Saturday, January 9, 2016

Felicity's Riding Habit

I hope everyone is having a great 2016! My resolution for this blog is to post weekly-I don't know if I'll be able to maintain that, but I do think every other week is certainly doable.

So I should be doing the yearly GOTY collection review but...I just don't have it in me this year. I haven't been to a store to see it all in person so I don't have personal pictures. I do have a catalogue and I could do it that way but...

I'm just not feeling it this year. Lea is a beautiful doll, very similar to Kanani who is gorgeous...but she is a disappointment. We have been waiting and waiting and waiting for a DOC for GOTY and what do they give us? A 1/8th Brazilian doll. It's a sop to get us to shut up.

And Lea's collection? I'm not into the whole tropical look-it's not for me. I'm allergic to sunscreen and of Irish descent with reddish hair and pale skin. I burn within 15 minutes. So how much time do you think I spend at the beach? I actually might have to get a mole removed and tested soon, which is really upsetting to me because I do try and remain out of the sun as much as I can-I break out in hives when I put sunscreen on though. I have found one brand that works but it is thick and pasty with an awful smell and not something that I could wear on a daily basis. But guys, seriously-check your skin and wear sunscreen. Anyways, tangent over.

The only things I like are her kayak thing (I do like kayaking, which is unfortunate given the information I've shared above), her hiking set, her pajamas, and the sloth. I may buy the hiking set and the sloth. Other than that, I'm good. The moderns aren't my thing anyway.

If you want to read a great review of Lea's collection, please head on over to American Girl Outsider-she expresses the outrage better than I could.

I'm going to save my money for Melody instead-I've already started a little fund for her. She's slated to come out this summer I think. I haven't found her book at any local bookstores (it has to be local because I would have sat and read the book because I'm not paying for a book I'll get with the doll, since I KNOW I want her) but I've heard about her story. It is going to be one of the most tragic story lines in the entire historical collection-but you know what? History is often tragic-especially for minorities and women. The modern world is often tragic.

But that is all for the future.

I am finally covering one of Felicity's outfits-I don't know why I didn't just do a double review for Felicity and Elizabeth with their holiday outfits like I did for Molly and Emily. I have the outfit-it just didn't occur to me until the review was live to be honest.

I would do a double review covering both Felicity and Elizabeth's riding habits, but I don't have Elizabeth's it'll be Felicity by herself.

Felicity is of course the raison d'être for the historical line. After a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Pleasant Rowland was inspired to make a historical line of dolls. Even though Felicity wasn't one of the original dolls (she came out in 1991 and was the 4th doll released), her time period was the inspiration for the entire line. I adore my Felicity doll-she has gorgeous red hair and startling green eyes-she is probably the closest thing to a look alike doll that I have when my hair is in a natural state.

Felicity's biggest "hobby" is horse back riding and her relationship with Penny-short for Independence-is a large driving force for her series. In the first book, Felicity "borrows" Ben's riding breeches to ride Penny in secret. Later in the series however she rides with permission, which means she must wear an actual riding habit. Girls obviously couldn't just go around in breeches.

The one she is given was supposed to be a gift from her grandfather, who (spoiler alert) dies at the end of the series. It is given to her after he passes. I am extremely, extremely close with my grandfather and so this part of the story really resonates with me. That is one reason this riding habit is one of my favorite Felicity outfits.

History of the Riding Habit:

Riding habits were worn by women but were often modeled after men's dress. To this end, they were often made by male tailors instead of the seamstresses that women would usually turn to for formal wear.

The colors were often much darker than the ones used for other outfits (to cover dust and mud that would likely collect on the garment-though a habit used for city riding, where one was more likely to be seen, might be in a brighter color), the skirts were not as full as those of a normal dress, and decorations from male attire such as gold braid were often used. This started being the case in the mid-17th century. 

These items were meant to be functional-by the time Felicity would have worn one, they would have been worn over a petticoat but likely not over hoops (can you imagine riding in hoops?).

Habits worn during the winter were usually made of a nice warm wool, like Felicity's which is given to her in the winter. The summer, however, usually meant a switch to a lighter, cooler cotton fabric.

Habits were meant to look like military uniforms-red was popular in England, perhaps because that was the uniform color of the English army. Women using militaristic detailing in their outfits was quite à la mode. The Duchess of Devonshire (the subject of the incredibly inaccurate and slanderous movie The Duchess) often wore military dress for example.


Political cartoon of the Duchess of Devonshire canvassing in the streets in riding costume-such freedom of movement and political involvement would be unimaginable to women even a century later. This picture is from the British Museum.

During the second half of the 1700s (so, when Felicity was alive), riding habits began to be used as informal day wear-one could wear them to ride, obviously, but they were also used for walking or sitting around the house.  It was fashionable to wear a riding habit-riding was seen as a very appealing hobby for women of a certain status, and so women wore them often. After all, they were comfortable compared to the typical day wear a woman could choose from. Two Nerdy History Girls (link below) wrote, "today there are many women wearing yoga pants who couldn't name a single pose." It was the same with this type of fashionable undress-it was easier to move in the riding habit.

Also, it gave women a certain independent charm. A woman who could ride well would be very much admired. In my understanding, upper class women (I say upper class because this didn't reach down to the poor and the enslaved) have always had their freedoms move backwards and forwards on a pendulum.

The Duchess of Devonshire enjoyed freedom of movement and the ability to be involved in politics on a scale that Victorian age women could only have dreamed of. Georgiana's love affairs were open secrets and she was a political figure in her own right. She wrote novels and did science experiments. She canvassed in the streets. A woman who did the same thing 100 years later would have been an outcast, no matter her social rank. Women of Felicity's era were allowed to be eccentric if they liked. That changed very quickly-after that, women's lives were more confined and women were expected to follow a very strict pattern of behavior. I believe that is the reason Samantha (raised by a strict Victorian) was held to a much higher standard of behavior than Felicity-Felicity's parents tried to get her to act like a lady, but they did sort of laugh off her tomboyishness. Samantha didn't get the same long leash.  

Keira Knightley as Georgiana-while the movie had very inaccurate plot lines that made her husband look way worse than he was, you can better see the kind of costume she would have worn in this still. The coat is very similar to that worn by Felicity.

I believe this is due to the revolutions that rocked Europe-before the French Revolution, the aristocracy could do as they pleased and their morals were not subject to close inspection. However, with the stakes for being hated significantly raised (I'm sure the nobles thought they were safe right up until they were loaded into the carts to be taken to the guillotine, but afterwards, the survivors were very much aware that they could be done away with), the press issuing increasingly unflattering portraits of the rich, and the happy model family of Victoria and Albert before the world, discretion-if not actual circumspection-followed. Women were put on confining pedestals due to the cult of domesticity and expected to remain home. The shocking open immorality of the previous age was replaced with boring hypocrisy.  

I love Felicity's habit because it indicates a freedom for a certain class of women that would not return for a very, very long time.  
Riding Habit:


As you can see, Felicity wears a forest green jacket-based on the color, this habit would have been worn for actual riding, not riding in the city to look fashionable. It is decorated with gold braid-the style is reminiscent of the military. You obviously can't tell but the wool is heavy and nice-it would have kept her warm when she rode in the winter. She likely would have had to switch to a lighter garment in the hot summer months.
The jacket has a split back, just like a men's coat-this was likely made by a male tailor (well it was probably made in a factory, but you know what I mean) instead of by a female seamstress.

The waist coat is a silky, lighter green with gold buttons. It is a false waistcoat but that is actually historically accurate-not just something the company did to save money. Many riding habits had false waistcoats.

See how close fitting the jacket is along her body? This would make riding easier and safer-extra flounces could have literally meant injury while riding a horse. You can better see the contrasting waistcoat in this shot.

Very close fitting and compact sleeves-compare these to her lacy sleeves in her rose garden meet. These are meant to be functional. The sleeves are also decorated with gold braid.

The jacket is perfect and historically accurate! Also, you guys already know my passion for green so...of course I love this!


The skirt is plain and without decoration, which is fine. This outfit isn't meant to be flouncy. It is also in a dark green color-the lighter trim along the waist matches the waistcoat.

You can see here that the skirt has slits for pockets on either side-a historically accurate detail that I very much appreciate and that is missing in Elizabeth's collection.

This is how the two pieces go together, front and back-it makes for a very smart, narrow garment. I love the skirt as well.


But of course, no outfit can be complete without a smart hat to go with it. I love hats-I may have to do a post one day just about hats. Felicity tops her outfit off with a tricorn hat.

The hat is black felt with gold braid detailing around the brim. A feather-I think a rooster feather?-adorns one of the corners. This corner goes off to one side-not in front.

This is the hat on her head-it looks very cute!


I simply adore this outfit and I consider it a core outfit, despite the fact that technically it is not. But it is mentioned in the sixth book!


Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this! I really love getting into the historical details of an outfit or of a time period/activity!

I don't want to scare anyone but there are rumors (unconfirmed by American Girl but from a source that has been reliable in the past) that Addy will be retiring soon to make room for Melody. If there are things in her collection that you want and you don't have yet, I would encourage you to try and purchase those items. 


Further Reading/Sources:
I'm loving this blog that I found!

The Duchess by Amanda Foreman (previously published as Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire)-this is a really absorbing and interesting book. I recommend it.


  1. Good review! I have the outfit and it is really beautiful... I REALLY hope that those rumours about Addy retiring are false. It would be a serious fail for AG if they did retire her. She is SO beautiful and her stories are amazing! Do you know where I could see the 'source' that said that she might retire? I'm curious....
    Hannah M.

    1. The source is a woman named Tracy Johnson who is an admin for American Girl Resale. However I don't think she is the ultimate source-I think she posted that for someone who I am hesitant to name because they clearly don't want to name themselves. However if you want to message me on tumblr (same name as here-American Girl Liz) I'll tell you the whole story.

      I really hope they don't retire Addy and maybe they won't. American Girl just posted that they currently have no plans to retire her-but I'm pretty sure they've said that in the past and then retired a doll anyways.

      Thank you! I do think this is one of her best outfits :)