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The first cycle outfit we have chosen to make is from a patent by Alice Louisa Bygrave, of No. 113 Cantebury Road, Brixton in the County of Surrey. It was submitted on 1st November 1885 and  accepted on 6th December 1895. She self-identifies as a Dressmaker.

It is intriguing because it performs what I have been calling a ‘secret cycling self’ – enabling the wearer to conceal  her cycling attire until necessary.

Alice explains it:

My invention relates to improvements in ladies’ cycling skirts and the object of it is to provide a skirt proper for wear when either on or off the machine.

Built into the skirt are an array of cords, pulleys, stitched channels, weights and rings to enable it to transform – it is going to be interesting to see how we translate the Victorian instructions. The front and back of the skirt ruches up to clear it from the bike wheels and chain ring. The device is such that the wearer can regulate how much of the bloomer is on show. The weights sewn into the hem enable the wearer to drop the skirt to the ground quickly when required.

As the wearer prepares to mount her machine, she pulls both cords in from the top, thereby raising the skirt before and behind to a sufficient height, after which she makes the cords fast in any convenient way, as for instance to the same fastening to which the top ends of them are held.

The invention consists in the combination with the skirt, of a cord or cords made fast by one end of the bottom edge of the skirt, and long enough to present free ends outside the skirt near the band of the latter within easy reach of the wearer’s hands.

We have nicknamed it the ‘skirtain’ – as it is both a skirt and a curtain.

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