Victorian Convertible Skirts Liberated Female Cyclists

Originally invented by Victorian women cyclists to claim social and political freedom

Female cyclists have come a long way over the years, from not being able to ride bicycles at all, to compete at the highest level of international games. Women have cycled through adversity, pedalled for equal rights and, quite frankly, it makes us proud to be a part of this unstoppable movement.

19th Century advice for female cyclists

In a new book called “Bikes and Bloomers: Victorian women inventors and their extra-ordinary cycle wear“, author Dr Kat Jungnickel reveal how Victorian female cyclists used their clothing to protest against restrictive ideas of how a woman should act and move in public. By uncovering patent designs for convertible skirts, Dr Jungnickel set about to recreate these liberating garments.

“The bicycle in Victorian Britain is often celebrated as a vehicle of women’s liberation but less is noted about another vehicle through which women forged new mobile public lives – cycle wear.” – Dr Jungnickel

Riding bicycles was both practical and fashionable for middle-class women, but their clothing was not. Often restrictive, heavy and cumbersome, women’s cycling clothing left many exposed to social abuse. This is where the convertible skirt came into action.

Along with a team of skilled women, Dr Jungnickel set about to recreate Victorian cycle wear inventions to demonstrate their genius and sociological impact on women’s rights some years ago.

Dr Jungnickel said, “My book focuses on the lives of six of the incredible women who designed the pioneering costumes that contributed to a boom in women’s cycling. I am delighted to have been able to recreate these inventions and to research these women”

“Bikes and Bloomers” is available for pre-order here.



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