Accepted Paper:

Bicycle clothing and women's liberation  

Author:

Marianne Larsson (Nordiska museet)

Paper short abstract:

Though divided skirts were almost unthinkable in the female costume in the late 1800's, fashion magazines published patterns and descriptions of bicycle garments. The paper discusses the bicycle and its demands for functional clothing as part of the women emancipation process in the late 1800's.

Paper long abstract:

In the collections of Nordiska museet in Stockholm there are several women's garments referring to cycling, but only one item, a "velocipede jacket", originates from the late 1800's, when cycling broke through and became a pleasure among the bourgeoisie. It is clear that the bike attracted to women from the beginning, but at the end of the 1800th century, fashion dictated tightly laced waists and full-length skirts. The clothes were a hindrance that the female cyclist must challenge. Women's unpractical clothing was already debated. With Anglo-Saxon countries as a model, the Swedish Dress Reform Association was founded in 1886. The aim was to promote that women's clothing should became more practical, comfortable and healthy. Women who straddled a bicycle aroused indignation in some circles, especially among men, but though divided skirts were almost unthinkable in the female costume, fashion magazines published patterns and descriptions of bike garments. In this paper I investigate representations of cycling and bicycle clothing in some fashion magazines dated to the late 1800's. When the bike got its real triumph for a broader public in the 1930s, calf-length cycling shorts, made of light cotton fabrics, were launched. In 1938 the majority of Swedish workers and employees were entitled to two weeks' vacation, and the cycling holiday became one of the great recreational activities. This paper discusses the bicycle and its demands for functional clothing as part of the women emancipation process in the late 1800's and the early 1900's.

Panel P52
Cycling: past, present and future