Yesterday’s Patents: Patent of the Week #4

British Patent: No. 16,881
Date of application: 4th August 1898
Date of acceptance: 10th June  1899
Title: Improvements in Cycling Skirts
Patent Holder: Eva Molesworth, Spinster, of Manor House, Bexley, in the County of Kent
[Communicated from abroad by Louisa Mary Dennys, Married, of Nungambaukam Road, Madras, India]

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This patent is another collaboration between two women but it is different to Patent #3. The patent holder, Louisa Mary Dennys, lives in India and she relies on her friend, Eva Molesworth, to register the invention on her behalf. We don’t get any insight into their vocations/interests as both are primarily identified in relation to their marriage status. Eva is a ‘Spinster’ and Louisa Mary is a ‘Married Lady’.

This patent is for another skirt engineered to stay in place when moving.

But this time it is a skirt and knickerbocker/bloomer in one.

Eva/Louisa Mary describe it:

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It enacts a transformation from ‘ordinary skirt’ to extra-ordinary mobile garment.

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If I understand it correctly (and to be honest I’ve found most patents really only make sense when you are actually in the middle of materialising them), the skirt has a ‘peculiar’ cut that enables the wearer to turn it into a bifurcated garment. The back of the skirt pulls through the legs and is tied at the waist. The ankles of the trouser-like garment are then drawn in by way of buttons or gather.

I think the front of the skirt stays long to conceal the true radical nature (and intent) of the wearer.

While the back enables the wearer a more flexible freedom of movement.

It is a delightful example of innovative technology (and politic) hidden in pain sight!


This ad for a new cycling skirt is perhaps close to Eva/Louisa Mary’s invention.

The “Furber” Bicycle Skirt was advertised in The Lady Cyclist (Part 1, Vol 2, 1896). Designed by Madam Furber, and we can see how this ‘charming’ (read – ordinary and respectable) skirt can we worn ‘divided or undivided’ (read – adaptable, according to use).

Eva/Louisa Mary’s invention goes even further (which is understandable, given it was 3 years later), in that the ankles of the garment are gathered together which would have made it much more useful for doing exercise.

LC pt 1, vol2, Mar 1896 - furber skirt by court dressmaker

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