In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, women were enjoying outdoor leisure activities, sports, and travel in specialty designer suits (skirt and jacket sets). Initially, the knickerbocker suit with large bloomer-like pants was the most modest and practical of the sport outfits. Other rainy day walking suits like “rainy daisies” only featured a shorter hemline, whereas the knickers were the first step towards women wearing pants.
In the 1890s, the move to the divided skirt ceased the need for knicker pants. Divided or split skirts extended to mid-calf, flowing open during riding and closed when walking. Jackets followed fashion trends, at first with huge mutton sleeves before reducing almost overnight to smaller puff shoulder sleeves. The Edwardian era, 1900-1910s, saw narrowing skirts and blouses worn alone.
More than just for bicycle riding, women wore these same sport suits for golf, tennis, fishing, hiking, caving, mountaineering, canoeing, hunting, and horse back riding. As the years went by, horse riding outfits and bicycle riding outfits became one in the same.
Today, Victorian bicycle suits and Edwardian bicycle suits have surged in popularity. Tweed Ride participants especially enjoy making bicycle outfits to ride in.
1880s-1890s – Knickerbocker Suits
1890s Bicycle Suits – Mutton Sleeves
1890s Bicycle Suits – Puff Sleeves
1900s Bicycle Outfits
1910s Bicycle Outfits
In the 1910s we begin to see a change in the skirt. The two rows of buttons on the front of the skirt now extend down to the hem. One side could be unbutton to allow more freedom of movement now that the skirts were a narrower silhouette. The unbuttoning also revealed the “pants” underneath called leggings and eventually breeches.
After ww1, women tossed aside the divided skirt altogether and simply wore breeches. Like men’s breeches they ballooned out around the hips and thighs and tapered around the knee. Tall boots or puttees (gaiters) were worn over the legs for horseback riding but were optional for bicycle riding. Regular lace up boots proved to be more flexible for the motion of cycling.
See more riding habits in this 1919 Nardi catalog.
- 1900-1910s Edwardian Women’s Sport Clothes such as Hiking, Sports, Gym Wear
- Vintage Gym suits 1920s to 1980s
- Edwardian Motoring Fashion for Women
- History of Victorian Women’s Boots and Shoes
- DIY Victorian Daytime Outfit
- Victorian Makeup and Beauty Guide
Women’s Bicycle Outfit Patterns, Clothing, and Tweed Ride Outfits
We looked around the web for the best bicycle patterns, riding patterns, sport clothes, knickers, bloomers, vests, jackets, split skirts, sport suits, menswear and more. For shoes and boots, look here.
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.