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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Historical Clothes Reviews: Felicity's Riding Habit

Felicity's Riding Habit. For Felicity. Not for anyone else.
Forgive the lack of posts recently. Things came up. Anyways, on to the topic at hand: A Historical Review! Not only do I have a lot of modern clothing and items, I have a lot of historical items as well.

We're going to start with Felicity Merriman. Felicity was one of the earliest AG dolls (coming out after the first three of Sam, Mol, and Kirsten) and representing the Colonial period. Which was a little weird seeing as Ms. Rowland was inspired to create the whole line when she went to Colonial Williamsburg, but whatever, I just buy the dolls and snark about the fandom and the fail. Felicity was released in 1991 (and thus got rid of the white body dolls1), half ass retired in 2002 with the release of Kaya, and fully "archived" in 2011, leaving only her books and some extras for purchase. Felicity and some of her clothes and things were my Giftmas present from my husband in 2006, and as of now I have a pretty solid amount of her collection--minus outfits I think are either too hideous to have or too expensive to pay for at present. What can I say, I'm picky.

One of the first things I got for Felicity was her Riding Habit and Hat, partially because my husband picked it out for me as better than the Tea Dress (which I got later). The Pleasant Company version was released in 1993 and retired in 2002; the 2005 version was released when Felicity's movie was released, and retired when her collection was in 2011. I got the Mattel version direct for costs at the time of $28 bucks. Then a few weeks ago I found the first release for the lowish price of $45 and even though it didn't have the hat, I snapped it up. This review is done with the PC2 version, except the hat which I don't think had a significant change. Seeing as Felicity and her entire collection are retired, secondary prices are variant--from about cost at $28 to highs of $60-70. This is regardless of PC or Mattel, it looks.

Before I go into the review, let me put my foot down about something. Unless I don't have the character doll whatsoever, I do my historical reviews on the appropriate historical or a doll close to the era. None of this Addy's clothes on modern white girls shit. But that is another rant.

Note: For some reason Blogger was not uploading my pics direct, so I uploaded them all via Picasa. They won't get any bigger. If I can't find out why, this is the wave of the future. We'll all live. I also did the entire review with a background of Felicity's Scenes and Settings.

Hats off! Or more accurately, hats on, girl.
Hat: The hat--a tricorn hat--is made of stiffened and molded black felt. At least I think it's felt. It may just be flocked, since it has a velvet feel. In the Colonial Era one did not go about bare headed as a lady, and riding habits tended to take on a masculine look, hence the more masculine style hat. As visible, it sits neatly on Felicity's head.

Trim and sides.
 The sides are turned up to get the tricorn look. If I try to flatten the hat out I can see the hat's shape is sort of round overall but why would I wreck a perfectly good tricorn hat? In fact I tend to press it up to store it, so it does not get out of shape.

Gold rope trim. And dust. So much dust.
The band around is a nice gold rope braid trim, tacked down in three spots through the hat. And, as you can see, the hat picks up lint like nothing else. This is actually after I tried to roll pick up some of it. Hats gonna pick up a lot of dust and lint.

 To the right side of the hat, the gold cord is knotted and left with two ties that end in knots.

To the right are four attached feathers, for a feminine look. No I can't tell you what birds they're supposed to be like, but they add flair and beauty. ETA: I have been informed by the educated and awesome Moniquill that these are rooster hackles and that historically, rooster tails would have been high fashion on a hat. Learnings!

Top of the hat. Not a top hat. There's a diff.
The top of the hat, so you can see the whole cord trim and feathers. They are on opposite sides. Thus there should be no question about how to put on the hat, because the feather goes to the left and points to the back.

Flat looped trim.
And on the turned up brim you have flat gold braid cording, all the way around. It overlaps in the back, and adds a little touch of nice to match the cording braid.

The hat gets a solid A. It perfectly tops off the outfit, and matches the rest of the set.

Jacket: The riding jacket--waistcoat--is a wrist length high collared jacket made of dark, pine green wool. It is completely unlined--lining would have probably added bulk. Again, riding habits tended to take on a man's style of dress.

Collar. And Ascot.
The collar is a simple pointed small collar with two embroidered gold swirls on either side. And I will now take the time to point out that the white cloth under the jacket is an ascot I made out of white scrap cloth. The outfit doesn't come with this, but without it her neck and skin shows and it just doesn't look nearly as nice to me.

Better embroidery shot.
 Here's a better shot of the embroidered swirl on the collar. It's not much but it adds a nice look.

Front placket and "buttons".
The front placket is made of a iridescent green fabric, and is likely to invoke the whole waistcoat look. The front has several faux flat button studs--not just for decor, but where the front buttons would have likely gone anyways on a real set. The sides are turned out and stitched down on the PC version,, and there is flat gold braid out to the trim-buttons. The placket is shaped in such a way that it tapers up to the the neck.

 The front closes with velcro. (Gasp you can see Felicity's stays. How unbecoming.)

Cuff and trim.
The cuffs are turned up and trimmed as well with the same style button and flat gold braid; they can't really be turned down because they're attached to the underseam.

Peplum and trim.
 The jacket has a peplum all around the edge, as was the style of the time. Only the front has the gold braid trim.

Peplum back.
The back of the peplum is four panel, flared so that--if Felicity was on her horse--it would flare out behind her as she rode. There's no trim at all.

Jacket back.
The back of the jacket is also very tightly fitted; a four panel that comes down to a v. As like the hat, the wool fabric picks up lint and strings really really easy. But that's wool for you. It's very tightly sewn, as to have the proper look of the era. 

The jacket gets an A-. The minus is only because I really think there should have been something at the neckline to pull that together. Otherwise, it's got almost no flaws.

A lady wears a skirt, even if she's a tribade3.
Skirt: The skirt is a ankle length wool skirt with side closures. It is made of the same fabric as the jacket--a thick wool. While the top part of a lady's riding habit leaned masculine, a lady always wore a skirt--and she always rose sidesaddle as well. Felicity might be gay, but she still dresses like a lady.

Skirt band and pleats. Forgive the darkness.
The skirt is knife-pleated to a waistband of the same fabric as the placket. Knife pleating was the way of the time; gathering as it were was rarely done. Again, you can see Felicity's stays, with the bonus of also seeing her shift. Her shift is also PC but for the love of bunnies I don't recall where I got it from. It's been years. 

Pocket access.
The skirt closes on both sides with velcro at the waistband. This is because in the colonial era, women's clothes didn't have pockets. Kind of like today. But instead of forcing women to carry purses, women had separate pockets that they wore right under their petticoats. That's where you get the Mother Goose rhyme about Lucy Locket. You'll get a better look at the pocket when I review Felicity's underclothes.

Hem. And shoes.
The hem is a simple tuck under and stitch. Nothing fancy. All the fancy is on the jacket. The skirt gets an A. It looks nice and brings the whole set together.

PC Vs. Mattel. FIGHT~
PC vs. Mattel: A part of reviews we will rarely have here on AG Outsider: PC vs. Mattel. There are very few outfits that have been released in two versions, and this is one of the few that I have. Thus, a few comparisons I came across. PC is on the left and Mattel on the right.

The main thing is that the PC version is made of a thicker, heavy wool like fabric. The Mattel one, when released for the movie, is of a thinner acrylic style fabric. Because of this, the fabric drapes a little different on the Mattel set. The front turned under jacket and the cuffs have white interfacing underneath to stabilize the trims. The buttons on the PC version are flat studs; on the Mattel version, they are sewn on gold buttons. If there are major hat differences I can't tell you because I don't have the PC hat. The PC outfit is also sized for the thicker PC Felicity. This means that on my Mattel Felicity, her shift, stays, and pocket fit under a lot neater than they did with the Mattel version.

Which one wins out? Oddly enough, the PC version. I just like the thicker feel and the flat buttons. Not that my Mattel set is getting sold or given away any time soon.


Before I go into final scores, lemme just show you some examples of the riding habit in other media:

Here it is in the movie Felicity: An American Girl Adventure. She wears it in place of the summer gown for the part that parallels Felicity Saves the Day.  Note the lace cuffs, the ascot, and Felicity wearing her hat around her neck.

The riding habit has been in every released set of Felicity's paper dolls, including the play scenes and settings. This is from the first edition, before Addy was released. She also has gloves and--not seen--black riding boots which I'm still working on finding for her.

In the books, Felicity never wears the set. However, it was a gift from her grandfather--or would have been, if he hadn't died of Felicity's Character Development Disease. As it is she gets it from her mother after he dies.


Overall Feel: The outfit is simply gorgeous, and one of the best parts I feel of Felicity's collection. Every part of it goes together. One of the things I love is that it's a deep rich green, which matches Felicity's eyes. About the only thing that bothers me about the set is that it did not come with an ascot or neck tie to go under the jacket. And I am tempted to make small lace partial under sleeves for the cuffs.

Cost Value: Both times the set was available--$24 for PC, $28 for Mattel--were pretty good values. I didn't balk at paying $45 for the PC version even though it was hatless, because the set is retired now and that was a good value. However, the most that I think should be paid for a complete set is $50. (Mattel I'd likely not pay more than $40 if I had to buy a set.) Don't go paying $100+ for a set, really. That's just way too damn much. Be patient and get a sensible cost set.

Authenticity: Very authentic to the Colonial period. It has all the markings of the style of the time. time--a masculine feel with a ladylike skirt, knife pleating, wool to minimize dirt sticking, and sensible but interesting trims. Plus it has access in the skirt to her pockets--something that is lacking from some later outfits, unfortunately.

Appropriateness to Character: Very appropriate. Felicity loves riding horses and this is an outfit that fits for her riding and the style required for a girl to ride. While never seen in the books, it is rather prominent in the movie, and in all her paper doll sets.

Final Grade: A-. The habit is authentic to the era, fitting to Felicity's character, and very lovely and richly trimmed and designed. The Mattel one is a little lesser quality for me now that I've gotten a PC one, but it's well enough that Felicity will probably still wear it at times. The minus is because bitch, the set should have had an ascot. I refuse to think otherwise.


1 White-Bodied dolls had skin tone limbs and white muslin bodies; however, Colonial fashions are low in front, and so Felicity made the company change to skin tone bodies. Read the link for more data. 
2 I've started using PC instead of PM for reasons that will be articulated at a later time.
3 "Tribade" is what you called a lesbian back then. Lesbian as a word for "girl who wants girls" didn't come into play until about 1890 or so.


  1. Felicity has always been my favorite american girl doll (maybe the fact that i am a feisty redheaded woman of the sapphic persuasion had something to do with it.) I have the original PC riding habit and I have to say it is definitely of much superior quality to the mattel version. It has much thicker fabric the hat is better too. I have to say your rants about felicity being a tribade have made me laugh so hard, I totally agree, I mean she was cross dressing for heaven's sake. It's no wonder little queer me loved her so much. Fantastic blog keep up the good work. ;)

  2. I've really enjoyed this blog. As an 18th century, historical reenactor, I had purchased Felicity for my daughter ages ago. I've been looking for good outfits for my hand-knit 18" dolly. Love everything you've written. Just to clarify, though, the proper nomenclature for shift would be chemise and she didn't wear a skirt! Heavens! I is a petticoat!

    Keep up the great writing! As my little girl (she is now 29!) "Ima love it!"

  3. I kinda got a little irritated of being a huge Shipper of Felicity and Ben but I still love your blog ❤

  4. My Marie-Grace and PC Sam hats are so dusty. Especially when my cat wears them on a regular basis. I know, I torture the cat and the dolls. It's just so funny. I also ship Felicity and Elizabeth.


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