It was only 100 years ago when some, but not all, women in the UK were first granted the right to vote. Now they are just as likely to be seen taking aim on a driven grouse shoot or firing clays at the gun club.
Women are shooting in greater numbers than ever before. So as the season gets under way, don’t expect it to be all about men in flat caps and tweed trousers. Over the past 20 years or so, countrywear for women has become big business too.
One of the first ladies-only shooting courses was The Green Feathers. Formed in 1995, it launched at the Holland & Holland shooting school and subsequently triggered the formulation of ‘Covert Girls’, set up by Claire Zambuni. Over the past 20 years more and more ladies-only clubs and ladies-only days have been springing up all over the UK.
The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club, founded in 2011 by Victoria Knowles-Lacks, arguably changed the face of the ladies’ shooting scene more than any other. The numbers don’t lie. The British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) had 1,212 women members in 2011. That figure is now around the 10,000 mark, with no indication that it will slow down.
As the number of girls with guns continues to grow, the demand for female-specific countryside wear has been ballooning at a similar rate.
The wonderful thing about country fashion, of course, is that there aren’t many rules, even if it rarely deviates far from its roots. That means core items can be timeless investments. The rising popularity of women’s shooting has also given countryside fashion a new feminine perspective.
Country fashion has so much more to offer than the stereotypical rustic, ‘twee’ vibe it is often labelled with. With more women now in the market, designers are taking traditional country styles and combining with colour, flare and modern silhouettes to create a more chic and trendy look.
Traditional tweed is produced in a wide variety of forms and patterns, meaning both producers and wearers can express their own individual style and personality. Tweed will never look out of place in the countryside, but the selection of styles, patterns, colours and garments means it is perfectly suited to city life too.
Lucan is a unique brand which combines tradition with a contemporary twist, the collection includes bold flared skirts, well-cut trousers and 40s-inspired coats. For a modern tweedy vibe with a young and vibrant style, Holland Cooper is a great go-to brand as well.
As more and more lady guns line up on the shooting field, countryside fashion brands have had to meet rising demand for functional feminine apparel. For men, dressing for a day’s shooting is fairly simple – you can’t go far wrong with plus twos with a shirt and tie, jumper and a good coat. For ladies it’s not quite as easy.
Whilst fashion may not be at the forefront of these ladies’ thoughts, it’s refreshing to know that brands within the industry are bringing true femininity to the field – Schöffel Country, Cordings and Musto, to name a few, offer a fantastic range of shooting stylish garments for ladies such as breeks, knitwear and coats.
With this move in style and fashion, the general look of ladies shooting wear is much slimmer and more dynamic. Fits are much more flattering and designed to perform without compromise. An excellent example of this is Schöffel’s new Rockingham Coat, featuring everything you could wish for in a practical ladies’ shooting coat. Alternatively, Schöffel’s iconic Ptarmigan Tweed Coat remains the ultimate in shooting clothing for being out in the field, combining ultimate functionality with classic country style.
Country style doesn’t just stop at tweed. There’s so much more to it than that. From cashmere jumpers and colourful cords to patterned shirts and quilted gilets – it really is an open book. But no outfit is complete without accessories. Hicks & Brown specialise in quirky cow hide belts and bags, whilst Mackenzie & George’s range of shooting and equestrian inspired accessories would be a welcome addition to country outfit.
When it comes to accessorising, a hat is a must. It is a great British tradition that dates back centuries and possesses almost totemic power in its ability to symbolise class and gender amongst a myriad of other things. During Edwardian Britain, hats were a necessity in public, and even the Suffragettes remained behatted whilst chained to railings campaigning for women’s right to vote. So, whether it’s a tweed flat cap, deerstalker, trilby or fedora, wear your hat with patriotic pride.
Last, but by no means least, is footwear. In reality this is one of the most important components of country style for fairly obvious reasons. The first essential item every country girl should own is a pair of rubber boots. For a luxurious feel with uncompromising comfort Le Chameau, a favourite of the young Royals, has a range that are handcrafted from natural rubber and offer the widest variety of calf widths on the market for an almost bespoke fit. The French brand’s top-of-the-range Women’s Chasseur Leather Lined Boots are hard to beat for the winter months, keeping feet warm and dry.
To complete your country wardrobe, a pair knee length boots, chelsea boots and loafers are a must. There are an abundance of options on the market, however Fairfax and Favour, The Spanish Boot Company and Dubarry are firm favourites.
Whatever your preferred look, make sure it expresses your personality. The most important thing is being comfortable – in both body and mind. Don’t go for flamboyant colours and patterns if you don’t want to stand out. On the other hand, if ostentatious eccentricity is your thing, embrace it with confidence and get your guns up.
Ptarmigan Rockingham coat in Forest
This modern take on the waterproof and windproof coat comes with pretty silk lining and a feminine silhouette
Lyndon II Fleece Gilet in Fig
Once considered a fashion faux pas, this modern fleece gives a super flattering silhouette in a rich colourway
Women’s Chasseur Leather Lined Boots
A favourite with young Royals, the brand’s flagship boot is now more luxurious than ever
Chasseur Cuir Prestige boots
A favourite with young Royals, the brand’s new flagship boot is now more luxurious than ever
Cheltenham Cord Jean in Mulberry
Featuring a touch of elastane for a fantastic fit, these sleek and classic corduroys can be worn with smart or casual shoes, in or out of a boot
Ladies’ Merino Check Scarf in Pale Blue
This luxuriously soft, 100% merino scarf has a brushed finish for maximum softness and comes in an attractive check design too