John Redfern/Redfern & Sons, Part 2

We continue the Redfern story further. As previously mentioned, Redfern came at women’s fashion from the perspective of a tailor and it was event in his work. One of the Redfern’s specialties was what could be called “sportswear Victorian style” and this was evident in his riding habits. From a style perspective, riding habits were relatively conservative and had a minimum of embellishments because of their function as clothes for riding a horse.  Below are some examples:


Riding Habit, Redfern, 1885 – 1886; Wool flannel trimmed in Mohair braid, sateen lining; Victorian & Albert Museum (T.430-1990)


Front profile view. It must be noted that the lighting must have been vastly different because the color is completely different from the other pictures.



9cbd3df36c8f3eb50119c2fcaceaa4bcThe above riding habit is interesting for several reasons. First, it’s a two-tone, something not often seen in riding habits of the 1880s, with a black skirt and a royal blue bodice. Also, one can see distinct military influences with the Mohair braid patterns on both cuffs and the use of Brandenburgs on the front in a style reminiscent of Hussar-style uniforms. The braid patterns on the back skirt also take this idea further. Finally, the most striking aspect is that the coat is asymmetrical, the right flap overlapping the right and then flaring out wider towards the top, creating an almost double-breasted effect. The overall effect is a stylish look yet it keeps to the conservative style convention characteristic of riding habits. Finally, it must be noted that with little exception (at least outside of frontier places like the American West or South Africa, women rode side-saddle during this era and skits tended to be over-sized.

Here’s a little more information on the provenance of the above garment:

The tailoring firm Redfern and Co., made this riding jacket for May Primrose Littledale…During the mid-1880s Redfern incorporated braiding into many of their designs for walking outfits and outdoor jackets. The Queen magazine of 10 May 1884 commented on some particularly striking examples including, ‘The “Hungarian” … lavishly adorned with finest mohair braid, and finished with knotted cords; and the “Polish”, of royal blue “faced” cloth … handsomely braided across the front.’ Unfortunately May did not have long to enjoy wearing this jacket as she died soon after it was made.

Redfern’s military style is also evident in this jacket:


Jacket, Redfern, c. 1880 – 1910; Black and white wool tweed trimmed in red piping; Goldstein Museum of Design (1977.005.009)

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Like the riding habit above, The above jacket displays distinct military styling and especially in the use of the buttons and piping trim. In the front, we see the same flared double-breasted style flap although this time it’s only the buttons that provide the decorative embellishments. Unfortunately, the Goldstein Museum of Design, where the jacket resides, provides little in the way of background information but based on the style and the similarity to the riding habit, the late 1880s or early 1890s is mostly likely not too far off. It would have been nice to have known what the original skirt looked like that went with this.

In the above examples we see Redfern’s tailoring at work, creating structured garments that are almost severe- only the fabrics and trim soften things a bit.  In the next installment, we’ll look at some more of Redfern’s work and see that he didn’t just make tailored garments.

To be Continued…

2 thoughts on “John Redfern/Redfern & Sons, Part 2

  1. Have you seen Susan North’s research papers on Redferns that were published in ‘Costume’ in 2008? She works as aresearcher at the V&A Museum, London. She sent me the papers as pdf files if you are interested?
    I have found Charles Pennington Poynter aka Charles Poynter Redfern is a relative of mine and was responsible for establishing the Paris branch and other Redfern outlets.


    Lucy Allen

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