Just a bit before the turn of the century, women had a new line of Bicycle riding clothes to wear not just for cycling but also for hiking, camping, the gymnasium, and other outdoor sports. They featured oversized bloomers cuffed at the calf. These were the closest things to women’s pants that the Victorian era would see.
Today they are funny things to wear, but make a unique outfit for Tweed Rides and reenactment events.
Women’s Edwardian Hiking Clothes History
Most women in the Victorian and Edwardian eras simply hiked in their normal daywear outfits. Durable long wool skirts, hemmed at a walking length (between ankle and mid calf) were paired with cotton or linen blouses with a bowtie or necktie! Wide brim straw hats (boater hats) kept the sun off their faces and low heel lace-up hiking boots completed the outfit.
Besides bicycling, women were also learning to drive motorcars and had a similar set of clothing for that activity.
After the 1910s, women’s hiking and camping clothes simplified down to narrower and shorter skirts with matching suit jackets, belted at the waist. These used dark and heavy wool for hiking and camping; and lighter khaki cotton for canoeing, golf, riding, and fishing.
Divided skirts (or split skirts) were ideal for horse and bicycle riding. They were essentially culottes with a button on front panel to turn them into skirts. Many avid hikers also found them very practical for climbing over rough terrain.
Women were gradually leaving hiking suits behind in favor of lighter sporting clothes. Midi length skirts with a thin petticoat reduced bulk and a Middy top, inspired by men’s sailor uniforms, became the most widely worn hiking outfit from WWI to the mid 1920s. Instead of a hat, women pulled hair back with a pretty scarf or turban. A cardigan sweater also introduced knitwear to the sport clothing world.
See more hiking outfits in this 1913 Abercrombie catalog.
While women were making do with long skirts, men had the freedom of wearing work or sport togs with breeches (knicker pants). Women had been borrowing men’s work and sport togs for working farm life well before clothing manufacturers began to make them for women.
Sport togs consisted of breeches (knicker pants) with a matching Norfolk style suit jacket, buttoned down blouse-shirt, wide brim hat, and boots or puttees. This outfit has come back in style again thanks in part to the Tweed Ride trend. You can find breeches/knicker pants/jodphurs here.
The turn of the century saw women taking to the ‘out-of-doors’ in droves. Their need for sturdy boots was a growing industry. Abercrombie was one such company who is still around today. Their hiking boots were over-the-calf high with long laces and a low heel. Paired with tall socks, hiking boots remained mostly unchanged from the 1910s to 1940s. Shop boots.
Besides boots, women could wear low heel Oxford shoes for lighter walking, golf, and tennis. With knicker pants, a leather puttee (gaiter) was wrapped around the calf and over Oxfords or low boots.
Creating a Hiking Outfit
Depending on how accurate you need to be, sewing a sporty outfit is usually the best choice. You may be able to piece together a more modern Edwardian outfit with blouse and skirt/breeches separates using ready-made options and second hand clothing. Shop with the links below.
- Sewing Patterns
- Women’s Pants, Bloomers, and Breeches
- Women’s Boots and Shoes
- Edwardian Hats
- 1920s-1950s Camping and Hiking Clothes
- Edwardian Motoring Fashion for Women
- Edwardian Bicycle Outfits
- Women’s Workout Clothing – 1920s-1970s
- Victorian and Edwardian Summer Tea Dresses
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.