Victorians enthusiastically took to the bicycle. Yet 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 dress like a cyclist, as onlookers could hurl abuse and stone!
Parts of society were threatened by this visual symbol of 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.
Cycle wear did not exist at this time, so enthusiastic women had to make it themselves.
Some women not only designed but also patented their inventions.
Drawing on archival research and following the instructions provided by these inventors we have made a collection of Victorian convertible cycling garments.