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Bikes and Bloomers: Victorian Women Inventors and their Extraordinary Cycle Wear
By Kat Jungnickel
Goldsmiths Press and MIT Press


The bicycle in Victorian Britain is often celebrated as a vehicle of women’s liberation. But much less is known about another critical technology with which women forged new and mobile public lives – cycle wear.

Despite its benefits, cycling was a material and ideological minefield for women. Conventional fashions were inappropriate, with skirts catching in wheels and tangling in pedals. Yet wearing more identifiable ‘rational’ cycle wear could elicit verbal and sometimes physical abuse from parts of society threatened by newly mobile women.

In response, pioneering women not only imagined, made and wore radical new forms of cycle wear but also patented their inventive designs. The most remarkable of these were convertible costumes that enabled wearers to secretly switch ordinary clothing into cycle wear.

This highly visual social history of women’s cycle wear explores Victorian engineering, patent studies and radical feminist invention. Underpinned by three years of in-depth archival research and inventive practice, this new book by Kat Jungnickel brings to life in rich detail the lesser-known stories of six inventors and their unique contributions to cycling’s past, continue to shape urban life for contemporary mobile women.

Cover image: Miss Rosina Lane, ‘The Lady Cyclists at the Aquarium’. Photograph by Messrs. Russell and Sons, Baker Street, W. The Sketch, Nov. 27, 1895, p. 233. With permission from Manchester Art Gallery archives (Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall).



Introduction: Making, wearing and inventing futures

Chapter 1 – “One wants nerves of iron” Cycling in Victorian Britain

Chapter 2 – From the Victorian Lady to the Lady Cyclist

Chapter 3 – Inventing solutions to the ‘dress problem’

Chapter 4 – The 1890s patenting boom and the cycle craze

Chapter 5 – Extraordinary cycle wear patents


Chapter 6 – Patent #17145: Alice Louisa Bygrave and her ‘Bygrave Convertible Skirt’

Chapter 7 – Patent #6794: Julia Gill and her cycling semi-skirt

Chapter 8 – Patent #8766: Frances Henrietta Müller and her three-piece cycling suit

Chapter 9 – Patent #13832: Mary Elizabeth & Sarah Ann Pease and their cycling skirt /cape

Chapter 10 – Patent #9605: Mary Ann Ward and her ‘Hyde Park Safety Skirt’


The politics of patenting (or how to change the world one garment at a time)

British cycle wear patents 1890-1900 (for New or Improvements to Women’s Skirts for the Purposes of Cycling)




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