Victorians enthusiastically took to the bicycle. Yet middle and upper-class women had to deal with many social, political and material challenges to their freedom of movement. Cycling in everyday dress was dangerous as it caught in the wheels. But it wasn’t always safer to look like a cyclist, as onlookers could hurl abuse and stones!
This is because parts of society were threatened by the sight of progressive ‘New Women’ carving out new feminine modes of mobility in public space – some saw this as interfering with their ‘natural role’ at home.
This research explores how some cyclists creatively protested against restrictive ideas of how a woman should act and move in public through their clothing, designing convertible costumes that enabled the wearer to change when needed.
The research team led by Dr Kat Jungnickel explores how some women not only imagined, designed and wore radical new forms of cycle wear – they also patented their cutting-edge ideas. The most remarkable inventions of the time were for convertible costumes, that enabled the wearer to switch between perambulate and cycling identities.
Unable to find existing material examples of these unique garments, we have (re)made a collection of Victorian convertible cycling garments using archival research and the instructions provided by these inventors.
What kinds of radical new forms of cycle wear were invented during this period?
What can we learn from making and wearing these garments?
Why does cycle wear (still) matter?