Monday, August 1, 2016

Victorian Sleighs and Essentials

   Sleighing Essentials
Thick snow made traveling in a sleigh a smoother ride than traveling in a wagon. But most sleighs were not covered, so the ride could be very cold. People kept warm by covering themselves with fur blankets and with heavy coverlets called “lap robes.” Lap robes (which were designed to cover a rider’s legs, lap, and feet) came in many kinds of designs and could be surprisingly bright and colorful. They often featured pictures of flowers, horses, dogs, or other sporting scenes. 
People also used foot warmers to keep warm in a sleigh or carriage. These were metal boxes that were filled with hot coals and placed on the floor inside the vehicle. 

Sleigh bells were fastened to horses to signal the approach of someone important (the affluent ornamentally wore bells as a symbol of wealth and status) or to warn pedestrians of an approaching vehicle. Sleighs were unable to stop quickly enough so they needed a warning sound.  To the right are shaft bells.  Below, are another type of bells.
Other essentials include:
Fur muff - below left
Plumes - below right 
Above, an all-original and fully restored Grand Victoria Sleigh or Hudson Valley Sleigh by Brewster & Co. of New York City. Built around 1890, this sleigh seats a driver plus one on the driver’s seat and can carry up to four passengers. Drawn by a team of four horses.
Above, an all-original and fully restored Albany Cutter by Brewster & Co. of New Youk City. Built around 1890, it seats a driver plus one on the driver’s seat and can carry up to two passengers or grooms. Drawn by a team of two horses.
Above, an all-original and fully restored Portland bobsled. Built around 1890, it seats a driver plus one on the driver’s seat and can carry up to two passengers or grooms. Drawn by a team of two or four horses.
Clothing for Sleighs

Bundling up in layers of wool, fur, cotton and linen was the first line of defense. The following passage of people entering an inn describes how they removed their outerwear when traveling:
Passengers were busy taking off coats – one, two and three in succession. Those were the days of bona fide great coats. Nowadays, they have become lessened and merely overcoats. Chins appeared out of their many wrappages of silk, and fur caps are bundled into pockets.
People wore layered clothing made of wool, flannel, or fur. Typical winter outerwear included hooded capes, great coats, scarves, cloaks, shawls, scarves, muffs, gloves, mittens, thick socks, stockings, long wraps, caps, hats, and ear muffs.
Sitting in open sleighs, carts, and carriages, people would tuck comforters, quilts, or blankets around the, and bring umbrellas to protect them from freezing rain. Fur sets and fur trimming made of beaver, fox, bear, and marten were common. Seal skin cots prevented wind and rain from penetrating to the skin, and swans down muffs kept delicate hands warm and protected. A foot warmer heated with coal would complete the traveling ensemble.

Above is a Rein Rail.
My Sleighs
Modern times with an antique Portland Cutter, pulled by Barney, (an Appaloosa), and driven by Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society’s Priscilla Rose.

An antique Portland Cutter, pulled by Barney, (an Appaloosa), and driven by Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society’s Priscilla Rose, with Misty Rose as her passenger. A custom frame with wheels was made so that the sleigh could be pulled when there was no snow.

View from the sleigh…it glides silently in the freshly fallen snow.

This Portland Cutter style pony sleigh has wheels attached to the runners so it can be in parades with the Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society. Zak is pulling it while Priscilla Rose is driving it.

 Submitted by Priscilla Rose

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

19th Century Riding Habits

Here are some examples of riding habits throughout the 1800s.   The year 1837 marked the beginning of the Victorian era, which ended in 1901.


1820s Silk Habit Philadelphia Museum of Art

 This fashion plate (right) shows an early 19th Century habit from 1816. They were frequently made in wools of a darker color.  The habits had influences from masculine garments and military uniforms. She wears a delicate white cravat. New York Public Library's photo collection.

Riding pants were worn by women under their habit skirts as early as the 1830s. These trousers were crafted long and covered the legs completely.
1829-30 habit  Museum of London

Riding spencer circa 1835 From LACMA

An extremely rare brown wool `Amazone' or riding habit, circa 1835-8, the one-piece gown with triple row of satin covered buttons to the bodice, broad collar, the sleeves with pleated mancherons, elongated skirt for riding side-saddle, lined in brown cotton


Below left, Fashion plate January, 1849  Godey's Lady's Book Riding dress for the country.— "Leghorn hat, with a rolled brim, the dress a full skirt of pale drab-colored cashmere, fastened up the front by a close row of very small silk buttons of the same color. A “Jack Sheppard” waist (see Lady's Book for November) of nankeen, with a rich white linen braid embroidery on the front and sleeves. The short skirt, or basque, is trimmed in the same way as the waist, and hued with pale blue Florence silk. Plain linen collar and cuffs, and a blue ribbon neck tie. Gloves as near as possible the shade of the waist."   


Above right, the green habit from the early 1940s has gigot sleeves. As the 40s progressed, habits became more tailored. "The skirts were generally a third longer than a normal hem length, to provide a long drape. Sewn into the front was a loop for a lady to slip around her boot by the outside stirrup, keeping the skirt from flying up. Sometimes near the trailing edge of the skirt was another loop to wear around the wrist or onto a button after dismounting, to ease walking with all the voluminous material. If there wasn’t a carrying loop the ladies would gather the skirt and hold it over an arm. The skirt could trail after getting to relatively clean pavement, cobblestones, &c. Skirts usually had at least one hidden pocket sewn in for a handkerchief" Source


Below left, 1858-59.  Mary Toogood wears a fitted bodice instead of a jacket with a long basque and peplum. Although she does not wear a hoop under her skirt for the photographer, it does look like she is wearing a small bustle to support the peplum of her bodice. source

Right, 1858-59.  "One can clearly see her long fitted button down bodice with it's long skirt like basque. The way her skirt drapes is also visible. It is shorter on the right side and trains to the left so that when mounted, there would be slightly less bulk under the right leg yet still allowing for the long skirt to hang right down on the left side. If the rider rode on an off-side saddle, the habit's skirt would be cut to train on the right side."   see source above


Left, Miss C. Weston from Brady-Handy Collection  At least one skirt elevator visible, between her hands; other places, the skirt seems to be looped up/tied inside.    Right, 1868. You can see her petticoat underneath.

"The best dressed Victorian horsewoman often did without her petticoats when riding and wore nothing more than a flannel chemise with long colored sleeves under her trousers. Ladies’ trousers were of the same material and color as the riding habit. The trousers were sometimes full and flowing “like a Turk’s” and fastened with an elastic band round the ankle, indistinguishable from the skirt. In this riding costume, which was made amply warm by the folds of the trousers plaited like a Highlander’s kilt and fastened with an elastic band at the waist, the Victorian lady could sit down in a manner impossible for one encumbered by two or three short petticoats. Nevertheless, some ladies preferred a quilted petticoat that was not too full. It was lined with silk or glazed muslin." source

Right, “Emma Cochran June 1863": Full-length portrait of a woman identified as Emma Cochran from Ball & Thomas’ Photographic Art Gallery, 120 West Fourth Street, near Race, Cincinnati, O. LC-DIG-ppmsca-10948


Right, "The first “safety skirt” was invented in 1875, which buttoned along the seams to help stop accidents where women were dragged by their horses, and sometimes crushed beneath a rolling mount, during a tumble. This safety skirt later morphed into an apron skirt, which was worn buttoned around the waist, just covering the legs (which were encased in breeches)." Source

Above and below, 1875 green wool habit from the Met Museum.  Detail of draping, hidden under the back of the jacket


Right, military inspired habit with bowler type hat.
Following the fashion trends of the 1880s, riding habits were very form fitting.

"Fashionable women wore dark woollen tailored jackets inspired by men's coats. By the 1880s their dress was so similar that some observers noted that from a distance it was difficult to distinguish very young ladies from young gentlemen. This was no doubt helped by the fashion for wearing bowlers, top hats, cravats, waistcoats and trousers under skirts.  Many women's jackets were embellished with details borrowed from military uniform. Braiding was a popular form of decoration inspired by ornamentation on regimental dress as well as the flamboyant hussar designs. This elegant example is based on the regimental patrol jacket characterized by parallel rows of applied braid across the breast, looped at intervals into designs known as 'crow's feet' because of their distinctive shape."  Source



In 1885, snap fasteners were invented, and shortly after that a new version of the safety skirt for riding was made that would tear open along the line of snaps if a lady fell.

                                                                                                                    Christy's Auctions
The Metropolitan 1890s Riding Habits

Photo from Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas. 
"Equestrienne in bowler hat, stylish gauntlets, and with horsehair quirt, stands beside her horse, which has a horsehair bridle and cowgirl-style, double-rigged, heavily carved sidesaddle" late1890s.   
  Above- riding habits from 1895, 1898, and 1900. Bowler hats had become acceptable. The photo is interesting as it shows the woman’s trousers and boots.  Source

Just Because....Side Saddle Ostrich Races!

Submitted by Shenandoah Rose.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Our Journey to the Tournament of Roses Parade

WELCOME to the Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society’s first official blog! We are a 501c3 re-enactment organization in San Diego, CA that incorporated in 2008. Our mission is to keep history alive and to raise money for horse rescue. Our members are all well versed in period-correctness and we all design and create our own Victorian Era dresses. We make several appearances a year in parades, performances, fundraisers and events in Southern California.

THE TOURNAMENT OF ROSES PARADE is one of our largest goals each year. We have been blessed to be able to ride in it four times since our group founded and each spring we start the monumental task of sending in our application.

The Rose Parade (RP) does not guarantee a spot for any group without an application and they like to shuffle around groups to keep the parade fresh. That said, there are several equestrian groups who regularly appear each year. Budweiser, Wells Fargo, Scripps, Valley Hunt Club (who started the parade back in 1890) and others are staples of the parade. That only leaves about 10 spots for “other” groups.

The application process is daunting but only because the parade is impeccably organized. As we write this, our RP team of graphic designers, editors, layout artists and photographers have just finished our pages and they are getting professionally printed. There will be 82 pages to pick up this year!

We thought it might be fun to shed some light on the RP application process and how WE do it, because we don’t do anything small! We add a lot of thought to the details and we hope that has attributed to the fact that we keep getting asked to return.
EARLY IN THE YEAR the new theme will be announced on the RP website. We then schedule our first committee meeting to discuss how we fit in the theme, who all is participating, we select our group marshal and decide who will be assigned to do what part of the “book” (as we call the 70+ page application).

The RP requires an application and a photo of each applicant EXACTLY how they will be appearing in the parade. Our group makes new dresses every year specifically for the parade. While this is not a requirement by the RP, we like to keep our look fresh in the application. We have deadlines in April for when the new costume must be completed and then we schedule photo shoots. When our group was new, we hired a professional photographer for the photo shoots. Today we are lucky to have talented photographers in our group that offer their services. Not only are individual photos required, so is a video.

The 2017 RP theme is “Echoes of Success”. It is highlighting people that help others. We decided that we are a good candidate for this theme due to our dedication to community service. So, highlighting what we do became one of the “chapters” of our “book”.

AROUND MARCH the actual equestrian application becomes available online. This year our group has 22 applicants: 4 outwalkers (which are ground, support crew that will be walking the parade), 2 carriage drivers, 5 carriage passengers and 11 riders. It is our largest group yet. One of our RP Committee team-members is in charge of collecting the applications and keeping track of all of the alternate and support staff. The support staff for our group is just as large as the applicants. We will have grooms, our own vet, vehicle drivers (required), decorators… all names and contact info will have to go into the application. Usually some of the support staff is made up of spouses. Each truck & trailer that is brought into staging will be required to leave as soon as our group departs for the parade and the vehicles are driven to the end of the parade route to pick us up. Having a support staff is imperative and we literally could not do the parade without their help! This set of applications with coordinating photos becomes another “chapter” in our “book”.
A PERFORMANCE at Equestfest is part of the package deal for riding in the RP. In our early years, our group was strictly a parade group and the thought of a performance in front of a few thousand people in a gynormous indoor arena pretty much terrified us. Thanks to this requirement, our group has branched out into performances and now we are a much more well rounded group. Photos and video of previous performances is not specifically a requirement for the application, but it significantly helps. The RP does ask for a written description of the planned routine as well as a script. Performances is yet another chapter that we include.

PARADE EXPERIENCE is also a requirement. The application asks for a list of parades that the group has done over the last two years. Any awards won should also be included. The parade script is put into this chapter as well as several pages of photos of our group in parades.

THE PORTAL is the last chapter in our book. After all applications and support staff info is collected and when the book is nearing completion, it’s time to input all data into the RP Portal. Much of what is in the application will be entered online using a special link that the RP website provides. The process of entering data can easily take a couple of hours and once completed, the pages will need to be printed and added to the book.

THE BOOK ITSELF is only required to be put into a three-ring binder. But why stop there? Our group has always put a little extra effort into the presentation. Our book takes on a three-dimensional shape that reflects the theme of the parade. In 2009, the theme was Hats Off to Entertainment, so the cover to our binder was an actual Victorian hat and the whole thing was nestled in a hatbox. We were accepted that year! In 2011, the theme was a Cut Above the Rest. Our book was the bottom of a real sewing box with scissors and thread on the cover. The sewing box had our name embroidered on the top.

We were accepted that year as well. Each year we wrack our brains for what the actual book will look like. This year, with Echoes of Success, our book is a trophy with roses in the cup on top. It’s gotten to the point that the RP calls US each year and asks us to apply. They look forward to the book and it is usually displayed for a year in the Wrigley Mansion, which is RP headquarters. Sadly, once the application is sent off, it isn’t returned so we rarely see our work again.
The whole kit and caboodle is due around the end of May or beginning of June. Sometimes we mail the application and sometimes we drive it to the mansion. Living only 2.5 hours away is a bonus! Sometime in August we will hear an answer to the application. If it’s a YES, then the work really begins! A ton more info including insurance and vehicle lengths/plate numbers will need to get turned in; We will start rehearsals for Equestfest; Our marshal is required to attend a fall meeting at the mansion; We have fundraisers to help cover the cost; We will need to make horse & human reservations in LA and gather all of our stall d├ęcor and handouts…. It’s endless. But it’s worth it when we round the corner of Orange and Colorado Blvd and enter the “coliseum”. The bleachers and media towers are so high that it gives the feel of a stadium. Everyone is perfectly orchestrated and the overwhelming feeling of “America’s Parade” is sheer love and excitement and it is the reason we keep applying.

For more info about the Rose Parade, wikipedia has a pretty good description. We are even mentioned on it!

Margarita Rose
Co-Founder and Co-President