of fantasy and abundant ornamentation, especially among the aristocracy of France. But a long-simmering movement toward simplicity and democratization of dress under the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the American Revolution led to an entirely new mode and the triumph of British tailoring following the French Revolution.
By 1790, fashions began to be simplified, influenced by Englishwomen’s country outdoor wear and neo-classicism. By 1795, the traditional riding habit consisted of a tailored jacket like a man’s coat, worn with a high-necked shirt, a waistcoat, a petticoat, and a hat. Frequently the jacket and a false waistcoat-front were made as a single garment, and later in the period a simpler riding jacket and petticoat (without waistcoat) could be worn.
Another alternative to the traditional habit was a coat-dress called a joseph or riding coat- thus “redingote” (French pronunciation of the English: “riding coat”), usually of unadorned or simply trimmed woolen fabric, with full-length, tight sleeves and a broad collar with lapels or revers. The redingote was later worn as an overcoat with the lightweight chemise dress.
Coats were generally made by tailors (rather than seamstresses who made women’s dresses), and thus were constructed like men’s wear. There were a variety of sleeve treatments, including cuffs, flared end, and mariniere sleeves. Pockets could be functional or false. Early styles had simple or no collar, while later deep revers and high collars were popular. Waistcoats could either be separate garments or a false front sewn into the jacket.
Coats of Many Colors
A wide range of colors was visible. If the coat was intended primarily for riding or hunting, it was often red, navy, or green. Coats meant more for fashionable wear could also be in other colors- blue, brown, beige, yellow, and even white were popular. Fabrics were usually wool or a wool/silk blends.
Riding coats were long worn as functional dress, but in the second half of the 18th century, they became fashionable attire as well. In addition to riding and hunting, they were worn for traveling, walking, visiting, and at home wear.
Modern Riding Coat Style
So how does this show up in modern equestrian style? Traditionally, the hunt seat rider dresses conservatively. Classic attire for hunter classes consists of beige, tan or gray breeches, a white or light pastel shirt, and a black, navy, gray, “hunter” green or dark brown hunt coat.
In recent years, patterns such as pinstripes, faint plaids or herringbone that appear solid from a distance, are growing in popularity. In some places, particularly breed-specific shows where tradition is not as steeped, different colors of jackets and shirts are often seen.
Here at O’Shaughnessey we strive to honor traditions yet introduce an element of whimsy in our designs and choice of linings and ornamentation. One essential element of the traditional hunt coat that hasn’t changed in some 300 years: quality wool- a durable, comfortable fabric. While lesser-cost wools are available from Asia, we use only lightweight Portuguese and Italian wools that have the texture and structure critical to a lasting look.
As a look back through history indicates, the riding jacket- and the lifestyle of the equestrian – have clearly evolved, but retains a core look and style that still resembles its ancestors.
Born and raised in California, Sara Griot learned to sew when she was 9. She pursued design as a career after an art and design degree, and soon created her own clothing under the label “Sara McNamara”. Her line was sold in numerous boutiques across the country as well as in department stores such as Nordstrom, Saks, Garfinckel’s and Macy’s. Her clothing was featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Women’s Wear.
Sara has returned to the design world making hunt coats and show shirts focusing beautiful fabrics and trims. Her designs combine function and fit with a splash of stylish detail, all designed with the competitive equestrian in mind.
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