Vintage Cycling Clothing



vintage dress

In the 1880s, cycling became a fad of major proportions in both the United States and Europe. By the 1890s, the "The Golden Age of Bicycles" had arrived. Bicycling clubs for both men and women flourished on both sides of the Atlantic, and touring and racing were the rage. At first women wore their everyday long skirts but this often proved disastrous when they tangled in the bike chains. Soon special vintage cycling clothing for the bicycling lady were introduced which not only included the "divided skirt" but also the more extreme "bloomers costume."


Vintage Fashions for Cycling
Vintage Fashions for Cycling: IMAGE: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division
[Reproduction # LC-USZ62-93792]


Vintage Fashions for Cycling"FASHION, as applied to the garb of the wheel-woman, offers but few radical changes for the spring season [1899]. Vintage ycling clothing has passed the experimental stage and has now reached a point where improvement becomes difficult; for the perfect wheeling costume, if not already an accomplished fact, is as near perfection as most people ever expect to see it. The up-to-date suit, indeed, not-withstanding its simple exterior, represents more ingenuity and artistic skill than is exhibited in the most elaborate evening gown. Gathered from an infinite number of sources, every device that the fertile brain of the costumer can produce is applied to its practical advantage or made to contribute to its artistic improvement."

"Materials for the development of cycling clothing remain practically the same as those in vogue last season, though combinations and trimmings are somewhat more affected than formerly. Mixtures and indistinct checks in neutral shades are much in evidence, albeit the more expensive costumes run largely to plain, one-color weaves. A substantial fabric having much the appearance of ladies'-cloth, though without the perishable high finish of Vintage Fashions for Cyclingthat material, is in great favor for the better class of costumes, revers of velvet forming the prescribed trimming. Sailcloth is also used by some of the leading tailors, this developing an especially stylish costume when combined with canvas cloth or coarse braid. Brilliantine, from its marvelous durability, lightness and dust-shedding properties, will continue to be largely worn, whether it be formally sanctioned by fashion or not. Mohair Sicilian is far and away the best variety for cycling purposes, its coarse weave rendering it not only more appropriate for the wheel, but causing it to retain its style and lustre under the most severe strain which the ardent cyclist can put upon it. Serge, too, is well represented in the latest output of bicycle suits. But the experienced rider will consider long and prayerfully before investing in a serge costume, knowing that dust and stains are exhibited upon its surface in a most unkindly light, and that it yields but unsatisfactory results to the renovating influence of benzine or brush."

Vintage Fashions for Cycling"Though many of the imported wheeling costumes are of complicated design, ornate with braiding or appliqué, conservative riders steadfastly adhere to simple styles and quiet color effects. American cyclists, on the whole, may be credited with an acute perception of the eternal fitness of things— for most of the bizarre cycling clothing which find a market on our shores are utilized for show window purposes rather than club runs. The correct attire has the same color scheme throughout. Leggins, hat, gloves, tie—even the chatelaine bag—must match the costume, though the first two need not necessarily be of the dress material. Large smoke pearl buttons are much used on many of the smartest spring toilettes and will supersede, to a considerable degree, the rows of diminutive buttons so much worn last season. The Norfolk jacket threatens to become a permanent feature of the cycling habiliment. Trifling changes, to be sure, have been made in cut or decoration, but it remains practically the same. The pleats are a trifle broader than those of last season and graduate toward the waistline, from which point they expand to the lower edge of the waist. Modish little Eton jackets, buttoning in double-breasted fashion, are also exceedingly popular among the cycling contingent. Vintage Fashions for CyclingThey are somewhat more favorable to the figure than are the Norfolk jackets, which should not be worn indiscriminately by the hollow-chested or slender."  

"The cloth shirt waists now so much in vogue will form a strong rival to the various jackets and basques as soon as the weather becomes mild enough to render an outer garment unnecessary. The shirt waist, whether of lawn or ladies'-cloth, constitutes an ideal garment for the wheel, being the acme of comfort and durability, while exceedingly favorable to the majority of figures. The Fig. 1 shows an excellent model for cycling clothing and one that will lend itself readily to effective development in any of the regulation bicycle cloths. Used with a skirt of the same or of neutral plaid or mixture, an especially chic suit is produced. Stock collars, similar to those worn, with the conventional tailor costumes, are extremely fashionable this season for wheel women and will be largely used with basques and shirt waists.  The conventional collar and cravat are shown on Fig. IV."

Vintage Fashions for Cycling

"Two practical and popular skirt models are shown in Figs. IV. and V. The latter has the usual apron-piece, which may be removed when a diamond frame is preferred. The back is arranged in graceful pleats which diminish gradually toward the waist-line. The skirt illustrated in Fig. IV is combined with the trousers. It is of correct length and fullness, and the fastening is affected beneath the apron-piece. The fad for elaborate braiding on the apron-piece has suffered the fate which sooner or later attends all things manifestly inappropriate. No ukase of Fashion, when palpably at war with common sense, can popularize or perpetuate a mode of this kind. The charm of novelty, after all, is not so potent with the multitude — if any moral can be drawn from the brief careers of extravagant effects in cycling clothing. The bicycle costume and the ballgown are wholly incompatible, and any attempt to engraft the distinctive features of the one on the other, cannot but result disastrously."

"Trimming, however, is by no means wholly abandoned. Bands of braid, leather or contrasting material may be applied about the edge of the skirt and thus answer the two­fold purpose of holding it down, as well as providing a tasteful decoration. Lead weights are sewn at equal distances about the hem by some riders, while others attach an elastic strap to the lower edge of the skirt and the second button of the gaiter." 

Vintage Fashions for Cycling"The fashionable sweater this season is of plaid or striped wool, the forearm and a deep band at the waist being plain. The effect is striking rather than attractive; nevertheless, it is safe to predict that they will not lack either admirers or purchasers. Some extremely pretty effects are introduced in a variety of sweater woven in the golf designs hitherto confined to hosiery. Horizontal bands of insertion in lacy patterns are seen on some of the more expensive models. These bands extend in unbroken lines across front, back and sleeves, and, being woven in multicolored silks, are highly ornamental. The plain ribbed sweater, though relegated somewhat into the background by the more elaborate specimens now fashionable, will not be altogether absent from cycling dress parades the coming season."


"Figs. IV and V show two especially attractive cycling clothing. The former illustration embraces Ladies' Shirt Waist No. 3402 and Ladies' Standard Combination Bicycling Skirt and Trousers No. 2631. The latter is a combination of Ladies' Stock Collar No. 3461 ; Ladies' Vest No. 1216; Ladies' Jacket No. 3090 ; Ladies' Divided Bicycling Skirt No., 3126, and Ladies' Leggin No. 869. The hat is of stiff felt."Vintage Fashions for Cycling

"In misses' and girls' cycling clothing, much the same modes obtain as in those intended for adults. The etiquette of correct dressing is by no means relaxed, nor are lapses to be regarded with a more lenient eye, because the rider is in her early teens. Scotch and Irish mixtures are used almost exclusively for misses' costumes, and trimming—if anything beyond machine-stitching be desired—must be confined to braid and velvet. Fig. III illustrates a misses' costume correct in every detail. No. 3486 supplied the pattern for the Norfolk jacket; No. 3251 for the hat, and No. 3165 for the skirt, the apron-piece of which is omitted. The same skirt differently developed constitutes part of the stylish toilette shown in Fig. I Tam-o'-Shanter No. 3357, Leggin No, 1806, Sweater No. 2642 and Blazer No. 2546 were used in fashioning the various garments. For the wardrobe of the juvenile wheel­man, a jacket provided with outside pockets conveniently placed, is an almost indispensable adjunct, and it will be found the ultimate course of economy to construct a garment especially for this purpose."

From Vintage Magazine: The Standard Designer, 1897

Vintage Fashions for Cycling