Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What to Wear Where: Newport Weekend of Coaching

by Karen Klopp & Hilary Dick

Mark your summer soirée schedule for a spectacular social and sporting scene in Newport, Rhode Island,
as 19th century carriages, led by stately steeds, gallantly gather to herald Coaching Weekend in Newport. From August 16th  to 19th, The Preservation Society of Newport County hosts members of the Carriage Association of American who delight in the pageantry of parading for such an appreciative crowd. It is the very spot where the sport enjoyed great prominence in the late 1800s when the mansions of Newport were celebrated for their preeminent and opulent grandeur.  Built by the titans of their time, they have stood the test of time, thanks to the steadfast diligence of The Preservation Society.

Occurring only once every three years creates even more excitement for the prominent promenade which takes place all over the town, stopping at both private residences and historical sites.  On Saturday morning, August 18th there will be a demonstration of driving skills on the back lawn of The Elms at 10:30am. For a full schedule, visit the Newport Mansion Coaching Weekend.
The pageantry of parading ...
Photo by Sharon Lynn Reynolds
Beverly Lindh Little and Kenneth Lindh, Co-Chairmen of Coaching Weekend in Newport, shared a little family history with us and eloquently described the venerable procession.

"David Lindh, our father, and a member of the Coaching Club of America, revived the Weekend of Coaching in 1968.  Every three years, impeccably restored coaches and horses arrive in Newport and are driven by their skilled handlers (known as whips) for 4 days around the island.  Newport is ideally suited to the event with its array of gilded age summer cottages and century old beech trees."
Beverly Lindh Little and Kenneth Lindh. David Lindh.
"The details are expertly orchestrated with the help of many people, and enjoyed greatly by both the participants and the community. The highlight of the weekend is an exhibition at the Elms, where the coaches and horses display their finery and the whips demonstrate their skill to the public.  Throughout the weekend, the streets are lined with fans as the coaches make their way around the island. On Saturday night there is a dinner dance at the Breakers, originally the summer cottage of Cornelius and Alice Vanderbilt. Coaching has been part of Newport for over 100 years and we are honored to help preserve the tradition by organizing this wonderful weekend."
Photo by Kenneth Lindh
The Breakers, the Grandest of the Summer “Cottages.”
Grand Hall at the Breakers.
In the photo below you can see clearly the elevated position of the Whip, as well as the footmen or grooms on the rear of the vehicle.  You can also see “aprons” or lap blankets across the the driver and his companion. These are a required piece of livery to keep the reins from staining the clothing and from falling down between the Whip’s legs — a potentially treacherous situation.  The center portion holds passengers, all adhering to the traditional dress dictates of men in top hats or skimmers, jackets and ties. Women also arrive in fine millinery splendor worn with dresses or jackets and skirts.
Photo by John Corbett
Each day the carriages crisscrossing the town as spectators line the streets to cheer the showcase of highly skilled equestrian prowess.
Photo by John Corbett
The Preservation Society was created in 1954 by a group of concerned residents intent on preserving the architectural heritage of Newport County, and most notably the Bellevue Avenue Historic district where the mansions and gardens provide a tangible experience of the elegance and artistic wonders of the Golden Age. Under its keen stewardship The Breakers, Chateau-sur-Mer, Chepstow, The Elms, Green Animals Topiary Garden, Hunter House, Isaac Bell House, Kingscote, Marble House, and Rosecliff all are maintained to high standards and made available for enjoyment, education and research.
Rosecliffe. Considered one of the most beautiful houses in Newport.
Rosecliffe, the Peacock Room.
Executive Director Trudy Coxe enthusiastically explained the significance: "The Newport Mansions exemplify three centuries of the finest achievements in American architecture, decorative arts, and landscape design. We hold these 11 properties — 7 of them National Historic Landmarks — in the public trust, and through them we engage the public in the story of America's vibrant cultural heritage."  
Marble House on Bellevue Avenue.
The Gold Room at Marble House .
Hammersmith Farm. Photo by Kenneth Lindh.
Board Member and lifelong preservationist Eaddo Kiernan describes the festivities and fanfare — “Once every three years the Newport Preservation Society hosts the Coaching Club of America for an extended weekend of scenic carriage drives with seven receptions, parties and Balls in those four days. During those four days historic Newport is transported back in time with the elegance of these stately antique coaches as well as the beautiful horses and all of the surrounding traditions.  For those of us who support these special events, it can be a wardrobe change marathon. I take a page from the Fire House and literally line up my outfits for that weekend in advance with shoes, hats, wraps etc so I can jump into them in a moments notice. Quick change artistry at its best.”
Photos: Kenneth Lindh
And what does one wear to go coaching?  If you enjoy an opportunity to climb aboard the rig, keep your ensemble stylish and ladylike.  We kept the pallette demure and are tickled to see that pink is still in fashion. When wearing a hat, I like to forego sunglasses and keep the earrings simple to not distract.  Love the fresh silhouette of these new Stuart Weitzman pumps. Since shoulder surgery in June, I am lowering my standards — in heel height, that is. An updated “Lady Bag” completes the timeless  look.
Photo by Sharon Lynn Reynolds
But the real  fashion highlight of this highly charged weekend is The Ball at The Breakers, one of the grandest summer “cottages” built by the Vanderbilts at the height of the family’s wealth and power.  Hilary’s gorgeous Black Tie ensembles capture the glamour and romance of the past.
Alice Ross, Lindsey Kelt. Hayden Scheible, Katerina Rosen, Jiten Dajee, Charlotte Osborne, Elizabeth Ross, and Alexandra Norton at The Preservation Society of Newport County's annual fundraising dinner dance at Chateau-sur-Mer.
For this year’s Coaching Ball I am keeping it classic and chic. The party attracts all ages reflecting the multi generational support of the Preservation Society. So I chose dresses for the young ... willing to show a little skin, the not so young, and the young at heart. I particularly like the silver Les Heroines dress at it reminds me of the Golden Age and its glamorous movie stars. 
Kenneth Lindh generously shared his vast personal knowledge of Coaching in America and The Coaching Club 1875 - 2018:

"The history of coaching dates to ancient times. The Romans, Persians, Chinese, and Greeks were all 'driving' horses early in their history. The 'modern' Sport of Coaching was first introduced into the United States as early as the 1860s. (A single Royal Mail Coach was purchased in England and brought to Boston to be driven around the streets. ) It grew out of the 18th and 19th century mail runs in England and the desire to preserve and revive the traditions of sportsmanship and horsemanship.
"It was a sport that focused not only on the skill of a Whip driving four horses but also on the training of the horses, all while maintaining the majesty and beauty of the horses, coach, and harnesses. Although Coaching and its revival as a strictly amateur sport began decades earlier in England, it quickly made its way across the Atlantic to the United States. The New York Coaching Club was formed in 1875 by nine New York gentlemen to 'encourage four-in-hand driving in America.'

"Coaching events or parades were soon organized around New York and surrounding areas. (These parades became newsworthy events, written about by the newspapers of the time.) As popular as these parades became in New York, many of the Whips came to Newport for the summer season. The Wetmores, the Bells, the Vanderbilts and the Belmonts were all active members, bringing their coaches together to go to the races, the polo games, and the Casino.
Arriving at the Coaching Club.
"The first unofficial meet of the Coaching Club in Newport was in 1880. The event became so popular that it became the official meet of the Coaching Club and was highly anticipated by all involved. The Newport meets ran from the end of the nineteenth century through the beginning of World War II.
"In 1968, at the behest of New York Coaching Club members Jack Seabrook and David Lindh, the Newport Meet of the Coaching Club was revived. The Preservation Society of Newport County was instrumental in the revival, allowing the coaches to visit several of its properties, and 'A Weekend of Coaching in Newport' was begun. It was decided to make the weekend a triennial event and in 1971 the Coaching Weekend was held with the support of the Preservation Society and seven teams. Since 1968 Newport has been the host of numerous Whips, coaches and teams of horses and through the generosity of our Whips, Hostesses and Hosts, we are all able to view and participate in the horsemanship, sportsmanship and showmanship of the modern Sport of Coaching."

In our current age of instant everything, what’s new and what’s next, it is heartening to know that grandeur and traditions of the past are still alive and trotting in Newport. To enjoy a visit, lecture or tour, please visit Newport Mansions.   
Photos where not noted are courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County and New York Social Diary.  For an interesting bit of Newport History, read NYSD’S Newport Summers When Society was in Flower.

What2WearWhere
helps today’s busy women shop for life’s events, sports, workplace and travel.   The site is a synthesis of the latest looks and trends compiled by Karen Klopp & Hilary Dick: www.what2wearwhere.com