Ladies Side Saddle

Ladies who choose to ride side saddle hunting are also known as; ‘the Dianas of the hunting field’.

This comes from the Roman mythology, in which Diana was the goddess of the hunt, childbirth and the moon, also associated with wild animals and woodland being known to have the power to talk to and control animals.

Physical description: “As a goddess of hunting, Diana often wears a short tunic and hunting boots. She is often portrayed holding a bow, and carrying a quiver on her shoulder, accompanied by a deer or hunting dogs. Like Venus, she was portrayed as beautiful and youthful. The crescent moon, sometimes worn as a diadem, is a major attribute of the goddess.” (


Modern Day side saddle ladies example (my own photography):




“During the 1800s the upper and middle-classes grew considerably, and with them thousands of fashion-conscious females with a desire to ride and be seen riding. The word ‘habit’ comes from the old French abit, meaning clothing, and originally referred to ecclesiastical attire, but came to mean any outfit for a specific purpose. Riding habits have always taken cues from male dress through the centuries, and examining examples from Victorian times doesn’t veer from the practice.

It should be noted, some habits were casual (for country hacking, visiting friends, &c.), some were formal (for fox hunts, riding London’s parks, &c.), and some were in between. This held true for men and their various suits. An estate habit could be informal and have jackets and skirts of different fabric and colours, an ‘in town’ habit would match as a suit. A pair of leather gauntlets were fine for the country, but only kidskin would do in the city. Most fashion plates show women wearing beige or white gloves, which would be kidskin in natural colour or bleached. This leather is made from the hide of a young goat and is soft and stretchy, also known as wash-leather or chamois (although the latter is actually an antelope). Women also wore snug tailored wash-leather drawers for riding.

While there were different styles of habits, they had certain defining features. 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.

In 1885, snap fasteners were invented, and shortly after that a form of safety skirt for riding that would tear open along the line of snaps if a lady fell. In Edwardian times an apron-style skirt was offered with much less material which would be buttoned closed when dismounting.

The jackets were tailored tight and normally looser in the sleeves to allow control of the reins. The styles somewhat followed fashion decade by decade, with lappets and peplums covering the hips coming and going, along with flared and gigot sleeves. Lapels went wide, narrow, and vanished altogether with military stock collars. Military influences remained a constant, women asking for soutache and galloon trim.

Habits were commonly dark coloured, to hide the dirt that naturally goes with riding, but light colours were used for summer. The best winter habits were made of very expensive velvet, usually of deep dark colours. Velveteen (cotton), developed in the late 1700s, could be used to produce a habit that looked like velvet, but was not as warm. Felted wool was the choice of most women; warm and practical. The quality of the wool, depth of the colour, and skill of the tailor determined the value. Expensive summer habits were made of silk, with yards and yards of pleated skirting. As cotton manufacturing progressed (and sateen was developed) less costly warm weather habits were made that looked like silk.

Hats for casual hacking were often wide-brimmed to keep the sun off a lady’s perfect pale complexion. Some equestrian headdresses included a chin strap (which could alternatively be tied under the hair), but they were seldom shown in paintings or fashion plates. At the start of Victoria’s reign, top hats and military styled peaked hats were popular for in town or fox hunting, but by the early 1840s toppers took over. These high hats might be plain in shape, or swoop-brimmed, and tapered or flare-crowned. The ladies’ toppers frequently followed the male fashion trends. The hats fit around the head (worn firmly in place) until the late 1860s or so, when women started favouring smaller headdresses perched forward and secured with a hatpin.

Of course women rode side-saddle, and were almost always depicted riding on the near side (with their legs to the left). However, saddles were also crafted with the horns to the far side (right) so a lady could alternate day after day. Horses were specifically trained to accept left and right side-saddles, and for mounting on the right hand side. “



All taken from:

Fleming, R.S (2015) What a delightful habit; lovely Victorian ladies and their horse riding clothes [online] available from <;