In the past, walking dresses were used to pay calls on friends, walking through the park or go shopping. Despite their name, they weren’t more comfortable than other dresses nor was it easier to walk in them either. They were simply dresses that were meant to be seen by everyone (as opposed to simple morning dresses that were worn only in front of close family members), so they featured beautiful trimmings and were made in fashionable styles. Here are a few examples from 1814:
A white cambric robe, with full long sleeves, unornamented at the feet. Deep double Vandyke frill of lace, tied with a white cord and tassel at the throat; a deep Vandyke cuff of the same. The Austrian shawl cloak, composed of pale dove-coloured cloth, lined throughout with rose-coloured satin or sarsnet, trimmed entirely round with abroad sable fur; a fancy cape or hood terminating in front of the bosom, and tied with a rose-coloured ribbon. A Circassian turban cap, composed of crimson velvet, ornamented with tufts of rose-coloured satin; a rich silk cord round the edge, terminated on one side with correspondent tassels. Hair in full curls on each side, much divided in front of the forehead. Halfboots of crimson velvet. Gloves of lemon-coloured kid, or pale tan colour.
A FINE cambric round robe, with high bodice and long sleeves, not so full as of late; embroidered stomacher front and high collar, trimmed with muslin or lace; a Tuscan border of needle-work at the feet. A Cossack mantle of pale ruby, or blossom-coloured velvet, lined with white sarsnet, and trimmed entirely round with a broad skin of light sable, ermine, seal, or the American squirrel; a short tippet of the-same: the mantle confined at the throat with a rich correspondent silk cord and tassels, very long. A mountain hat of velvet, the colour of the mantle, finished round the verge with a narrow vandyke trimming: a small flower placed in the hair beneath, on the left side. Half-boots the colour of the mantle; and gloves of primrose kid or pale tan.
A high dress, of short walking length, composed of French cambric or mull muslin, plain buttons, and unornamented in the front; a military collar, with an edging of , embroidery ; a full fan frill of lace, or a single fluted ruff of the same; the bottom of the dress ornamented with a full flounce, confined by two, borders of embroidery corresponding with the collar; plain long sleeve, with a military worked cuff. White silk shawl handkerchief, the corners richly embossed with the fleur de lis, tied carelessly over the bosom with a bow of satin ribband. The hair worn much over the face in loose curls. The Blucher, something resembling the Spanish hat, has a square and low crow, is formed of sea-green satin, lined with white velvet, and trimmed with richly cut velvet ribband: it is ornamented in front with a drooping plume of ostrich feathers. The scarf mantle, corresponding in colour with the Blacher, is composed either of velvet or satin, has neither cape nor hood; it is rounded at one end, and brought to a point at the other, with a deep long slope in the neck, and is trimmed all round with a broad white lace. Slippers of green kid: gloves to correspond, or Limerick.
Do you like these dresses? I think they are nice, but it’s the hats I’m in love with.
The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, 1814