Tuesday, February 28, 2017

HSM Inspirations: Outdoors

Since the Outdoors Challenge is one I particularly wanted to see in the challenge list this year, I figured I should do the inspiration post as well. 

The Challenge is specifically The Great Outdoors - Get out into the weather and dirt with an item for outdoor pursuits.  When I began searching for examples, I found a slight issue...there really isn't outdoors specific clothing for pre-1600s or so.  Other than outermost garments for protection from the elements, it was the same as any other clothing--likely because people did tend to spend more time outdoors.

What that means, is that it should be quite easy to find something which qualifies; it could be for an activity specific outfit or garment as for riding/hunting, swimming, playing in the snow, walking, or cycling.  Alternatively, you could go the other, much more generalized route by making something simple which is meant to get dirty (or again, keep you warm.  I'm in the middle of winter here, and somewhat focused on warmth....) while you work outside. 

I thought hard about how to organize this, and think that sticking by theme is the simplest....so if you primarily do Renaissance or earlier, I apologize for the prevalence of Victorian and Regency images.  Your choices are simpler to make, anyways.

Coats and Cloaks:

Coats, and especially cloaks have been around for centuries in some form or another--generally fairly simple.  Not only do they keep you warm (admittedly not as well as a coat), they look good, and would show your wealth with lots of expensive fabric and/or furs.  If medieval or Renaissance is your style, this is one of the main garments you get which is usually (fabric and class depending) for outdoors wear, along with variations like capes, and even smaller versions (like gollars for German ren). 

On the other hand, if later is your style, it is easy to find examples up through the end of the 19th century, and they still were in some use through WWII--I have an example of a Nurse's cape from then.

Norsk Folkemuseum NF.1935-0518
 Pink Brocade, anyone?  This example is of English Spitalfields damask silk, and dates to the 1750s.  The lining is calico (cotton), and the ermine trim faked--I'm not sure what fur was used; first thought was rabbit, but it doesn't look like it.

 Slightly later--end of the 1700s--this hooded cape and matching muff is noted as being of silk satin and fur.  While the museum notes that the silk was handwoven, that may be a slight misnomer.

MET C.I.69.4
 And something quite a bit warmer from around the same period--the classic red wool cloak.  A Quick Overview of Early Regency capes has some more information.

The MET 1982.348.3
Over to coats:  You don't see them nearly as often as capes in women's wear, but they do exist, and become more common as time goes on--the automobile probably has something to do with that, since cloaks are a pain to wear in them.

This American made, Ulster inspired full length coat is of wool lined with silk, and dates to 1883.  Note that it doesn't follow the same lines as the normal dress for the period, and was likely a garment for something more strenuous than a genteel stroll in the park.

Winter Redingote.  New York Public Library
On the other hand, coats for men are much more common; from various cloak-like overcoats in the Renaissance, to the (more or less) modern overcoat.  Above, you can see early frock overcoats, which followed much the same lines as the coat underneath.  This French lithograph dates to 1834.

If you want more inspiration for overcoats (primarily men's), try the Overcoats Pinterest board

The MET 1986.73.3
For those of us who tend to freeze, fur linings are a distinct option for your coat, regardless of period.  This is a later example, but you see fur linings or trims in outer garments from the 1300s onward.

Like the plaid coat above, this brown wool overcoat is lined with silk, but is from a decade later--1891.

Nasjonalmuseet, designsamlingene  OK-1962-0029

 And for even later (1924), an evening coat of silk brocade, lined with more silk, and at least partly (like the weirdly poofy collar) lined with martin.

Cycling Outfits:

Once the Bicycle came about, it turned into a popular sport for men....and then when Queen Victoria bought her daughters bikes you started seeing more ladies out enjoying the sport as well.  Naturally, this required special clothing (for safety as well as comfort)--often short divided skirts or bloomers, and corsetting made without steel boning (to prevent rust.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

1896 American
The MET 2009.300.547a, b
 Still more wool and silk, you can see the skirt is divided, with what could be called an apron to give the appearance of an unbroken skirt from the front. 

1899 Mode Illustree
Quite a few more images and advertisements for cycling wear may be found in this page on Ladies' Cycling Outfits.

Just Walking:

Of course, another outdoors activity is just plain walking.  Ladies, this is specifically for you, since I haven't found any examples of walking menswear--it appears to be the standard day suit.  Again, like many of the other activity specific outfits, they tend to be fancier, and don't start to show up until the mid-1600s. Some things to look for to tell between normal day dress are walking sticks, parasols, and slightly shorter hems--up to ankle length at times.
MFA  44.1671
 A French Walking dress from 1787.  Note the wide brimmed hat, cane, and shorter skirts..

Museum of London
1817 Walking dress and spencer, English. 

Dress, March 1806, by Ann Frankland Lewis
1806 English.  A watercolour painting by Ann Frankland Lewis, supposedly residing in the LACMA, it is based on fashion plates of the time.  Quite a charming painting, really.

MET  C.I.56.8a, b
Or, for those who are even more adventurous, perhaps refitting or making a parasol/umbrella.  This one is quite early, dating to around the turn of the 18th century, and is (of course) covered in silk.

MET 26.250.1a, b
Yet another walking dress, this time from the 1830s .

V&A T.128 to B-1923
And a last one, dating from 1872, and made of cotton...perfect for those leisurely strolls at the seaside.

The Medieval Stuff:

And for some earlier, medieval outfits. Unlike the much later garments above (and below) this section, you don't see medieval garments specific for outdoors--the main consideration /might/ be a tendency towards practicality.  But even this isn't a solid rule, if you believe the illuminations. The one exception is some of the Hunting manuscripts, where hunters are shown (and recommended to wear) wearing green in the Summer, and grey in the Winter. Regardless, heavier overgarments, cloaks, and hoods are all excellent ideas; or for warm weather, you might consider things like straw hats and various bags used for outdoors travel.

British Library
Yates Thompson 13 f. 75 Lady hawking
Here you see a 14th century lady falconer wearing two gowns, the outer one lined in fur.  Her hood with a short liripipe is hanging up.

 Or perhaps late 13th century cloaks.

The Crusader Bible Fol. 17v.
 Showing some Summer-wear, there is this illumination from the Maciejowski Bible, with both lower class clothing, and straw hats.

Codex Manesse, 7r König Konrad der Junge
 The gentleman (or maybe lady...not entirely sure) to the left has a lovely hooded robe, and both are wearing falconing gauntlets--a definite outdoor activity.  I've personally thought of making a pair...someday, maybe.

Hood, check.  Cloak, check.  Awesome hat, check.  He looks toasty warm, too.  The source link also has a collection of medieval winter images, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Tally Ho!  Riding and Hunting:

One of the easiest types of outdoors garment to find are hunting/riding outfits.  One of the characteristics to look for--at least in women's wear--is a decidedly masculine inspired cut to the bodice.  You might also look for riding crops, which often look quite similar to a walking stick, as below. You can see some images of medieval women hunting here, at the Medieval Hunt.

LACMA  M.2002.57.14
Recueil des modes de la cour de France, 'Dame en habit de chasse'.   An early lady's riding dress, from 1670s France, and you can clearly note the inspiration from men's coats of the time.  And the pocket is even functional!

 1750s tailored English riding habit in blue wool.

 Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1798.  One of the few which doesn't have many elements of tailoring.

Observateur de Modes
 Because I have to include menswear.... You don't see a lot of riding specific clothing for men until hunting clubs (and their uniforms) came about sometime during the Victorian era.  But this is one, although the only way you can tell is the addition of spurs to the boots. 

Costume Parisien 1797
 Another lovely dress and spencer, the only sign it is a riding outfit is the long crop.

MET 1975.138.21a–c
 A much later riding habit, from the end of our era.  Tailored wool, with a divided skirt.

Costume parisien.1813
 Possibly a hunt club uniform with a belted green jacket.

LACMA M.2007.211.808a-b
 Now here is something on the opposite side--it is specifically a shooting jacket, not a hunting one.  These could be considered the precursors to the Norfolk jacket, and were typically a loosely fitted body coat, either frock or morning coat.  The other characteristic was the number of large, flapped pockets. This example is made of wool/silk velvet, and I fully plan to make it soon...doubt I will finish in time for the challenge, though.

MET 1990.326a, b
 Riding Gloves, 1785-94.  I'm not sure what makes them gloves specifically for riding, but you could always give glovemaking a try.

Yale Art Center B2001.2.27
 A painting by George Haugh, 1787

1840s Manchester Galleries
Another on my to make list (although I might combine with the prior shooting coat), a shooting coat of moleskin--six outer pockets and two hare pockets on the inside.  It's a fascinating garment--this is the only photo which is publicly available (via pinterest before it was removed from the webpage), but I have confirmed the information and gotten more images from the museum.

V&A  T.430-1990
A gorgeously tailored riding habit from 1885 with military details.

Shewry, 1894
Elizabeth Shewry (supposedly) heavily pregnant and in riding attire.

Day at the Beach: 

For something a bit less confining, and more optimistic about warmer weather, how about swimwear?  You start to see swimsuits in the mid-1800s, but they begin to show up more commonly in the 1890s and onward.

New York Library
 The earliest one I've found, from 1858.

I'm not entirely sure of the providence for this, but I chose to include it because it shows a variety of /real/ people, not just models.  It, and many others can be found here.

Mack Sennett, 1919
 A bit more of a professional, and certainly posed photo, from 1919.  More photos can be found in the link above.

MET 2009.300.3121
Naturally, to go swimming (or at least enjoy the beach) you would need a special corset--something lightly boned like this 1902 example of a "swimming corset".

MET C.I.57.37a, b
And to end the section on an adorable note, a boy's bathing suit from 1894-96.

Snow Sports:

For a complete flip, you could look at winter sportswear; garments for skating, skiing...just enjoying the outdoors.

V&A  T.241&A-1989
 Wool Gabardine women's skiing outfit, 1922.

McCord Museum
 A warm looking blanket coat from the 1880s.

Dames a la Mode: Incroyables et merveilleuses de 1814
Of course, skating requires some fancy way to keep your hands warm--for Georgian through Victorian ladies, the choice way appears to be some kind of warm muff.  And a hugely fur trimmed coat.

Something I've thought about making for years...: If your preference is earlier period, and you don't mind working bone, you could try making a pair of skates.  This example is from the Viking age.  For more information, check this Article.

MET C.I.55.48
 Some variety of wool winter coat, with a hood.  Doesn't it look perfect for skiing?  From 1886.

Glasgow DAM  SP.2009.3.28_01
 A French fashion plate from 1913, a white winter outfit described as being trimmed with Pepe le Pew (sorry....i.e. skunk).

Work, work, work:

And then, there's practical working clothing.  Odds are, if your impression is a farmer or some other pursuit which spends a lot of time outdoors the simple clothing it requires would apply--and that is something which applies to any period.

V&A  T.109-1998
But, for something both practical, and traditionally outdoorsy, there are English country smocks.  It would be a fun project! I wants one, but really can't justify the expenditure for the canvas weight linen, since I really can't imagine wearing it.

Ida Pfeiffer, probably 1850s.  Perfect example of clothing for the Outdoors.

The Small Things: 

 If you don't have the time to do a full outfit, you might consider something like some form of hat, hood, or neckerchief (or fichu).  They don't require that much in materials, are fun to make (I love making soft hats), and could be worn modernly too.

1900 French
The MET 2009.300.2807
Apparently, this mink trimmed, French hat is believed to be a men's garment....personally, I think it would excellent on either gender.
V&A  157-1865
 A bergére type hat, perhaps.  Often made of straw, the narrow crowned hats were popular in the second half of the 18th century.

Bourbon Hat and Mantle,
V&A  E.1025-1959
 A matching hat, mantle, and parasol in this fashion plate from 1814.

V&A 768:1-1865
 Or for the gentlemen, perhaps a particularly fuzzy German Ren hat.  Hans Wertinger, 1517.

V&A  2006.588
 Another bergere type hat, this one made of silk.  Italy, 1720-50.

MET  29.158.485
Knit hats are also fairly common, from the 16th century onwards.  This example is from 16th century England.

The MET  C.I.46.82.9
Or a Calash bonnet.

The MET   C.I.54.44.16
 1825 American.

MET 1981.14.3
 1785 Fichu, French.  Fichus, neckerchiefs and the ilk could all be considered outdoors items as well--like a parasol, they helped protect your skin from the sun.

MET  C.I.42.10.5
An American Kerchief, of unknown dating.

MET  2009.300.5897
 A Pelarine from 1830.  To be honest, I'm not 100% sure of this one, but it looks like it has the same purpose as the fichus.  It's a bit more complicated, but I think it's still roughly capelike.

 Hopefully these images gave you some ideas, even if I wasn't able to cover all classes and periods, as I prefer.  For further inspiration, I might suggest the following pages:
HSM Outdoors Inspiration (Pinterest)
HSM Travel Inspiration Post
The Outdoors post from 2014
Down to the Sea, HSF from 2013 



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© John Frey, 2017. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.


  1. That 1797 plate is one of my favourites; I wanted to make the spencer last year already, I have the perfect outer fabric for it, so I think I'm giving it a shot now...

    You've compiled an incredibly exhaustive post here. Thanks for all the inspiration!

    1. Excellent. You should! Make sure to share your blog post on it here, when you finish.

      Not as exhaustive as I would like, since it's missing a few things. But you're welcome.

  2. Hi, hope it's not tooo late- I finished it earlier, but only got it up on the blog just now:

    1. Technically yes, but we don't mind.
      The petticoat looks good!

  3. Late posting, but finished on time: http://gingerminion.blogspot.com/2017/03/a-red-hood-granny-and-wolf-sold.html