Vonny Leclerc has written a wonderful review of the book in The Spectator – ‘Knickerbocker Glories: Feminism, Fashion and the Bicycle: The daring and ingenuity of Victorian female cyclists and their clothes did much to advance women’s lib‘ (5/5/18). I definitely recommend reading the whole article as Vonny has a beautiful writing style.
Here are some particularly lovely snippets:
“Whether for dress reformer or proper lady cyclist, the bicycle was the nonpareil vehicle of women’s lib, though women are notably absent from much of cycling’s history. Kat Jungnickel’s exploration of radical feminist invention and making captures what the history books missed. Women weren’t bystanders, they were creators. They used the means they had available, the imagination and the needle, to explore their nascent independence, engineering and patenting their way into modernity through transformational cycle wear. Creating clothing that quickly converted from ‘practical’ to ‘proper’, they gave women the flexibility to move in public places on their own terms.”
“Jungnickel’s unconventional exploration of their loves, their dreams and their creativity through patents carves desire lines through popular Victorian histories, bringing women to the fore. She introduces us to a more deviant, more impish and more capable woman than previously seen. The book’s ethos – making to make sense of things – offers a refreshingly accessible route to research. As we weave through matter-of-fact social history, politics, inventor biographies and finally to garment-making, the prose is crisp and lean. The voice is remarkably human for a text rooted in academia.”
“The precise technical drawings that accompany each patent became the blueprint for Jungnickel’s team of researchers. It’s only through the making, wearing and ‘interviewing’ of the convertible garments that we come to appreciate them and their makers. We discover how visible pockets offered a sartorial middle finger to social norms. We learn about women’s desire to move between identities; the need to control how and when they were cyclists; and when it would be safer to tug a cord and be a lady.”
“At its heart, this is a story of imagination and the freedoms we take for granted: what we wear, where we go and how we get there. It is about the strictures of gender, and the social and historical cost of resisting them. Brimming with hope, it shows us how we might refashion our realities with ignition and grit.”
“Bikes and Bloomers reminds us that the most remarkable of lives might be hidden in plain sight, prompting a meditation on what we choose to write down and remember and what we lose to that process. There’s more to learn of the Victorians, and of women. Vibrant new stories await us behind the heroics of men.”