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NEW BOOK

BIKES and BLOOMERS
Victorian Women Inventors and their Extraordinary Cycle Wear
Published by Goldsmiths Press (and MIT Press)

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BIKES AND BLOOMERS

CYCLING, SEWING AND SUFFRAGE STORYTELLING
THROUGH INVENTIVE WOMEN’S CYCLEWEAR

VICTORIANS ENTHUSIASTICALLY TOOK TO THE BICYCLE. YET WOMEN HAD TO DEAL WITH MANY SOCIAL, POLITICAL AND MATERIAL CHALLENGES TO THEIR FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT

Cycling in ordinary dress could be dangerous. It blew near the wheels and caught in the chain

I allude to the death of Miss Carr, near Colwith Force. The evidence of her friend who rode just behind her, says that “Miss Carr began the descent with her feet in the rests, but finding the hill become much steeper, she strove to regain her pedals and failed”. I think she failed because she could not see the pedals, as the flapping skirt hid them from her view, and she had to fumble for them. Could she have taken but a momentary glance at their position, she would have had a good chance to save her life. The poor girl lingered a week’
– Daily Press, Sept 20, 1896.

But it wasn’t always safer to ‘rationally’ dress for cycling, by replacing skirts with bloomers, as some onlookers felt threatened by the sight of progressive ‘New Women’ and sometimes hurled abuse and stones

 ‘It’s awful – one wants nerves of iron… The shouts and yells of the children deafen one, the women shriek with laughter or groan and hiss and all sorts of remarks are shouted at one, occasionally some not fit for publication. One needs to be very brave to stand all that. It makes one feel mad and ones ideas of humanity at large sink to a very low standard’
– Kitty J Buckman to Uriah, August 23, 1897.

THIS PROJECT TELLS THE STORY OF HOW SOME WOMEN CREATIVELY CHALLENGED CONVENTIONAL IDEAS OF HOW A WOMAN SHOULD LOOK AND MOVE IN PUBLIC SPACE THROUGH THEIR CLOTHING

They didn’t just imagine, make and wear
radical new forms of cycle wear.

THEY ALSO PATENTED THEIR DESIGNS

The most remarkable of these were convertible cycling costumes that enabled women to transform their garments when needed

VICTORIAN WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

THIS PROJECT BRINGS TO LIGHT THE CONCEALED TECHNOLOGICAL SYSTEMS DELIBERATELY BUILT INTO WOMEN’S CLOTHING THAT ENABLED THEM TO ADAPT WHEN REQUIRED. IT CONSIDERS CLOTHING A DEVICE TO CRITICALLY EXPLORE GENDER POLITICS AND CHANGING NATURE OF PUBLIC SPACE AND CITIZENSHIP IN LATE C19TH BRITAIN.

Inspired by these ingenious patents, and struck by the absence of women’s inventions in our cycling history, we reconstructed a collection of Victorian women’s convertible cycling costumes and use them to tell stories, run sewing workshops, write papers and host events and exhibitions. 

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