By the time that Loretta's lady in the red habit was riding along Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg in 1770, the fashion for military-inspired habits for women was firmly established, and continued well into the 20th century.
But in the 1660s, it was a cutting-edge style, and a controversial one, too. Inspired by Louis XIV's taste for almost non-stop warfare, the fashion came from Paris (of course), and was quickly adopted by young English ladies as well. (That's the oh-so-trendy Duchesse de Bourgogne, left, in 1704, painted by Pierre Gobert in her habit de chasse.) Tailored to fit as snugly as possible, the habits were not only flattering to youthful, well-corset'd figures, but also viewed as seductive and teasingly androgynous. Not all gentlemen were enchanted. Wrote diarist Samuel Pepys after seeing the queen and her ladies:
"...in their riding garbs, with coats and doublets with deep skirts just for all the world like men, and buttoned their doublets up the breast, with perriwigs and with hats; so that, only for a long petticoat dragging under their men's coats, nobody could take them for women...an odd sight, and a sight that did not please me."
But what exactly was happening beneath that gracefully draped skirt (or a dragging one, if you're grumpy Mr. Pepys)? The TNHG were determined to find out.
In the CW stables, we spotted this replica 18th c. style side saddle (below), and with her ever-present thirst for knowledge, Loretta bravely hopped aboard. She swears the saddle was both comfortable and steady, with one knee hooked around the horn and the other foot secured in the stirrup. If it felt like this to a NHG, we imagine that to an experienced equestrienne of the past, the saddle must have made for a comfortable ride indeed.