Bikes & Bloomers book

“What a joy to discover these rad, bad divas of the bicycle!  Kat Jungnickel’s fascinating exploration of these early cyclists and innovative entrepreneurs opens our eyes to the fearless work of feminists past, what obstacles they overcame and how we can stand on their shoulders now.

In this accomplished, in-depth and joyful book, Kat Jungnickel restores these courageous and inventive heroines to their place in history, and shows how much we owe today to their fearless innovations!  Inspirational and fascinating.”

– REBECCA MORDAN, Artistic Director of feminist theatre company Scary Little Girls

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“Utterly fascinating, beautifully written, and a work of supreme scholarship. Much more than an account of an emergent Victorian cycling revolution, this is a social history told through the story of invention, technology, craft, and female subjugation. More importantly, this is a book about controlling narratives, and the telling of history itself.”

– DALLAS CAMPBELL, broadcaster and author of Ad Astra: An illustrated guide to leaving the planet

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“I was fascinated by this book, and by what I learned about what we wear on bikes, and how women have (and still are) working to make it all fit better. So much has changed since the days of bloomers, and yet so much hasn’t. Kat Jungnickel’s book is a valuable new resource for anyone interested in women riding bikes, and how they do it.”

EMILY CHAPPELL, fastest woman in the Transcontinental Race (2016), founding member of The Adventure Syndicate and author of What Goes Around: A London Cycle Courier’s Story

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“Kat Jungnickel effectively rewrites a traditionally masculine history of bicycles: these women are recast as makers of the world, not just spectators of masculine innovation. Through radical sociology Bikes & Bloomers breaks new ground for design studies and dress history, while also becoming an exemplar of inventive research methodology. A rigorous, enjoyable read!”

– TIMO RISSANEN, Assistant Professor of Fashion Design and Sustainability, Parsons School of Design, The New School, New York and author of Zero Waste Fashion Design 

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“This meticulously researched book demonstrates how women hacked their way into cycling culture. Kat Jungnickel opens up new pathways for conceiving and researching the relationships of design, mobilities and women’s history.”

 GUY JULIER, Professor of Design, Aalto University, Helsinki

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“Bikes & Bloomers is a complete delight of a book. Kat Jungnickel’s diligent scholarship has revealed a whole swathe of innovative endeavour by late 19th century women designers and makers that was hitherto consigned to a neglected niche. Having unearthed a treasury of designs for women cyclists’ apparel, along with the fascinating circumstances in which they were created, the original patterns were recreated in all their dazzling glory. Bikes & Bloomers is beautiful work – in intent, execution and realisation.”

– MARK THOMSON, Research Director, Institute of Backyard Studies , Australia

BIKES and BLOOMERS: Victorian Women Inventors & their Extraordinary Cycle Wear

Published by Goldsmiths Press & Distributed by MIT Press
BUY IT AT: Waterstones (UK), Amazon (UK), Angus & Robertson (Aust), and US booksellers. You can also pick up a copy at The Word Bookshop (in New Cross, near college).

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The bicycle in Victorian Britain is often celebrated as a vehicle of women’s liberation. But much less is known about another critical technology with which women forged new and mobile public lives – cycle wear.

Despite its benefits, cycling was a material and ideological minefield for women. Conventional fashions were inappropriate, with skirts catching in wheels and tangling in pedals. Yet wearing more identifiable ‘rational’ cycle wear could elicit verbal and sometimes physical abuse from parts of society threatened by newly mobile women.

In response, pioneering women not only imagined, made and wore radical new forms of cycle wear but also patented their inventive designs. The most remarkable of these were convertible costumes that enabled wearers to secretly switch ordinary clothing into cycle wear.

This highly visual social history of women’s cycle wear explores Victorian engineering, patent studies and radical feminist invention. Underpinned by three years of in-depth archival research and inventive practice, this new book by Kat Jungnickel brings to life in rich detail the lesser-known stories of six inventors and their unique contributions to cycling’s past, continue to shape urban life for contemporary mobile women.

Cover image: Miss Rosina Lane, ‘The Lady Cyclists at the Aquarium’. Photograph by Messrs. Russell and Sons, Baker Street, W. The Sketch, Nov. 27, 1895, p. 233. With permission from Manchester Art Gallery archives (Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall).

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CONTENTS

PART I

Introduction: Making, wearing and inventing futures

Chapter 1 – “One wants nerves of iron” Cycling in Victorian Britain

Chapter 2 – From the Victorian Lady to the Lady Cyclist

Chapter 3 – Inventing solutions to the ‘dress problem’

Chapter 4 – The 1890s patenting boom and the cycle craze

Chapter 5 – Extraordinary cycle wear patents

PART II

Chapter 6 – Patent #17145: Alice Bygrave and her ‘Bygrave Convertible Skirt’

Chapter 7 – Patent #6794: Julia Gill and her cycling semi-skirt

Chapter 8 – Patent #8766: (Frances) Henrietta Müller and her three-piece cycling suit

Chapter 9 – Patent #13832: Mary Elizabeth & Sarah Ann Pease and their cycling skirt /cape

Chapter 10 – Patent #9605: Mary Ward and her ‘Hyde Park Safety Skirt’

PART III

The politics of patenting (or how to change the world one garment at a time)

British cycle wear patents 1890-1900 (for New or Improvements to Women’s Skirts for the Purposes of Cycling)

Notes

Bibliography

Index