1890s Women’s Bicycling Clothing: Patents & Advertisements

There’s still a post coming soon about the construction details of my 1896 Cycling Ensemble, but I have quite a bit to say so it’s taking a bit of time to write. While working on it I found some great examples of other ingenious bicycling clothing for women patented and advertised around this time.

I mentioned the skirt variations in the introduction post for the cycling ensemble:

“Most women in the 1890s stuck to the traditional, socially acceptable silhouette of an ankle length skirt for bicycling, but this could be dangerous as the skirt could become entangled in the spokes and chain while riding. Solutions to this problem included adaptations to the bicycle, such as a ‘skirt guard’ that sat over the rear wheel and kept the skirt from entangling itself, and adaptations to the clothing, including skirts with cords that could allow them to be raised while riding and skirts that were one piece in the front but split into legs in the back, as with a modern ‘skort’ (a skirt/short combination garment).” 

I thought it would be fun to share the patents I found that illustrate these other styles of skirts!

First, an example of a bicycle ‘skirt guard.’ The ‘skirt guard’ is visible on the back wheel on the bicycle. Here is a patent from 1898 showing a skirt guard, as well.

Next, I have a patent from 1896 for a skirt with an ‘elevator’ which would allow the skirt to be raised with cords to make cycling safer. You can see the bloomers she is wearing underneath when her skirt is raised. This would allow the cyclist to be appropriately clothed while not riding and safely clothed while on the bicycle.

The next patent from 1895 shows the ‘skort’ style. This looks like a skirt in the front but is split in the back. The back is quite full, so that the appearance is that of a skirt.

Then I also came across this unusual method of a skirt with pieces that button on and off in front and back to reveal a bifurcated style underneath from 1895. It looks like this was designed so that the folded up pieces will hang from the front of your bicycle so you have them handy when you arrive at your destination. But I wonder how hard it would be to twist and bend in your corset to button and unbutton all of these connection points? My guess based on personal experience twist and bending in a corset is that it would be quite a challenge to do by yourself!

Here’s another interesting patent from 1896. These very full ankle length trousers that look like a skirt can be buttoned up around the knees to turn into knee length bloomers.

This image shows a women clearly wearing bloomers, but with a knee length skirt on top to still give a nod to the 19th century aversion to women opening wearing trousers (or bloomers).

I love that most of these women are shown wearing their gaiters! It’s justification for my own pair. I came across this advertisement for ‘bicycle leggings’ as well. Neat!

Finally, here’s an example of a corset intended specifically for sportswear and athletic pursuits. It makes use of some stiffness as well as some elastic and is expressly made for activities such as bicycling.

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1896 Black Gaiters For A Sporting Look

Five years ago (yikes, where did the time go?!?), I made ivory gaiters. They were made to wear over heeled shoes, giving the look of two tone boots. Unfortunately, the ivory gaiters I already have don’t work for the the 1896 cycling ensemble on my sewing table! Ivory gaiters would show dirt and be rather impractical for the sporting look, so I decided to make utilitarian black ones for this outfit.

I used the same pattern as for the ivory gaiters with only a few modifications: the top edge curves in a bit more over my calf and the back heel is longer so it stays on top of my shoe (in my blog post about the ivory gaiters I share about how they were riding up over my shoe–I solved this with a little piece I added in after the photos were taken, but for the new pair the pattern was cut longer instead). It was lovely to have a pattern ready to go!

I’m pleased that I squeezed this small project into 2018. I can count it for the HSM Challenge #12: Neglected! This challenge is sort of a catch-all for making something that fits into a previous challenge either from this year or a previous year. I chose the September 2018 challenge, Hands and Feet, for this December challenge.

Just the facts:

Fabric: About ¼ yard slightly stretchy black cotton.

Pattern: Created by me.

Year: 1896.

Notions: Thread, ¼” and ½” cotton twill tape in various widths, and plastic buttons.

How historically accurate?: 90%. The look is right but the materials are a mix and match of right and modern.

Hours to complete: Approximately 5.

First worn: Not yet!

Total cost: $5 for the buttons. The fabric and twill tapes were in my stash!

These are constructed in the same way as my previous pair. The seams are covered with ½” twill tape, the edges are bound with ¼” twill tape, there is a strap (in this case made of the exterior fabric), and then buttons and buttonholes finish it off.

The great thing about my gaiter pattern is that they work for a few different decades. The ivory pair was made for a 1917 outfit, but I feel perfectly confidant that the pattern works for the 1890s and 1900s as well. I’m looking forward to trying these on with my cycling ensemble once that is far enough along to put all the pieces together!

HSF #25: Spat-Boots, Or Gaiters

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Spat-boots! WIth my 1917 ensemble.

It’s time for the details about my entry for HSF challenge #25: One Metre. I prefer saying I’m wearing “spat-boots” though the actual items I’m really wearing are shoes and “gaiters.” Spat-boots has more of a ring to it, I think.

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Close up of my spat-boot look.

The gaiters very effectively turn my sort-of-1910s-but-more-1920s American Duchess Gibsons into very 19-teens spat-boots! If you look at the first black and white image of suffragists in this previous post you can clearly see some similar spat-boot styles. And if you look at the images on my Sewing Project: 1917 Blouse and Accessories Pinterest board you can see multiple examples of the spat-boot style. Some boots, like these from 1917 at the Met, were made in two different colors of leather. That’s the look I was trying to imitate, except that I was doing it with a separate garment rather than as a part of my shoe. The Met actually has quite a number of early 20th century gaiters, made out of leather and cotton. If you’d like to see these examples, I’ve pinned many of them to my Early 20th Century Accessories Pinterest board.

The facts, you ask?

Fabric: Scraps of heavy unbleached cotton.

Pattern: Created by me.

Year: 1917.

Notions: Thread, black elastic, cotton twill tape in various widths, and plastic buttons.

How historically accurate?: 90%. The look is right but the materials are a mix and match of right and modern.

Hours to complete: 6-8? Took a few fittings to get them ready to sew. Then finishing and sewing on buttons took awhile.

First worn: At a Thanksgiving event in Plymouth.

Total cost: None. The fabric was left over from a grad school mock up and the notions were all from my stash. (See that odd marking in the middle of the center piece? That’s blue sharpie that soaked onto this part of the fabric from notes I wrote on the mock up… There was a lot of blue sharpie, and I couldn’t cut around it and still have enough fabric. Doesn’t show on the outside though!)

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Here’s an inside view of one of the gaiters. You can see that I’ve used three different kinds of twill tape to bind the seams and the edges. All of the sewing was done by machine except sewing on the buttons.

There are a few things that I would change consider changing if I made these again in some other reality. #1: Having my buttons spaced closer together, as the extant gaiters and boots do. But in this case I only had a limited number of buttons to work with! #2: Potentially putting a strap with a buckle to go under the foot rather than elastic, since the buckle method is what extant gaiters have. But the elastic worked so well and you really couldn’t see it… so I probably wouldn’t actually change this, especially since I don’t have the right sort of buckles in my stash. #3: Making the back part that comes down over my heel longer. I was aiming for a nice swoop up from the part held down by the elastic, but the back of the gaiters kept popping up over the edge of my shoes, which was a little uncomfortable. I spent a lot of time during the day I wore these pulling the back of the gaiters down.

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Like a flamengo, I’m standing on one leg and pulling down the back of my gaiter, which had popped up over the back of my shoe.
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Overall, I’m super pleased. These were quite successful. You should try some yourself!
Product links in this post contain an affiliate code, which provides a small benefit to my shoe fund. This does not affect my impressions and reviews of this product.

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Thankful For Suffrage

If you saw my last post, you were left guessing as to what event I was furiously sewing for. I think most you guessed that it had to do with women’s suffrage… Yay you! The entire event wasn’t really about suffrage, but suffrage was a part of it. We went down to Plymouth, MA to be a part of a historic village event that was linked to the main Thanksgiving parade in town.

The historic village contained various groups from the early 17th century, groups from the 18th century, Marines from 1812, a unit from the Civil War, my usual dancing friends and I representing women’s suffrage c. 1914, and paratroopers from the 1940s. The parade was…a parade. There were historic groups in it (including some of the military groups I just mentioned), there were marching bands, there were floats, there were unicycles, and there were horses doing various things.

And I’ve got pictures! To start, here are some images of the parade:

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Happy Thanksgiving! The giant inflatable turkey was pretty amusing, especially when he had to slightly deflate to get his head under the power lines!
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Often these guys are dancing with us, but at this event they were hanging out in the 1630s as the Salem Trayned Band.
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Some of our other friends: 1812 Marines.
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8 beautiful (and large!) Budweiser Clydesdales.
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4 spirited horses pulling…
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A fancy Wells Fargo stage coach!
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A super snazzy green car, with bright green trim!
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Red, white, and blue confetti in the cold, clear air near the end of the parade route.

Next, here are some images of our representation of Suffragists and our setup in the historic village:

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Setting up our tea table. Other setups included tents and smoking fires (it had rained the day before and everything was damp and mushy, so the fires didn’t really work…).
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Yes, we really did drink tea. In china cups. It actually was very nice to have hot beverages throughout the day given how cold it was outside!
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See, we’re drinking our tea!
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We didn’t march in the parade or parade around the historic village, but we did serenade the ducks in the creek behind us (and visitors walking by) with suffrage songs.
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Here we are making “serious suffrage” faces.
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Ok, smile for the camera.

The best part is that in addition to sharing a little bit about history with the public and getting to watch the Thanksgiving parade in all its glory, I was able to use this opportunity to build and wear an outfit showing off my recently completed 1917 Knitted Sweater of Angorina. I had to plan for cold weather, but I didn’t want to cover up my sweater! So I planned a faux fur hat to match an existing muff, a wool skirt, a polyester crepe blouse (in this case, the polyester was a great choice, because the fact that it wouldn’t breathe would help me stay warm and use up a random bit of fabric in my stash that had no other project in its future!), and did a mostly unnoticeable revamp on my 1860s/can-look-like-other-decades fur muff (which was essential, it turned out, for keeping my hands warm!). And to look stylish, I made gaiters to turn my 1920s American Duchess Gibsons into 19-teens looking spat-boots. And all of the fabrics were from my stash! The gaiters might just be my favorite part of the outfit, and both they and my fur hat will qualify for the next two HSF challenges, so you’ll see more detailed information on those soon! All in all, I managed to stay warm, except for my feet! I wore thick tights, but I didn’t think to wear extra socks, and my toes and feet were SO cold! Note to self: wear thick socks next time an all day outside event in the cold is on the horizon…

And here is my brand new 1917 outfit:

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Yay! New hat, revised muff, new blouse, hand knit sweater, new skirt, and new gaiters, worn with my Gibsons, my modern cashmere lined leather gloves, my 1913 petticoat pinned up to shorten its length, and a golden yellow ribbon in support of women’s suffrage. I was able to completely finish my accessories, but the blouse and skirt didn’t get as far as closures. You can’t tell of course, but safety pins are great sometimes. These two garments now live in the “need to be finished” section of my sewing list.
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One of the only back views. The blouse has neat collar details (see those cute points?) and neat cuff details you obviously can’t see. When I eventually finish the blouse and skirt I’ll post more details about their design and construction.

Despite last minute sewing for all of us, we all looked good and had fun wearing clothes from the 1910s while sharing a bit of important history with the public:

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Brown wool suit with fur trim.
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A wool plaid hobble skirt and jacket and a lovely black wool coat with fur collar.

The 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in the US, was ratified in 1920, after over 70 years of struggle. I think it’s fitting that Thanksgiving and women’s suffrage were related events for us ladies this year. In addition to many other things, we’re thankful for those who fought to get women the right to vote!

Product links in this post contain an affiliate code, which provides a small benefit to my shoe fund. This does not affect my impressions and reviews of this product.