What to Wear to a Hunt Ball

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Opening Meet at Wethersfield.

Fall is such a wonderful time of year when the field is mounted in full flight over hill and dale in pursuit of a good gallop in the countryside.  The Hunt is an exhilarating sport for those adventuresome types, as well as for us meeker types who follow on foot.

Incredible countryside views.

While the guidelines for hunting attire vary in details from club to club, each follow similar rules of attire. For ladies and men — tan breeches, black boots, black jackets, yellow or tattersall waistcoat, white shirt and stock tie, knotted and secured with a stock pin.

Master of the Hunt Lelee Brandt in her prescribed attire.
The newly engaged James Flexner and Gwendolyn Tetrick ride out together.

Each article has a field-ready purpose;  the wool Melton jackets are tightly woven to repel the inevitable precipitation, vests or waistcoats are insulating as well as protective, knee-high boots save legs from scratches and scrapes.   Historically, the stock tie and pin looking so impeccably turned out performed double duty as a tourniquet or sling. This is clearly not a sport for the faint of heart.

When a rider has reached a certain level of dedication and expertise, he or she is awarded their “colors” by the Hunt’s Masters. This is a great honor and is designated with a change in dress. For women in the field, jacket collars are trimmed with the club colors,  while men earn the right to wear “pinks” with white breeches.

Pat and John Ike.
Fernanda Kellogg and Kirk Henckels.

Pinks … scarlett …. red — it can all be quite confusing. Our go-to on the subject of hunting and its practices is historian and photographer Pat Ike. “The proper term is always ‘scarlet’ when referring to ‘pinks,’ named after the tailor Mr. Pink who made the jackets in his London shop.  Traditionally ‘red’ is never used as a descriptive term.” Also, interesting to note, “When the British soldiers came home from the war they hunted in their uniform (redcoats).”

It is customary to celebrate the success of the season in the field with a Hunt Ball — an opportunity for finery and frippery, merriment and mayhem!  What to Wear to a Hunt Ball is one of our most popular posts on What2WearWhere. Perhaps, like us, our readers enjoy the history and tradition behind these formal events rooted in the past but with a direct link to the modern world.

Alex Schwartz & friends.
Craig Callen and Everett Cook.

For the men, the attire is similar to White Tie but with a scarlet coat.  It is worn with tuxedo pants, white pique waistcoat and white bow tie. The result is quite dashing.

For the women guests, Pat confirmed the attire: “Traditionally women wore either white or black and long to a hunt ball, but through the years the accepted color has become black.”  Quite the spectacle is created on the dance floor with the women in elegant black gowns and men in tuxedos or their scarlet formal hunt jackets.

Hilary’s ensemble  is just the right shade of glamour.   “At this year’s Hunt Ball I thought to keep my look simple. I chose this Norma Kamali black dress because I love the chic style and fit. It is also the perfect canvas for standout gold or silver bold statement jewelry (being a blond I tend to go for gold). The simplicity of the look will definitely stand out on the dance floor among the sea of red and black.”

Norma Kamali Maxi Dress, $350 / Oscar De La Renta Crystal Clip Earrings, $420
Gucci Satin Clutch, $2390 / Mallarino Gold Vermeil Cuff, $900 / Gianvito Rossi Suede Sandals, $815.

This Glamourpuss Wrap is an ideal layerpiece for the chillier temps ahead.  It wraps you in a layer of luxury and warmth whether strutting out in black tie or casually worn with jeans, boots and turtleneck.

Glamourpuss Fur Trimmed Cashmere Wrap, $595.

A colorful table.

There is something wonderful about dressing up in the country where one is usually clad in sporty attire. I shopped SAKS.com to put this elegant ensemble together. Sachin & Babi is a brand that I admire for its refined evening wear. It is based in New York City and was founded in 2009 by husband and wife team Sachin & Babi Ahluwalia. Since I am Co-Chairing the Ball this year with my pal and Master of the Hunt, Parker Gentry, I am going to spring for a new gown, but simply cannot decide which one.

Sachin & Babi Sheer Yoke Column, $1195 / Marie Canale 18 K Yellow Gold, White Diamond and Onyx Earrings, $5100 / Sasha Crystal Embellished Bag, $1216 / Christian Louboutin Peek-a-boo Suede Pumps, $795.

Many girl friends, while expert shots in the field, avoid “bareing arms” when celebrating indoors. In this collection there is something for everyone.  We love showcasing the trends of the season with ruffles, statement sleeves and sexy shoulders.

L. to r.: Sensational Sleeves: Badgley Mischka Blouson Sleeve, $770; Let’s Party! Basix Black label Sequined, $652.

L. to r.: Timeless Elegance: Ml Monique Lhuillier Lace Sleeve, $695; Updated Lace: Ml Monique Lhuillier Sleeve Lace, $695; More lovely lace: Teri Jon By Rickie Freeman Lace Column, $800.

L. to r.: So feminine and romantic: Theia Embellished Trumpet, $995; High low retro: Chiara Boni La Petite Robe Velvet & Taffeta, $1090.

This year’s Opening Meet held at Wethersfield Estate & Gardens, the pack set off at 9 a.m. and returned at noon to a tented Hunt Breakfast. The crowd was thoroughly entertained when Donald and Barbara Tober presented an exhibition of Four in Hand Club.  If you happened upon this rare site, you might wonder what century you were in.

Olympia and Charlotte Serena.

Although the hunt may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there can be no doubt that the efforts of Hunt Club and their dedicated members throughout the world have successfully preserved vast tracts of land, in its original state — wild, unspoiled, and a safe haven to the teeming wildlife, ecosystems, and habitat that coexist on the land.

Chauncey Devereux Stillman (1907–1989), whose grandfather founded what eventually became Citibank, was a director of the Freeport Minerals Company and served in the Navy during World War II.

Mr. Stillman with youngest grandchild, Peter Budnik.

Mr. Stillman was a passionate horseman and he first experienced the rural beauty of Dutchess County while riding with the Millbrook Hunt. During his many rides, he was struck by the beautiful rolling hills and dramatic views. In 1937, realizing the potential of the land, he purchased two abandoned farms comprising several hundred acres. Mr. Stillman named the property Wethersfield in a tribute to Wethersfield, Connecticut, where his family first settled in America in 1705. As land became available, the estate expanded to its current size.  In 2017 an organization known as Friends of Wethersfield was formed to raise funds to maintain the facilities and grounds for public visitors and community use.

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