Golden Age of Travel Birthday prequel — early 20th century outdoor wear — Part 1
Planning a vintage walking holiday where I wear all vintage clothing kinda begs the question: “What did people wear when hiking in the early 20th century?”
In the early 1920s, women were still wearing skirts for outdoor activities. These skirts were very practical, baring the ankles so they wouldn’t drag in the mud or provide tripping hazards and made from sturdy materials such as cotton khaki or wool whipcord. According to Everyday Fashions of the Twenties: As Pictured in Sears and Other Catalogs, the Sears catalog from 1921 says “These togs will prove very pleasant aides for almost any outdoor sport — horseback, bicycle and auto riding, motorcycling, mountain climbing, etc. The styles are very sensible and appropriate, as they are made to give plenty of freedom for movement, ease, and comfort. For country excursions, hiking, climbing or everyday workon the farm or in the garden, nothing could be more fitting than the divided riding skirts we offer in various materials.” Reconstructing History’s Edwardian Ladies’ Equestrian Skirt contains a buttoned modesty panel that is prevalent in 1920s catalogs showing outdoor costume. RH’s 1910s Ride Astride Split Skirt is another terrific option if you want to go the skirt route. And our Ladies’ Great War British Volunteer Uniform (although it doesn’t feature a split skirt) makes up into an ensemble that greatly resembles the sports suits featured in 1920s catalogs.
Me, I’ve never been much of a skirt girl, so I was happy to discover that breeches and knickerbockers were definitely making headway as acceptable outdoor gear for women. In the photo at right from the 1920s, we see a hiking party of men and women, all wearing knickerbockers. The women are wearing either middie blouses or shirts just like the men.
In the outdoorsy photo from the 1930s shown at left, we can see enough detail to discern that the breeches being worn for hiking are the same riding breeches worn elsewhere. Well, you know what that means. I can use our Ladies’ Riding Breeches or Jodhpurs pattern! This pattern is based on a pair of linen riding breeches from the 1930s in my personal collection. I don’t want to wear the originals for fear of wear and tear. But they have the comfy, roomy seat, side “fall” closure, and all the other great features of the breeches in the photos.
And if I want to change up my wardrobe and wear something a little different, it’s very easy to convert the breeches pattern into a knickerbockers pattern. The big difference in pattern drafts of breeches and knickerbockers from the same time period is that knickerbockers are simpler — they’re the same width from hip to knee instead of flared like riding breeches. So just cut down the hip flares, widen the knees, and slap a kneeband on those babies!
There are many more ideas and options in our Equestrian section.
Next time… how to deal with the unpredictable English weather… sartorially!
While you’re waiting, have a shop through our collection of reproduced Vintage patterns.
Photos courtesy of The Vintage Traveler. Please visit her wonderful vintage travel and clothing blog!
© 2014 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material.