This project combines archival and genealogical research and Science and Technology Studies (STS), with the making of a collection of Victorian convertible cycle wear based on British patents lodged between 1895-1899.
Why are we doing this?
- New ideas: We are interested in what we can learn from making the garments that cannot be discerned from just reading the patents. We anticipate that making these garments will enable us to materially think through the construction via theoretical and conceptual links to and between archive findings about how and why such inventions were necessary.
- New relationships: Patents are ‘a licence conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention’. Although the designers controlled copyright for up to 14 years, after this period their inventions became available to public use (or earlier if they were not renewed). The nature of a patent is such that the language and drawings must enable anyone knowledgeable in the art of sewing to reproduce these garments. Inventors had a responsibility to future users. We are such users. Making these garments creates a link between the inventors and future users, between the past and the present.
- Garments to touch and use: We have yet to find material examples of convertible cycling garments in the UK and there are only a few examples of Victorian cycle wear in museums/galleries. Clearly what does exist is fragile. There is no chance of gaining a sense of what these garments might feel like on the body and in action – even if there was a remote chance that curators would let us try things on. So, by making our own versions we get a chance to experience these unique garments in rich, hands-on practice, both in the process of making, wearing and inviting others into the research
- Collaboration: Each garment requires a range of skills to translate two dimensional patents and patterns into three dimensional material garments. Just as in the past, these kinds of objects could not be made by one person alone, similarly we collaborated with a patten cutter, weaver, artist and filmmaker to produce the finished pieces. Documenting the process, the mistakes, mess, unexpected insights, tangents and happenings form part of each story.
- Story telling devices: We are exploring not only what this research brings to sociological understandings of mobilities, citizenship and gender relation but also what making and wearing these garments brings to research practice.
In total we made five full cycling garments, a total of 29 articles of clothing, which are used to tell stories and share findings in the research about the innovative women who helped not only shaped cycling and cycle wear in Britain today but also influenced more broadly women’s freedom of movement.
All are based around a cycling skirt/suit patented in the 1890s:
Garment #1 – Alice Louisa Bygrave’s 1895 ‘Convertible’ Skirt
Garment #5 – Mary Ward’s ‘Hyde Park Safety Skirt’
To make these garments requires a constellation of skills and knowledges.
We worked in collaboration with:
Illustrator/artist – Alice Angus
Weaver – Dashing Tweeds
Tailor – Nadia Constantinou
Filmmaker – Britt Hatzius