Collecting sportswear has a particular challenge in that it does not always follow the fashion of the era. This is especially true in something like riding breeches that were made for a particular purpose, and thus had to be functional. Sometimes the collector has to look beyond fashion to come up with a reasonable date for an object.
I have three pairs of riding breeches and jodhpurs. In order to put them in their correct time period, I have to rely on the details and construction techniques. I’m not an expert in the history of riding pants, but using what I do know about fabrics, construction, and fashion, I was able to put a date on each pair.
The oldest pair I have is the pair above. These jodphurs have the full thighs that you would expect to see before stretch fabrics came into use. The fabric is a sturdy cotton twill.
These pants close using buttons on both sides of the hips. The buttons are of a type that I commonly see on clothing from the 1910s and 1920s.
The insides of the knees is reinforced with an extra layer of twill fabric.
To keep the pants legs from riding up, there is lacing on the outside of each leg.
These jodphurs actually came with a matching coat which had this label. The Emporium was in business from 1896 until 1996, which does not help, but the style of the label certainly does. My best guess for this pair is 1917-1925.
The second pair of jodphurs are also made from cotton twill. The shape is very similar to the first pair.
These have a hip button closure as well as two leather buckles. The buttons are plastic, and are a type commonly seen in the 1930s and 40s.
The inside knees are reinforced with fine suede leather.
The bottoms of the legs are not as tight as the earlier pair. They are held in place by suede straps that button to the hems.
Some of the seams are finished by a type of overlock stitch that is sometimes seen on sportswear from the 1920s through the 40s. There is not a label present, but I’m pretty sure these are from the 1930s. Any later and a zipper would be used. These could be early 40s, but not into the war years due to the use of leather.
My last pair is made from a stretch fabric, a blend of cotton and nylon. Due to the stretch, the hips and thighs could be cut slimmer and still be comfortable for the rider.
The pants close at the hip with a metal zipper. Note the loops for a belt.
The inside of the knees is reinforced with leather which was attached by the use of a zig-zag sewing stitch.
The bottoms of the legs open by metal zippers.
Best of all is the label, which told me the fiber content. It also reveals that these were made in Japan, and there is an RN number. The number does not tell when a garment was made, but because the RN system was first used in 1952, it can’t be older that that date. A look at the RN data base does reveal that this number belonged to the Miller Harness Company, which had a store located on East 24th Street in New York. According to an obituary of one of the owners, Jackie Kennedy was a customer. I can see her wearing these breeches, and I’m quite sure these are from the 1960s.
I used to be determined to narrow down the exact dating of things, but often it just is not possible. And when it comes to sports styles that were worn over a period of years, it is often just as useful to know the general dating. At least that’s what I tell myself.