Apr. 01, 2016

Riding Hems

Keeping the lady-like vibe going in the trying environments of wild nature

I was going through past Look Makeovers recently and one of them served as a base for this entry. It featured a Russian speaking reader from Germany pairing a fur hat, a coat, and casual shoes for a winter weekend outfit that started in the city and continued at the seaside. Her question was how to keep the lady-like vibe going in the trying environments of wild nature. In the makeover entry I  briefly mentioned riding boots, but  upon revisiting the entry, I felt like elaborating on them.

Riding boots combine three things that aren’t readily available together: comfort, utility, and grace. To keep this fragile balance I never pair them with jeans. A while ago I put together a thorough tutorial of dos and don’ts of the full equestrian look with blazers and riding leggings, but I have recently caught myself gravitating toward skirts. They seem to be even more rewarding with equestrian boots, keeping the grace game strong. For the ‘indoor’ type of beauty (of which I am a self appointed advocate)  ‘grace’ is a base ingredient for all looks, especially  the ‘comfy’ and ‘outdoorsy’ ones. I gathered some style notes about three skirts that blend well with my riding boots and can also take an extra layer for cold. They reflect the ‘indoor’ version of the natural and laid-back style expressed, for example, here by Daria Werbowy.  These celebrate an ‘outdoor’ beauty, but do very little justice to ‘indoors.’ Here is my adaption of the eco-look for all the ‘indoors’ out there.


The see-through Adele Fado floor-length skirt made its way into my closet during the maxi rage in 2012-2014 and stayed. Trend or not, this is my go-to item for all the ocean outings along the California coast. I love the medieval sentiment it brings and how it works equally well with Brunello combats and equestrian boots. With my well pronounced curves I was limited to pairing it with something cropped and  structured. But then this double face Max Mara topper arrived from one of my trips to Milan and took the medieval mood to the next level, creating a Capuchine silhouette with a knitted mink beanie mimicking the infamous hood.

Adapted from a men’s car coat, this double face topper hits well above the knee, at mid-thigh allowing for both better proportions and a nice juxtaposition of masculine and feminine. I like to keep the color palette ascetic to focus on this gender play, but there is a way to bring color too.

I pass on colorful scarves here and bring in a more structured, heavy knitted turtleneck instead. I then sandwich a lightweight down jacket in between. This allows for a hedonistically open neckline on colder days and also elaborates on the gentleman mood of the car coat, whose play against the see-through feminine maxi I thoroughly enjoy.

Another thing I very much enjoy about this skirt is its floor-sweeping hem that makes you hold the fabric away from the messy road. It does create slight discomfort, which accompanied ladies of previous centuries who, on rare occasions, found themselves out and about. This inherently graceful gesture adds a touch of romance to an overwhelmingly earthy environment.

On days I feel more independent and self-sufficient I go for shorter skirts that do not require much attendance.




The days I am in a more of an I-am-my-own-girl kind of mood, I reach for a shorter hem, but make sure it is a see-through too. Knee-length, breeze-kissing, but now in camouflage: a combination that serves as connecting tissue for my faint features and the raw surroundings of the Northern California coast. This is actually a three quarter skirt which creates perfect proportions when paired with husband’s henley’s  or cropped jackets. But if the weather forces me into a coat, I fold the skirt at the waist and turn it into knee-length. This reduces the skirt to a mere accessory, equal to a breezy scarf, which is all you need for this hiking-inspired look. Paired with a coat and equestrian boots it is also very leg-length friendly.

For my body type, leg-length is a highly sensitive matter. My legs are long but so is my torso. The package comes equipped with childbearing hips, which readily steal precious inches from the limbs. With such a balance of powers and today’s layers-dominated fashion world, I check my proportions frantically, like a new healthy lifestyle convert checks decimals on her wearable device. The sheer, see-through fabric is my go-to item. I wouldn’t be able to pull this off if I had a piece of double serge wool peeping out from underneath the coat. And, truth be told, no gal endowed with hips ever would.


Then comes the skirt that fits in between the other two: a knee-length that is  neither capriciously romantic nor bluntly emancipated. This knife-pleated full-circle skirt with petticoats features Empress Elisabeth of Austria on a horse. What’s mostly visible is the heraldic design which is masculine enough to appease this baroque frock with mud-tolerant footwear. Well, the aristocratic pedigree of the riding boots is essential; I don’t think I could pull this off with Timberlands or Brunellos, despite the masculinity of the skirt’s heraldic design. That would take Daria curated by Mrs. Coddington and would inevitably shape it into another ‘outdoor’ beauty profile, ubiquitous these days.

Meanwhile I am here on a mission to empower an ‘indoor’ charm and helping it channel itself in the context of wild nature. This means that pairing a jacquard, knife-pleated full skirt with riding boots will be as gender bending as it gets. It makes me think of (and feel like) the XIX-early XX century heroine who favors horse riding over afternoon tea gossiping, but is still riding side saddle.


The skirt is a trophy from my first trip to Vienna in 2014. This is when I discovered an Austrian brand, Mothwurf, so charmingly sweet it is palate-paralyzing.  Mothwurf bases its collections on Tyrolean folk dresses and prides itself for marrying tradition with a modern vibe. This always appeals to me, but, truth be told, their campaigns feel a bit like a European version of LA buffoonery at its scariest. I can see how it might seem natural in the Hotel Budapest perimeter, but I, like many women these days, need something painfully laid back to get around town for my mundane tasks while still enjoying my clothes.

Mothwurf features great fabrics and intricate finishes, which made me take a second look. Once I distanced myself from their waist cinching, cleavage burgeoning ((look who’s talking) tops and peep-toe pumps, I realized this skirt possesses enormous everyday-wear potential for an ‘indoor’ type of beauty. The stiff, armory-like fabric and an insignia-equestrian print ground the billowing shape and rustling petticoats. The latter are important to keep the ‘indoor’ vibe going. And the hunter green, of course, relates to both refined and rustic settings. All the details just fell into place and ensured a nice addition to my riding hems stable.

This is how the two knee-lengths and one maxi take me through laid back California living without compromising my ‘still-side-saddling’ nature.

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Riding Hems