18th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: A Lady on Horseback

Last week I showed you a really frilly, over the top 1870s dress – but in a very restrained colour scheme.  Unsurprisingly, for most people whether they liked it or not came down to whether they are maximalists or minimalists, though some with more restrained  tastes conceded that it would look spectacular from a distance.  Surprisingly (to me at least) one of the things it got the most criticisms for was the black trim.  I thought the harshness of the contrast balanced the too-busy, too-sweet trim of the rest, but I was very much  in the minority (though not entirely alone) in liking it!  The dress came in at 7.6 out of 10.

For this week’s Rate the Dress, let’s look at some very feminine menswear inspired clothes in the form of a fluffy, pastel-y riding habit:

Jose Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Jose Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Let’s take a slightly closer look:

Jose Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Jose Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Campeche’s luxuriously  attired horsewoman sports a white satin skirt, and a jacket and double-breasted waistcoat in robins egg blue satin, with white facings and self-fabric buttons.  Her cuffs and cravat are of hard to make out, appear to be trimmed in lace.

Jose Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Jose Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Our lady got quite excited when it came to matching her horse, with white bows throughout his mane and tail, and a matching one on her crop, plus toned tassels on the end of the reins.  Even her hat is the exact same shade as her mount’s coat, though she allowed a little contrast in the cream bows that dot the brim, and the various shades of ostrich feathers crowning it.  Perhaps my eyes are deceiving me, but I do have a suspicion that there is a robin’s egg blue feather secreted at the rear of the hat.

Jose Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Jose Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Oh, and we mustn’t forget footwear.  She’s even got little white riding shoes:

Jose Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Jose Campeche, Dama a caballo (Lady on Horseback), last two decades of the 18th century

Clearly this is not a practical outfit.  No matter how wide and thick the velvet rug you have protecting your skirt from the horse, no white satin frock is going to stay pristine for many hours on horseback.  So our lady is wearing a show outfit.  But for show?  To demonstrate  both your skill as a horsewoman and your taste in dress in a portrait?  Does it pass muster?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

(oh, and go look up Jose Campeche.  He’s a fascinating artist!)



  1. It may not be practical in the least, but I find it lovely. The shade of the jacket is subtle without being boring, and I like that the exuberant frou-frou has been reserved for the horse (though the horse does seem to be giving side-eye, as if to say, “If you insist…”)

    The hat, although I keep wondering how a rider would be able to keep it on if the horse moved at all, is a nice bridge between the colors of the rider’s outfit and the horse.

    9 of 10

  2. The jacket appears to be light green on my monitor instead of robin’s egg blue. No matter: I like the cut of it and the colors employed either way (though I think she’s have looked nicer in pink). My only problem is with the hat, which looks a bit disproportionate in size (and the shape looks to me like a meatloaf made from feathers). A 9.

  3. With this I’m throwing practicality out the window and just give it a 10/10. I love basically everything about it.

  4. Practical or not, I like the robin’s egg blue and white, the masculine cut of the jacket and waistcoat (the collars look quite wrinkled and a bit sloppy btw) combined with the very feminine petticoat is delightful. Not too sure about her hat though… The dark plumes on either side of a white one – looks like she has a skunk perched on her head. 8/10, if you leave out the horse – it looks beyond silly, poor beast.

  5. Rachel says

    The dress: Ooo, a riding habit, that sounds interesting. Masculine jacket with a big skirt, that’s a plus. Reins with minty tassels!

    The picture: Very regal, soft pastels and dark colors, vanishing background. Overall sort of unreal and very lovely.

    The dress: I like the minty jacket, though not that the many overlapping lapels are all white. Not usually a fan of big feathery hats, but I like the colors (though I agree, I saw a skunk too).

    The horse: I have grave concerns about this drum-necked creature and its four-foot long hind leg. But his coat’s a really nice color. As is the blanket.

    The dress: In fact, if the dress had some grays and maybe some dark red, purple, or even brown accents, I think I’d like it better. Her whole effect is very airy and cloudlike, but it needs more personality.

    Her: I like her face. She looks kind of sly. It helps the portrait, while looking very soft and delicate, also feel very confident.

    Anyway, the outfit’s score: 7/10

  6. Julia Ergane says

    OOO…. lovely! It was probably made just for the portrait, still…. The horse also gets a 10/10 score 10/10

  7. Practicality aside I love it! It’s super floofy and pastelly pretty. My only issues would be the double lapels and the tassels coming out of no where. What are they even for? The hat works with the picture but I don’t think it would work outside of it. 9/10

  8. I love it. The colors, the subtle trim, the matchy-matchyness of it all. That lady knows how to look stunning. 10/10

  9. redbarngirl says

    10/10 just for the fact that she is on a horse! The outfit gets a 10/10 too…I have a soft spot for riding habits, be they ever so impractical 🙂

  10. Meh. As you point out, wildly impractical for actual use on a horse (flyaway skirt, flyaway hat, black horsehair on everything…) and it doesn’t exactly rock my socks off sans horse either. Maybe it’s the insipid spearmint colour of the jacket, the superabundance of ragged lapels, or the overall washed-out look. (Maybe it’s my computer screen, although I don’t think it’s responsible for the lapels.)
    5/10 because it’s not bad, just meh.

  11. It’s gorgeous! I love these riding outfits with the simple lines and big lapels. The colour scheme (which looks like mint green and white on this computer) works very well with her colouring, and the bows in the horse’s mane are adorable. Though I do find the warped proportions of the horse to be a bit disturbing.


  12. That artist was certainly not an equine painter! But his treatment of that outfit is as stunning as the outfit itself.

    In regards to the impractacality of the outfit – in the 18th century the sidesaddle would have been lacking a leaping head. So they weren’t very secure. This lady would have only gently rode around the place, so the large hat and floffy skirt wouldn’t hinder her too much.

    The saddle pad is massive on this horse, to protect the white skirt. Besides, this lady wouldn’t have touched the horse, a groom would have fetched the horse, groomed it, tacked it up, and the lady would have been thrown up onto it’s back. So she wouldn’t get her beautiful outfit dirty. Those white slippers would never touch mud!


  13. I love it! I give it an enthusiastic 10/10. I would certainly quake to have that much white fabric around horses but in a painting it looks absolutely lovely.

  14. It also looks green on my screen. I also have a bit of misgivings about the hat, mostly the fact that it seems to match her powdered hair in colour too closely…
    It’s a lot like an earlier version of a 1790s plate I love, and therefore, I like it, too. Nearly perfect show. 9/10.

  15. I love totally this outfit, and it’s great that you can see the clothes in some context if not in detail. This dress is basically working like a film costume in an 1930s or 1940s musical. I can’t even see whether she is really good looking or not – she looks stunning because her outfit works in the setting and the effect is completely sublime. This is what we now call glamour. The colours have been chosen to bring the body forward in space. Her body is the focus. She isn’t riding a horse she is posing for a painting in a warm studio, and glamour is all about that suspension of disbelief. Brilliant.

  16. Blue and white is one of my favorite color combinations, so I love this outfit! The hat is fabulous, and I think I do see the blue feather you mentioned. The lapels, though, throw the jacket off for me. Perhaps it is the way they lay, but they look a little sloppy, so I will have to give it a final score of 8/10.

  17. I like the simplicity of it, the pale colours, and I think this dress was rather made to show off in the portrait then riding a real horse for hours! 8/10

  18. Her: 9/10 for near perfection. Love the contrast of crisp menswear inspired tailoring in the jacket with the soft pastel.

    For the horse: 7/10. The bows are kicky, but the blanket could have coordinated better.

  19. I like the styling and the cut and generally it’s all very nice but not terribly exciting. I’ll give it a very unexceptionable 7/10.

  20. It comes up as a green-tinted colour on my monitor too, but I like green. I like the whole outfit. Sure it’s not practical, but it’s meant to be impractical. It is, however, elegant and stylish, and I love how it manages to achieve OTT impracticality with a relatively simple design and little ornamentation. I’m going to go ahead and give her the full 10/10.

    The horse, I’m not so sure about. That’s just too OTT.

  21. Letthemeatcake says

    This one I expected to be rather successful. It’s late 18th century that works through the lens of 2014: turning this into a costume for yet another remake of ” Marie Antoinette” one would not have to alter a lot.The colour scheme, the cut and the details are all easy on the eye. Ready To be inspire a reproduction. While the look is feminine there is a sense of discipline and restrain that appeals to many working women today. I give it a 8.5. That being said: If this one could work for a “1784 through 2014” – costume here is an example of a “1855 through 1985” – costume: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/8b/4d/cd/8b4dcd59d8d4c2a32204203d2665af1f.jpg In 1985 this Directöy translated into: glossy glamour for Dynasty ladies back in the….day (something historic). In 2014: the dress itself could probably be worse, but today the”Christmas Barbie” look just comes off as unsophisticated, flashy and kinda funny…but HEY this where the 80s (i mean 1850ish) and we all looked hilarious back then didn’t we HAR HAR HAR! (what an unexpectedly uplifting moment!). Lets not forget 1855. To make this one short:not many women in those days would have been caught dead in this

  22. bovine queen says

    Being an equestrienne, I notice that the rider is on the off side of the horse, not the near side as is usually the case in sidesaddle.

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