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The Safety Bicycle

Page history last edited by Dr. Kaston Tange 11 years, 3 months ago



The bicycle was something that anyone of any class, rank, or sex could enjoy. Naturally, because of this, it was all the more argued reason for women of any financial status to have one and to embrace in the freedom that the bicycle symbolized. Before the bicycle craze, clothing for women was the fashions of the Victorian era, corsets and petticoats, high collared blouses. The clothing style that  inhibited movement symbolized the constricted and rigid lives of women in the 1890' s that they were meant to lead, based on the opinion of men.


“Clothing for sports engaged a wide variety of women in a discussion about their relationship with their garments, “ according to Sarah Gordon. “At a time when mainstream women rarely challenged fashion’s dictates, the novelty of sports offered an opportunity to rethink women’s clothing.”


The development of the bicycle embodied a freedom, not just of an escape or a thrill of movement, but a means to broaden horizons, to get out of that refined, strict society. And because so many women were eager to ride, the dress styles of the era radically changed for more suitable mobile attire. Corsets made women faint when they were simply sitting or walking, riding was a highly exerting sport and thus corsets gave way to looser fitting blouses. Petticoats also were formerly made up of many different layers, but they gave way too to bloomers or divided skirts that were cinched at the knee and would thus allow a woman to ride safely without her skirt getting caught in the bike chain.

"Cycling, and the dress reform that accompanied it, challenged traditional gender norms and provided a space where women actively contested and rethought femininity,” stated Sarah Gordon.



Sarah Gordon in Beauty and Business: Commerce, Gender, and Culture in Modern America, Philip Scranton, Editor (Routledge, 2001), p.25.


Image source: http://www.ghmchs.org/thisweek/photo-listing_files/girls-on-bikes2.jpg



Project by Dena Sabra


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