The Walking Suit Circa 1912

The Teens Era was a time of fashion transition as styles moved away from the tightly sculpted silhouettes of the 1890s and early 1900s. Corsetry was shifting, placing a greater emphasis on creating a smooth, slender upright profile and flattening the breast line- the “pouter pigeon” look was definitely out- and whether it was daytime or evening, the general silhouette remained the same. 🙂


Teens Era fashion wasn’t just about evening wear so today we present some daytime styles starting with the walking suit. The walking suit represented a major step in the evolution of women’s wear during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Starting in the early 1890s, the walking suit was considered an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe and by the Teens, it occupied a prominent place in fashion. Style details, construction, and fabric varied depending on price point but the objective was always the same- a outfit that a woman could wear out in public that was practical yet stylish. In response to the growing popularity of walking suits, clothing manufacturers produced walking suits in a variety of fabrics, colors and styles. Walking suits became to widespread that even the major couturiers couldn’t ignore it.  We start first with this this circa 1912 walking suit from Paquin:

Paquin, Walking Suit, 1912; National Gallery of Victoria (2015.670.a-b)

Now, we have to admit that this is bordering more on a dress than a walking suit but it illustrates one of the distinctive styles of the era- the faux kimono/robe jacket style. Constructed of ivory and salmon-striped silk chiffon and trimmed with black velvet, this dress gives a practical yet dressed up look and it was a very popular style. Here’s a similar style, circa 1913, from Maison Worth:

Worth, Walking Suit, c. 1913; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1980.16.3a, b)

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine just what the precise fashion fabric is but it’s mostly likely a tropical weight wool. The jacket silhouette is more of a robe held together by an elaborate waistband/belt.

Side Profile

Rear View

Here’s a more detailed view of the jacket back:

Close-up of the back.

The above walking suit is Jackets cold also follow a more conventional style such as with this circa 1910 Paquin walking suit:

Jeanne Paquin, Walking Suit, Spring/Summer 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.474a–d)

The suit follows a fairly conventional silhouette and as with many of Paquin’s designs, it was very practical, especially with the skirt. Although the “hobble style” was coming into being during this period, this dress is open and allows for complete mobility. The fabric appears to be a gray tropical weight wool with excellent drapability- it simply “flows.”

Three- Quarter Rear View

Close-Up Of Sleeve/Back

The cuffs have been artfully cut so as to give the illusion of lace cuffs underneath. Here’s what was actually worn underneath the jacket and note that the half-sleeves. 😉

Close-up of the front without the jacket.

We conclude with a more conventional walking suit style with this circa 1910 suit:

Walking Suit, c. 1912; McCord Museum (M976.35.2.1-2)

This suit embodies functionality with a minimum of trim except for decorative buttons and the double-layer collar. The skirt is also practical, allowing for full mobility. Unfortunately, there’s no indication what the fashion fabric is- it cold be linen, cotton, or even a tropical weight wool.

Walking suits came in a variety of styles with varying amounts of trim and decorative elements but no matter what, the emphasis was on practicality. In future posts, we’ll be exploring Teens Era walking suits further so stay tuned. 🙂



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