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.
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