Edwardian Walking Dresses

Edwardian walking dresses: What Edwardian women wore in cold and rainy winter weather and for summer hiking vacations.

Edwardian Walking Dresses

‘The very best form of exercise, all doctors agree, is walking. It brings into action every muscle of the body, stimulates the organs and circulation, and provides an interesting amusement, because it is enjoyable. It induces health because it does not overstrain any part of the body, and it brings beauty of form because it gets rid of superfluous tissue, and, at the same time, develops the muscles, thus filling out the hollows and thin places.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2a)

Edwardians were fond of walking. Even rain didn’t stop them: They believed a walk through rain was an excellent skin toner! But the clothing had to be light and warm so as not to catch cold. Edwardian walking dresses usually consisted of a short leather-lined wool skirt, a wool jacket or sweater, walking boots and a soft felt cap or hat.




Edwardian Walking Dresses

Edwardian Walking Dresses, Edwardian Hiking Women
Edwardian summer walking costume: wool skirt, shirtwaist, felt hat & hiking boots

‘The matter of clothing largely depends on the season. […] But even if the tour is to be in midwinter, no heavy overcoats or dragging undergarments should be worn. Light woollen underclothes are the safest and healthiest, cotton garments are likely to be extremely dangerous. If a woman is used to corsets, some pliable hygienic make without bones, or those made of ribbon, are the only possible wear. Dark serge or stockinette knickers should be worn under a short, plain tweed skirt. The kind of jersey made like a man’s football “sweater,” pulling on over the head, is the neatest and most comfortable form of coat. It resists rain for a long time, protects the chest and back from sharp winds, can be dried quickly, and, if necessary, washed.

A small woollen cap, known as a “rinking cap,” which only needs two hairpins to keep it in place, is extremely becoming, and suitable either for summer or winter. The only alteration necessary for this outfit in summer would be that the jersey would be carried in the “kitbag” to be ready for cold or rainy days. Even on the hottest days, a flannel blouse, with a low collar, is preferable to a cotton one, but if the hat affords no protection for the neck from the midday sun it is very unwise to leave the back of the neck bare, and an upright flannel or soft linen collar should be worn.

Boots and stockings are most important factors in the pleasure and comfort of a walking tour – new boots are, of course, impossible, and those freshly soled are not to be recommended. A light, high boot with a broad welt and a flat heel is always comfortable and safe even in the worst weather. By far the best kind of stockings to wear are thick cashmere ones, for all people who have walked a great deal agree that thick stockings, even in summer, are quite the most comfortable. They enable the boots to fit more perfectly and so prevent chafing, which quickly makes walking impossible.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2a)

Edwardian Walking Dresses
Edwardian walking outfit, 1901: wool skirt, sweater & felt cap

‘An invaluable possession for the holidays […] is the serge or tweed dress made with a short skirt; and all short skirts should be lined flatly having no separate foundation and fastening down the side of the front; thus only do they make for comfort and lightness of weight.’ (The Delineator, 1902)

‘The short skirted girl of a couple of seasons past was the freak; she was the Rainy Daisy, the pedestrian girl, the mountain girl, the climbing girl. She was everything but the pretty girl. For the short skirts, as they were made then, were not pretty. […] But now it is different: The swing-clear skirt no more resembles the short skirt of a few years ago […] The skirts of this season, those that are made on the new art lines, all swing clear.’ (San Francisco Call, June 1904)

‘For wear under this escape-the-ground skirt there comes a little brilliantine petticoat which is only a little longer than the knees. It is not full and its only trimming is a contrasting band of taffeta around the bottom. This petticoat looks odd to the woman who has never worn it, but it is so very comfortable and so well suited to its purpose, which is that of making the pedestrian skirt hang well, that one forgets its looks.’ (San Francisco Call, 1903)

‘The best outing hats are the ones that can be wet with rain, dampened with sleet, coated with road dust and stained with vagrant spots without revealing their vicissitudes to the beholder.’ An English outing hat, which Queen Alexandra wears for a walk in the Scottish hills or ‘when she goes out to feed her dogs […] is a ready-to-wear hat of felt, slightly mixed in gray and black, rough to the touch and trimmed with a band of gray tweed and a quill of black.’ (San Francisco Call, June 1903)




Edwardian Walking Dress For A Walk In The Rain

1900 Walking Costume - Edwardian Walking Dresses
Walking costume, 1900

‘Walking in the rain, for persons who are not susceptible to cold, is an excellent tonic for the complexion, but one that must be prepared for in order to get the most benefit.

For instance, when taking such a tramp the clothing must be warm, the skirts of a length not to drag the wetness about the ankles, for nothing will give cold more quickly than the constant slopping of wet garments about the feet.

The ideal walking costume for wet weather consists of a thick and warm, but not heavy, short skirt. The length need not be so abbreviated as to be conspicuous in city streets, and a blouse of thin French flannel and a short jacket are best for the upper portion of the body. A jacket is far better for walking than a long coat, as the latter is apt to drag or pull when the wearer is exercising, and a short garment gives freedom of movement.

A soft felt hat of a color to match the suit should be trimmed with one or more wings and a band of soft silk. Water, unless floods descend, will not hurt it, and thus the carrying of an umbrella is obviated.

No boots are as serviceable as those that are a trifle higher than regulation. These walking boots come about half way to the knee, are thick soled, lace, and will protect ankles and calves from dampness. It is an unfortunate fact that any skirt longer than knee length becomes damp about the bottom, as it is rubbed by the heels during walking. Bloomers of silk are to be preferred to petticoats for this particular costume.

Clad in such fashion the risk of dampness or chill penetrating to the skin is almost impossible. One may be in a drenching rain and come forth unscathed, for should the jacket be wet through the shoulders the latter are still protected by the flannel blouse.

Edwardian Walking Dresses, Edwardian Woman With Short Skirt
Edwardian walking dress, 1909

But to derive benefit it is essential that the exercise shall be rapid. Just then minutes’ brisk walking in a steady downpour will make the blood circulate with vigor and put the pedestrian into a delightful glow. However, it is absolutely imperative to keep moving rapidly as long as one is out of doors, and the length of time one walks in the rain must be regulated by individual strength, as well as by inclination. One who has not been accustomed to walking is apt to be tired in fifteen minutes, and care should be taken not to get so far away from home as to delay in returning. To become overtired is too often the means of contracting cold, nor must it be thought that to go home in motor or trolley will be healthy. Constant motion of the muscles is the only thing that will prevent cold.

On going into the house damp garments must be removed immediately, and if there is the least suspicion of moisture on the feet stockings as well as shoes should be changed. Different petticoats and, of course, another dress must be donned.

I wish girls who have not tried this rainy-day treatment would give it a fair test, for I am sure they would enjoy it and would be benefited, if only they would take the precaution not to contract cold.’ (Health And Beauty Hints, 1910, p. 98f.)




Edwardian Winter Walking Suit

‘The materials of which winter clothes are made should be light as well as warm, as heavy clothing impedes the circulation. All wool materials are the lightest, and wear the best;

Edwardian Walking Dresses
Edwardian winter walking dress: wool skirt and jacket, felt hat and wool gloves

they keep their colour, and do not look shabby so soon as those made of a mixture of wool and cotton.

Serges and tweeds should be employed for coats and skirts for hard wear. A good Harris tweed, tailor-made, is practically everlasting, and for the country and hard wear is excellent. […]

The tweed or frieze cloth coat which is required for really cold weather should always be lined, either with silk, satin, or sateen. However thick the frieze or tweed may be, the wind has power to pierce through it, but the lining will prevent its reaching the wearer. Many of these coats are made so that they can be worn either open or closed over the chest, and with a turned-down or stand-up collar. […] Long fur coats and fur-lined cloaks should not be worn for walking; their weight makes them quite unsuitable […]

Narrow skirts are not adapted to the sportswoman, but, if worn, additional width and freedom can be obtained by the addition of pleats each side of the skirt, which allow full play to the limbs, and yet preserve the smart appearance. […]

Ribbons as [hat] trimmings are very suitable for bad weather […] For cold weather the wearing of lined leather gloves is not advisable. A pair of woollen gloves worn over kid ones are much warmer and better in every way, and they can be easily removed if the hands get too hot. Those who suffer from cold hands should see that their gloves are long enough to cover the wrists, as it is most important to keep them warm. Gloves should never be tight; nothing makes the hands cold more quickly. […]

Edwardian Felt Walking Hats
Edwardian felt walking hats, 1904

For windy weather all the garments should be as close-fitting as possible. […]

For serviceable skirts it is not a bad plan to have the hem lined up inside with leather about four inches deep. It helps to weight the skirt and keep it down, and in wet weather if the hem gets muddy it can be easily sponged and dried.

Boots are the best wear for winter; if shoes are worn, gaiters should be added for the sake of warmth and dryness. Raincoats of waterproofed cloth are preferred to mackintoshes by many; they are healthier in wear and have no smell, and will resist any ordinary rain.

For winter wear all-wool undergarments are decidedly the best. However thin, if they are of pure wool they are a great safeguard against chills. But some skins are too sensitive for woollen underwear; for these a mixture of silk and wool is more comfortable and almost as warm. Divided skirt knickers of a really warm, light material will be found a very comfortable substitute for the usual petticoat for everyday wear with short dresses […] Stockings should be of wool or silk.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2b)




Edwardian Shooting Outfit

Edwardian Shooting Outfit 1910
Edwardian shooting outfit, 1910

‘A shooting skirt should be unlined, and made with a boxpleat at the back, to allow of room for fence climbing. It may be lined up with leather for a few inches, or faced with its own material – this latter plan is perhaps the best – and worn over stockingette knickerbockers.

A small felt or tweed hat or cap of the same invisible colour as the coat and skirt should be worn, leather gloves, and high blacking leather boots, with nails in them, reaching to the knee. As a substitute, stout shoes and high cloth gaiters may be worn.

The most useful coat is of such a length that the wearer can sit upon the back of it, and a breadth of mackintosh may with advantage be fastened across the lower part of the back of the coat, enabling the wearer to sit on damp grass with impunity.

The coat collar should be so arranged that it can be turned up and fastened tightly round the throat in wet weather.

The pockets should be lined with mackintosh, and completed with outside flaps to button down, so that cartridges, kodak films, or luncheon sandwiches can be kept clean and dry.

Under the coat a silk or flannel shirt, with soft collar and tie of any suitable colour, may be worn.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2a)




Colors & Materials Of Edwardian Walking Dresses

Edwardian Walking Dresses, Edwardian Shooting Costume
Edwardian shooting costume, 1900

‘Warm browns and various shades of red are, of course, particularly adapted to winter wear, but there are many whom these colours do not suit. They should choose instead warm shades of different colours – dark blue, inclining to purple rather than indigo; greys, with a tone of heliotrope in them; or mole colour, which inclines to pink or brown rather than green. Colour has a much greater effect on our feelings than we always realise, and in cold, cheerless weather to wear cold shades of colour is to affect everyone with a disagreeable sensation of chilliness. […]

Sometimes a cold-coloured costume can be made to look warm and suitable for winter by the judicious admixture of warm colours in the trimming; a waistcoat or blouse of some brilliant tint can be worn with it, or a touch of warm colour in the hat. Many charming combinations can be obtained in this way.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2b)

‘The best kit for shooting consists of a light tweed coat and skirt – waterproof, it possible, and chosen in a shade which will render its wearer as invisible as may be. A light brownish green, somewhat the colour of a lichen-covered stone, is excellent; or a heather mixture with a good deal of purple in it is good for grouse shooting or the moors; and a light russet brown, the colour of dead bracken, is both serviceable and becoming for pheasant shooting.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2a)




Edwardian Women & Hiking Vacations

Edwardian Hiking Women
Edwardian hiking women, 1910

‘One reason why country people are much healthier and longer-lived than townspeople is that the walking which they of necessity must do benefits them more than the so-called “restful” driving, without which the townspeople imagine they could not live. So few townspeople know the joy and pleasure of walking; they usually say it makes them tired, and a motor ride gets them to their destination so much more quickly. This unfavourable view of the only really natural exercise is held generally because they do not know how to walk.

As I am writing this article for women, I should like to emphasise the fact that a woman can walk – if she be strong and wear sensible clothing – as well as any man. The reason why so many women who live in towns cannot walk is because they either wear tight garments or ridiculously high-heeled shoes, or have developed the habit of always going everywhere in some conveyance.

Every woman can walk well if she chooses to train, and she can have the certain prospect of much improved health. There is no reason why, when walking holidays are suggested to women, they should say: “They’re only for men – women are not strong enough.”

Edwardian Hiking Outfit 1905
Edwardian hiking outfit, 1905

Among both sexes walking holidays, until quite recently, had entirely gone out of favour – motoring or cycling was considered preferable. But now, when the true key of health is being strenuously searched for, walking, necessarily, must again become popular.

In general, the majority of people still think with fear of the idea of a walking tour. Many who have tried it have walked too far the first few days, thoroughly overtired themselves, and given it up as “an extremely injurious and uncomfortable kind of holiday.” Those who have not tried it raise objections about clothing, night accommodation, English climate, and so on. I hope to show that the first person’s idea is distinctly a false one, and that the second need have no fear about any such apparently worrying questions.

The first and most vital question before starting on a walking holiday is the choice of a companion or companions. Far better to go alone than to have a grumbler or one with utterly opposite tastes, spoiling every day as it comes. This matter needs very careful consideration, for on it largely depends the success of the walking tour. Two is the ideal number, and, of all twos, husband and wife the most perfect. Two girls or two men of similar tastes are the next best arrangement, and then, for those who like it, the party of half a dozen or more men and girls.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2a)




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