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Walking costume

Walking costume

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1911 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    John Redfern & Sons (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wool serge, lined with silk, trimmed with Jacquard-woven silk, embroidered

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This black serge two-piece ensemble is called a 'costume'. Coat-and-skirt ensembles such as this would not have been considered suits until after the First World War. During the early 1910s, fashionable women wore slim skirts and neatly fitted blouses, often under quite loosely fitted coats and jackets. This richly detailed outfit, which is trimmed with tone-on-tone patterned silk and embroidery, would have been worn as a smart day suit for town wear.

This outfit was made by one of the leading British couturiers of his day, John Redfern. In the 1870s he began designing beautifully constructed, practical tailored garments to meet the requirements of the increasingly active woman. In addition to riding, women had begun to participate in other sports including tennis, yachting and archery. Redfern's clothes for these pursuits were adopted as everyday wear by royalty, actresses and fashionable women. In 1881 Redfern opened establishments in London and Paris. A few years later in 1884, a Redfern branch opened in New York, with one in Rhode Island the following year. The Redfern fashion houses closed in 1932, briefly reopened in 1936, and closed again in 1940.

The outfit was worn by Miss Heather Firbank (1888-1954). She was a beautiful, wealthy young woman who bought her expensive, high-style clothing from leading London couturiers, such as Lucile, Redfern and Mascotte. She favoured purple and heather tones, which complemented her name. The Museum holds a wide range of clothing and accessories from Heather's wardrobe between 1905 to 1921.

Physical description

Black serge suit comprising a coat and skirt. The jacket has a black velvet collar which has a cutaway front, and lapels extending into a sailor-style serge collar. Panels of heavily patterned Jacquard-woven black silk at the hem of the jacket, the cuffs, and the sides of the skirt and around the hem of skirt. Decorative rows of buttons on where the waist darts on the jacket would be and with arrow-head embroidery over the darts. The motif is repeated on the cuffs. Square panel of Jacquard-woven silk inset into the jacket back with buttons on either side. Lined with silk.

Place of Origin

London (made)


ca. 1911 (made)


John Redfern & Sons (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Wool serge, lined with silk, trimmed with Jacquard-woven silk, embroidered

Descriptive line

Serge suit comprising a coat and skirt trimmed with Jacquard silk, John Redfern & Sons, London, ca. 1911


Serge; Silk velvet; Silk


Tailoring; Jacquard weaving


Fashion; Day wear; Women's clothes; Embroidery; Textiles; Europeana Fashion Project

Production Type

Haute couture


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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