Tuesday, December 4, 2018

DAY 49: It's December. Which Means: Skating.

Victorian women exercised more than we think, as I've previously discussed in posts about riding, archery, fencing, and tennis, not to mention shooting. But in the winter months, they loved to skate. Jennie Churchill was no exception.

Jennie learned to skate at her father's Bathgate estate outside Manhattan, Jerome Park. Leonard Jerome built a winter weekend escape for his girls on the property, which was the site of Thoroughbred racing in spring and summer--but in winter, the public came to skate on Bathgate's ice. In THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, I suggest Jennie learned to figure-skate from Fanny Ronalds, whose relationship with Leonard Jerome was ending by the winter of 1867 when Jennie was thirteen. By the time the ice melted, the Jerome women would be neck-deep in plans to move to France, along with Fanny. But that winter, she and Jennie twirled on the Bathgate ice.

What would they have worn?
Worth Skating Coat with mink trim

Shorter-than-usual skirts were permitted, for safety reasons on the ice, and they offered a glimpse of a neat ankle encased in leather boots with silver blades. Sometimes the blades were simpler--and strapped straight onto the wearer's shoes. Such models were less stable, obviously, than integrated ones--but they were also much cheaper.
1880s Skating jacket

Lamb cape

With the skirts, a winter skating jacket or cape was usual. A warm hat for the head. And a fur muff for the hands.

Whether one could breathe during such vigorous exercise, given the tight-lacing that was the norm, is of course debatable. But what we can state with certainty is that skating parties were opportunities for flirtation and courtship, as men and women gathered in the sparkling air, laughing and performing, while fires burned on the snowy banks of the pond.

Wooden strap-on skates
Velvet and chincilla ensemble...with tassels!

Happy Holidays!
For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel. 

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