Year of the Horse

Posted by Maria
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Caroline Trentini, Photo by Patrick Demarchelier, Vogue June 2008.

2014 is the year of the horse, regarded as a year of quick victories, unexpected adventures and surprising romances. In honor of the regal creature, we look back at equestrian style.

Many historians credit equestrian dress as the major influence in the de-frilling of women’s fashion. Arguably, riding habits were forbearers to unisex dress, allowing feminine style to borrow from the classic lines and traditional fabrics of men’s tailoring. The shift from sidesaddle to riding astride opened the door for bifurcated garments. The aesthetic has long been associated with the upper class, and therefore provides an unfailing code for designers referencing aspirational design. Fashion houses that began as saddlers and leather purveyors, Hermès and Gucci to name a few, have tapped into their equestrian roots to establish brands exuding luxury and status. Once again, we find sportswear defining trends by its own unique requirements. Below, a sampling of excerpts from Vogue that point to the evolution of equestrian dress.


"No good horsewoman will ever wear anything flying loose. The compact, unbroken outline of the rider must be maintained, anything else is in bad taste. Fanciful experiments are tabooed." -Vogue, April 10, 1905


"The Horsewoman Gets Into Good Habits: For an afternoon ride in Central Park, the rider, if in side-saddle, wears a top hat, or bowler, with a guard. This guard may be in dark green, white and black or plain black. She may wear a white stock fastened with a plain sports pin, or a standing collar. It is exactly like the stiff linen collars worn by men for dress occasions. The habit should be faultlessly cut. The boots may be brown or black. A bright silk handkerchief lends a touch of colour and smartness, and a leather stick or light crop completes the costume." -Vogue, April 15, 1921


"Equestrian Fabrics: They’ve come trooping in, this spring – equestrian whipcords and coverts, in tans brown and olive-drabs. They’re at their best in unfussy coats and suits, tailored as carefully as good riding-clothes." -Vogue, March 1, 1940


"Coco Chanel began the craze for riding clothes by donning jodhpurs with a silk shirt. Ralph Lauren made the polo player a status symbol… Now, designers have caught on, and equestrian references show up in collections. Once a sign of “good breeding,” riding clothes still seem to elevate the wearer’s status. “In old movies, if the heroine was ‘lady,’ she was also an equestrian,” said Bill Blass. “ Think of Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story.” At Charles Chevignon, jodhpurs show up in khaki cotton. Gucci’s riding boots in alligator. And horseman Barry Kieselstein-Cord’s accessory collection features stirrup earrings, fox rings, and boot pulls in horn and sterling." - Vogue, November 1988


(L) Judy Balding sitting on a fence, feeding an apple to her horse, Vogue 1937. (R) Zorina, prima ballerina with the George Balanchine Company, hanging with outstretched arm on a Chirico horse statue, Vogue 1937.


(L) Sandra Cooper, wife of actor Gary Cooper, dressed in a cowboy shirt and riding pants, currying her horse, Vogue 1940. (R) Photo by Luis Lemus, Vogue Feb 1941.


(L) Photo by Henry Clarke, Vogue Sept 1968. (R) Jerry Hall, Photo by Stan Malinowski, Vogue, 1977.


Christie Brinkley, Photo by Chris Von Wangenheim, Vogue Feb 1977.


Natalia Vodianova, Photo by Steven Klein, Vogue September 2005.


Gisele Bundchen and Carmen Kass, Photo by Steven Klein, Vogue Aug 2006.


Amanda Harlech, Photo by Halard Francois, Vogue January 2006.


Arizona Muse and Jeremy Irvine, Photo by David Sims, Vogue Nov 2011.

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