Jun 2010

Neo-Victorian Project: Ladies Aside I

   Posted by Atra Materia in Neo-Victorian

(Click to embiggen!)

Another entry for the Dixie Stables summer costume contests.

‘Neo-Victorian’ generally refers to incorporating Victorian aesthetic in the modern world, and this project gets filed there because it’s not quite steampunk and it’s definitely not historically-accurate, but it is one of my favourites so far!

Originally, I’d asked my trainer if she thought I might be able to get away with perching on one of our calmer horses sideways, bareback, so I could do a Victorian costume, and while she didn’t think it would be safe enough even on the most bombproof horse we have, she did bring up the possibility that she might be able to borrow a sidesaddle for me. And not just any sidesaddle – an actual antique Victorian-era sidesaddle! Obviously I wasn’t going to pass that up.

The outfit is once again constructed from bargain-table fabrics. The shirt is a lightweight broadcloth, and the skirt is fairly thick, with lots of drape. Since I didn’t have access to a historically accurate pattern – and I didn’t want to die under the Georgia summer sun – I picked my shirt pattern based on the collar but left off the sleeves. The armscyes are bound with bias tape to add contrast and prevent fraying, since that seemed easier than trying to fold them over for seaming. The skirt is simply trapezoidal panels stitched together and gathered into a waistband. Riding skirts from the late Victorian and Edwardian eras were constructed with a front closure that would give way if the rider fell (earlier skirts could be caught on the saddle horns and cause a rider to be dragged), but as I was running out of time, mine has simply been left open along the front seam and pinned at the waist. I didn’t realize until after I’d mounted that I should have wrapped it in the other direction, and by then, of course, it was too late.

The hat is a wide-brimmed derby worn by modern saddleseat riders. I got it from a lady who’d decided it didn’t mesh well enough with current show ring fashion and just wanted to see it go to a good home. It’s a little too big, which I compensated for by stuffing the inner brim with paper towels. As with the previous medieval costumes, my own hair has been pinned up and accented with dollar-store extensions that were set into curls with boiling water. They turned to frizz when I attempted to finger-comb them for more volume, and the overall effect wasn’t what I’d hoped, but c’est la vie.

The saddle is the real star, and I wish I’d gotten more pictures of it on its own. Because sidesaddle is now a niche riding style, modern sidesaddles aren’t always constructed as well as saddles from earlier periods, and tend to be fairly unattractive to boot. I don’t know the exact age of Emily’s, but it’s likely to come from later in the era, as it has the secondary horn known as the ‘leaping head’ that makes it safer to ride in (particularly if the rider is jumping). The horns, seat, and a portion of the near flap are lined with a soft material I couldn’t identify. It’s absolutely beautiful, and in excellent condition, too. I’ve always heard that a proper sidesaddle is no less comfortable or secure than a regular saddle, and I can confirm that myself now, as I had no difficulty whatsoever adjusting to it (though it was only a brief ride, and no faster than a walk).

This time around, my faithful steed is Golden Avalanche (‘Winston’), and yes, he’s an American Saddlebred! He’s an older horse as well, though I can’t remember if anyone’s mentioned his exact age. At one time, he was a show horse who placed at an A-Circuit show, but somehow, he ended up pulling an Amish buggy for years. Fortunately, he found his way to Saddlebred Rescue once he was no longer able to do that, and they sent him on to us!

The full photoshoot, including colour variations and pictures from around the barn, is available here.

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