Photographer on a Sidesaddle

with guest blogger Regina Scott.

 

I love researching for a new novel, finding those unique nuggets that are going to bring a character or setting alive. In my recent release, A Distance Too Grand, my heroine Meg Pero is a photographer who wrangles her way onto a survey of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in 1871, only to discover the Army captain leading the expedition is the man she once refused to marry.

 

That doesn’t stop her. Meg’s used to being a woman in a man’s world. She followed her late father as he shot pictures of everything from a Civil War battlefield to Niagara Falls. Now she has to lug heavy cameras and deal with the harsh chemicals to prepare the glass plate negatives and develop the pictures. On such a rugged expedition, I thought surely she would ride astride.

 

Nope.

 

At that point in American history, except for a few daring or practical ladies out west, most ladies still rode sidesaddle. If Meg wants to be taken as a lady and a professional, she has to ride sidesaddle too. Which means, she needs a riding outfit.

 

And not just any riding outfit. For a two-month survey, Meg has one small trunk and two saddlebags in which to place all her personal belongings. If she wants to change her underthings, she has room for about two outfits. These outfits have to allow her to mount and dismount easily and climb into her photography van to set up her negatives. She must clamber over rocks, duck under trees, and venture out onto ledges to get the perfect shot. Nothing is more important to Meg than getting the shot.

 

Typical riding habits would not work. They were usually designed to look more like men’s wear, with tailored jackets and long, often tight sleeves. They also featured long skirts that could drape over the side of the saddle and hide the lady’s legs. Many of these skirts were so long they trailed on the ground when the lady was standing. All that would make it challenging for Meg’s work. 

 

However, as early as the 1830s, it was possible to purchase a riding habit that came with breeches or even trousers that were worn under a modest skirt. The short pants buttoned just below the knee. The longer trousers extended down over the boots and had a strap that went under the instep to keep them in place. If you look at this picture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you can just see the hem of the trouser peeking out under the skirt on the right. Meg brings two such habits with her—one navy with brass buttons and one cream-colored version like what you see on the cover.

 

So, would you have been daring enough to wear breeches under your riding habit or even, ahem, ride astride? Comment below for a chance to win a print copy of A Distance Too Grand.

 

 

 

Regina Scott is the award-winning author of more than forty-five works of warm, witty historical romance. She and her husband live in the Puget Sound area of Washington State on the way to Mt. Rainier. Her fascination with history has led her to dress as a Regency dandy, drive a carriage four-in-hand, learn to fence, and sail on a tall ship, all in the name of research. You can learn more about her at http://www.reginascott.com or connect with her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/authorreginascott) or Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/reginascottpins

Guest Blogger

51 Comments

  1. Good morning Regina. I loved your blog and this history incorporated. Your book sounds amazing.
    Happy Early Thanksgiving to you!

    1. Thanks, Tonya! Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

  2. For me I would of rode astride. A side saddle would of just made me sea sick as they call it. And I would of had britches on under the skirt.

    1. Me too, Kim. I know what would happen if I tried those draping skirts–dragged in the mud, flipped out of place, you name it–LOL!

  3. I think I Would have ridden astride. Of course that could be because I am living now

    1. Good point, Debra. It’s hard to think the way they did back then sometimes. What they considered shocking we find perfectly acceptable today.

    2. Interesting blog!! How things have changed!!
      I would have worn breeches and ridden astride.

      1. Thanks, Mary! Yes, things have certainly changed since those days. But I’m sure there are still lady photographers going to great lengths to get the shot. They just get to do it in pants, if they want. 🙂

  4. Yes I would have worn the breeches and even rode astride for I have never followed what most people thought I have always tried to go against the grain. Greatly enjoyed your blog today

    1. Thanks, Glenda! I admire people who can go with their heart, despite the status quo.

  5. Avatar

    Good morning. Thanks for sharing the history in this blog. Oh my, with what all she needed to do I’d have worn breeches without that long straight skirt! I can’t imagine trying to get on and off a horse in that. Since men clothes were too masculine I think I would have just made me some feminine looking breeches and shirts. I’ve never been able to imagine having to ride side saddle so yes, I’d have rode astride. I’d love the opportunity to read your book!

    1. I would have had to wear breeches under my skirt. Thank you for sharing your interesting post.

    2. Thanks, Stephanie! Yes, I struggle to think of Meg doing anything except wearing breeches.

  6. Good Morning! Regina, thank you for this interesting post! I’m excited to read your book.

    1. Good morning, Caryl! You’re welcome for the post. I love writing about history, and Petticoats and Pistols is such a fabulous blog. Always delighted to be featured here.

  7. Yes I believe I would wear my breeches. I don’t see me riding side saddle so I guess I would be riding astride. I not sure how they rode side saddle I think I would have fallow off the horse. Your book sounds fantastic.

    1. Thank you! I have never ridden sidesaddle (makes a note to add that to the list of research that must be accomplished), but I understand it’s actually very comfortable. Still seems strange to me. Horses are so large–I would want every option for controlling them, and hanging off a sidesaddle doesn’t leave you as many options.

  8. I would have ridden astride!!! Wonderful information!

  9. Without a doubt I would have ridden astride. Enjoyed your pictures and blog today. Whenever I’m introduced to a new author, I like viewing his/her website and learning more about their books. So, thank you for coming today and sharing. Loved reading about your new book.

    1. Thank you, Kathy! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  10. I would have worn breeches under my habit. I probably would also have ridden astride.

    1. I would definitely have opted for the breeches, Estella.

  11. Avatar

    Good morning from Vermont. I don’t wear dresses. So I would probably wear pants and sit like one of the guys. I’m that stubborn.

    1. LOL, Charlene–good for you!

  12. What an interesting post. I don’t think I would have been adventurous enough to do any of what Meg is doing. I had enough trouble staying on a horse astride, forget sidesaddle! But a very clever riding habit with the breeches. Would have made things easier for women I’m sure. Although everything was tough, wasn’t it? I always laugh at movies and TV where women have that little carpetbag-looking suitcase and yet wear a different beautiful gown (and sometimes hat!) every day. A Distance Too Grand caught my interest right away. Thanks for the chance to win.

    1. Thanks, Sally! When you mentioned the little carpetbag and tons of clothes, all I could think was that maybe they were related to Mary Poppins. 🙂

  13. I would have definitely ridden astride. I’m the worst person in the world when it comes to fashion so I’m sure practicality would have won for me back then, too. (No heels in my closet!) Your book sounds like so much fun.

    1. Thanks Carrie! I’m not a heels person either, though I will confess to liking a pretty dress now and then. And a hot shower–LOL!

  14. This book sounds so awesome (and I know I’m sounding redundant, along with everyone else), but I looove your premise. Such a great premise for a historical romance. I have to get this book! I also have a “soft spot” for writing about cavalry officers, so I can’t wait to read your book!

    1. Thanks, Hebby! After writing about Ben and his cavalry team and writing about a cavalry officer hero for the second book in the collection, Nothing Short of Wondrous, I have a soft spot for cavalry officers too. 🙂

  15. I likely would have been daring enough. I loved reading A Distance Too Grand!

    1. Thank you, Abigail! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book!

  16. You’re a new author for me. Thank you for a fascinating. I can’t imagine riding sidesaddle through such dangerous terrain.

    1. Hello, Alisa! Glad you enjoyed the post. It does boggle the mind, riding sidesaddle through the wilderness.

  17. I would have ridden astride and worn breeches. Meg sounds like she is determined and focused!

    1. She is indeed, Maryann. Although her focus shifts a little when Captain Ben Coleridge comes into view. 🙂

  18. Welcome Regina. I love this cover. And the book sounds fantastic. On my Christmas list. I have worn pants under skirts. My daughter was a tom boy through and through. The only way she would wear a skirt is if she had on shorts. She is 33 now and still does this. When I lived on the farm I was in 4-H and one of my subjects was “horses” I rode all the time. Our leader had 3 side saddles, so we got to ride them all the time. It was a lot of fun. Hurt the legs though. Maybe because we were children not adults. But honestly doing barrel racing it had to be a western saddle. My daughter in law teaches students to do English riding. And she has a side saddle that she will use in shows sometimes.

    1. Hello, Lori! I babysat a little girl like that. Dainty little thing, but the only way a dress was getting put on was if it was over shorts or pants, LOL. How cool that you got to ride sidesaddle. It’s definitely on my wish list.

  19. I would have worn breeches, all day, every day! When I was a young teenager, I rode sidesaddle once. It was the most uncomfortable horse riding experience I ever had.

    1. Interesting, Andrea–good to hear from someone who has experienced the sidesaddle and can compare it to a regular saddle.

  20. I’d definitely have worn breeches! Every day! I wear jeans every day now, so I know I’d have found a way to wear breeches then! Or, even a riding skirt. Of course, those may not have been around during this time, either.

    1. I wear pants most days too, Trudy. I looked for a divided riding skirt for that time period, but it was slightly before those became evident. Still, I could imagine a lady out on the frontier figuring it out before the fashion magazines did. 🙂

  21. I love horses while I am on the ground I get nervous being on their backs ( must be a lingering fear from childhood when I fell off a horse and landed on barbed wire above my eye and had to get stitches). Astride is the only way to ride but I am impressed women could stay on a side saddle.

  22. Considering the type of work she was doing, it certainly would have been so much more convenient and easier for her to wear britches. I would hope that if I were in her situation, I would be brave enough to wear breeches. It would be safer, climbing on rocks and ledges trying to get just the right shot. The biggest problem for women wearing breeches back then would be the reaction of men. You would open yourself to criticism, a lack of respect, and maybe being treated like a loose woman. One would have to select the men they worked with carefully.

  23. Great post. I definitely would have worn pants and ride astride.

  24. In today’s modern world, I would be bold and daring. But I think if I were to live back then, I would not want to have the reputation of being scandalous and ride astride or be daring enough to wear split pants under my riding habit.

    Thank you for the fun post Regina and the giveaway chance!

  25. I think I would have worn pants and riden astride.

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