A Costly Cycling Suit for a Millionairess Wheelwoman: 1897

cycling suit


One Ordered for a New York Girl Is to Cost $715.

The most expensive bicycle suit on record has just been ordered at one of the swellest tailors in New York.

The girl who meets the bill is worth a million in her own right, is an athletic beauty and a reigning belle in the ultra-smart set.

The suit which makes the bill is the most elaborate ever designed in this country. It is lined with silk, finished with jewels and will cost a lump sum of $715.50.

Two “Scott and Adie” shawls at $75 apiece will be employed in making the skirt and jacket. And, by the way, these English shawls are the very latest thing for any sort of fancy outing suit.

The skirt will be stitched half way to the knees, with the lines of stitching not over a sixteenth of an inch apart; this is the new device to stiffen the lower part of the skirt without adding to the weight.

The edges of the jacket are also stitched, and, together with the skirt, it is elaborately braided, which latter touch adds some $25 to the expense.

Bloomers and linings of suit throughout will be of silk—not less than 16 yards of silk to be used, which gives another item of $22.50. With the bloomers having been ordered, half a dozen, [add] interlining of the finest lawn at $2.50 a pair.

Loose jackets are no longer the correct thing for the crack bicyclist. The newest waist is tight-fitting always, and worn with a series of vests and shirt fronts.

It sounds very simple just to say: “I shall order at least three vests for my new bicycle suit,” doesn’t it? Well, that is what the “millionairess” in question did, and these three vests are going to cost $25 apiece. The principal color in her suit is green, so she has ordered one vest of sage green, one of geranium red, embroidered in black and gold, and one of white broadcloth, embroidered in silver. With these vests she will wear snow-white linen shirtfronts and black satin ties.

And $25 is not so very extravagant for a vest, when you stop to consider that the garment is made when the material is wet and has to be molded to the figure.

A Panama straw hat, fawn color and trimmed with scarlet and green, will add one $10 item, and bicycle boots of finest leather will add another of $18. Golf stockings in mixed greens and tans will be worn in place of the high top boot. An entire box of these stockings has been ordered, as it is difficult to match them exactly. Fifteen dollars a half dozen will buy the softest and best in the shops.

But the crowning extravagance of this particular “biking” maid is yet to come. Her belt of elephant green leather is clasped with a buckle of oxidized silver set with emeralds. The buckle is in the form of two bicycle wheels; the rim of each wheel is bordered with small green stones, a large single emerald forming the hub. This trifling decoration to adorn the “slender waist” of the pretty wheelwoman will cost treble the price of her wheel; that is to say, exactly $300. N.Y. Sunday Journal. 

Willmar [MN] Tribune 6 July 1897: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Scott and Adie” is a misnomer for “Scott Adie,” of The Royal Scotch Warehouse, Regent Street. They were manufacturer to Her Majesty Queen Victoria (and all the foreign courts, said their trade card.) They dealt in homespuns and Cheviots, Shetland shawls, gowns, jackets, suits, tartan ribbons, plaids and rugs.  The vests, which sound delectable, were probably made of felt, which offered protection from wind and damp. Mrs Daffodil is well-versed in basic arithmetic, but even her creative book-keeping skills cannot make out how the items listed above total $715.50. There is some ambiguity in the bloomer department, one fears. Mrs Daffodil makes the total $743.00. $150 for shawls, $25 for braiding, half-dozen bloomers at $25 each ($22.50 + $2.50? or is $22.50 just for silk linings?), $75 for three vests, $10 for hat, $18 for boots, $15 for stockings, $300 for emerald belt-buckle. Or $630.50 if bloomers are $2.50 per, leaving a shortage of $85.00. Perhaps  the extra was for shirt-fronts and ties.

Bloomers and bicycles were the target of much episcopal censure.


Rational costume seems to have gotten a set-back in Paris; it is rumored that the Cardinal Archbishop has declared that he will not administer the sacrament to any woman who dons bloomers while riding a bicycle. When a woman once becomes emancipated, neither the fulminations of the church nor the ridicule of the public has any effect upon her.

While bloomers cannot be considered as immoral or indecent, they are so monstrously ugly that any woman who has a regard for her good looks will refuse to wear them. Rational dress does not necessarily mean a costume which is ungraceful and unbecoming; and while the tight corset and the long skirt is hampering to those who engage in bicycling, or any exercise where freedom of movement is desirable, it would seem that some style of costume might be invented which was comfortable and at the same time womanly and becoming.

Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] January 1896

Latest Ecclesiastical Commotion.

Speaking of Bishop Coxe’s objection to women on bicycles, the Boston Herald says: “The Bishop does not appear to understand that the bicycle is not equipped with a side saddle, and that riding astride is the only way to promulgate this interesting vehicle.” We ought not to be surprised, perhaps, if the Boston woman rides astride a bicycle, but if so she is lonely among her sex in that accomplishment. The women’s bicycles we have seen are provided simply with a seat, and they are no more required to ride astride than sit astride on an ordinary chair. If the good Bishop thinks that women straddle a bicycle as men do theirs he should request some fair Buffalonian to explain to him the difference. Rochester Herald.

The Gogebic Advocate [Ironwood, MI] 11 July 1891: p. 2


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


3 thoughts on “A Costly Cycling Suit for a Millionairess Wheelwoman: 1897

  1. Pingback: Bicycle Jewellery: 1897 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

  2. Pingback: Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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