Tag Archives: bicycling costume

The New Year Girl’s Resolutions: 1897

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. Here are some resolutions for the New Year Girl, 1897:



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.


Bicycle Jewellery: 1897

bicycle brooch

Bicycle Jewelry

With the ever increasing popularity of the wheel, bicycle jewelry has come into vogue, says an exchange, and it promises to be a busy fall and winter with the silver and goldsmiths in designing and making up small and dainty novelties of adornment for cyclers. In London and Paris there has been for some time a considerable demand for trifles in the precious metals that would indicate from their design that the wearer was a cyclist. Now the fashion is beginning to take root here.

Bicycle jewelry had its beginning in the fad among well to do wheelwomen of having a silver bell and a silver name plate upon their machines. While this plan has never become general, there are plenty of wheels adorned with these ornaments, prettily finished and in the name plates often of elaborate pattern and design. Next came the whistle bangle, a silver trinket from London, like the bell and name plate, useful as well as ornamental, yet a distinct piece of jewelry.

Gradually this bangle has come to be popular, and it is now is to be bought in many shops in gold or in silver, according to taste. In design it is a narrow band that snaps around the wrist, a link chain to which the whistle is attached and three rings. These rings fasten on the hand, and in them the whistle is slipped to prevent its dangling. It is the work of only a second to slip the whistle out of the rings and raise it to the lips with either hand.

From these beginnings cyclists’ jewelry has been evolved until now most of the novelties on the market are for ornaments, pure and simple, and have no used beyond decoration. The newest things out are the stickpins for bicycle riders. Though these are chiefly worn by girls, they make just as good scarfpins and are frequently used in that way by men. The tiny silver or gold bicycle set on a pin about two inches long was one of the first pieces of jewelry devised. This new pin is much more elaborate. On top of the tiny wheel the figure of a rider done in bright enamel is placed. Wheel and rider together are so minute that they hardly cover more than a thumbnail, yet every detail is complete.

The Wichita [KS] Daily Eagle 5 September 1897: p.12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  To judge by the coverage in the newspapers, much of the joy of being a wheel-woman was not the freedom, fresh air, and exercise, but the shopping for bicycling costumes and accessories. Mrs Daffodil has already commented on a young lady millionairess’s costly wheeling wardrobe and discussed the importance of the proper bicycle lingerie.

Bicycle jewellery was also used in courtship and for more intimate accessories:

The variety of scarf pins of different styles of bicycles, made in gold and silver, have a special deep and unalterable significance. A small “bike” for a solitary individual means, “I intend to remain a bachelor;” a two-inch tandem, “We are only flirting;” a duplex machine [to quote a popular American song (written by an Englishman): “A Bicycle Built for Two.], “I’m matrimonially inclined;” a line of four or five tiny “scorchers,” “You are a flirt.,” while the presentation of an old-fashioned tricycle is intended to intimate that the receiver is considered passé—“out of the running,” to speak after the manner of wheelmen.

But the wheelman’s interest in bicycle jewelry undoubtedly centers in the bicycle engagement bracelet. There are several unique designs now in the market, of which the most fetching is unquestionably the wheel-link bracelet. This is made of a series of tiny bicycle wheels, linked together with precious stones, and clasped with a miniature lantern, of which the light is a glistening gem.

But the ultra-enthusiastic bicycle girl does not stop with this assortment of wheels for her personal adornment; she has especially designed for her use, or some one else has designed for her, the most bewitching of bicycle garter-buckles. The most economical of these fin-de-siècle buckles is a simple arrangement of tiny handlebars in gold or silver, and costing a few dollars, but occasionally the price runs up into the thousands, as, for instance, when each clasp is a single wheel in solid gold, with spokes and rim covered with diamonds and the hub a huge solitaire.

Denver [CO] Post 23 November 1896: p. 8

bicycle jewelry

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.



Bicycle Lingerie: 1896

Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously over the grammar.

Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously over the grammar.


The woman who desires to appear well dressed, should give attention to the selection of underwear. A recent bride paid $500 for her wedding veil, which came from Worth’s, and her trousseau contained many imported gowns, but her lingerie was little better than that worn by a woman in a tenement house, the garments being made severely plain, many of them of unbleached muslin, and unadorned with trimming of any kind.

It is useless to wear a stylish tailor-made gown over a last year’s out-of-date pair of corsets. Then, too, different styles of lingerie should be worn with décolleté gowns, with promenade gowns, &c.

When attired for athletic pastimes, for example, a young lady should by all means discard the corset, and wear a corset waist instead. For bicycling she should wear an entirely distinct set of undergarments, which may at the same time be dainty and pretty. The silk undervest should be a size larger than the one worn upon other occasions, to permit of freer action of the arms. The approved bicycle corset should be worn by all means. It costs but $1, is very narrow, almost like a belt, yet very close fitting. It is not heavily boned, and is cut very short on the hips, elastic being inserted so as to permit of freedom of motion. Some bicyclists prefer the silk lacing, others the elastic.

A combination of short petticoat, and drawers, fastened together at the waist, is in vogue for bicycling. The skirt falls several inches below the drawers, and may be finished with lace. The two garments have one drawstring, thus doing away with the discomfort of a band at the waist.

The "hipless" bicycle corset

The “hipless” bicycle corset

The majority of lady cyclists consider the above-mentioned lingerie sufficient for warm weather. Many wear an additional skirt, slightly longer than the first. Others prefer the new combination called the chemise skirt, which may be of silk or linen, the first being very pretty and effective, the latter cooler. The chemise portion of the garment is short-waisted and trimmed elaborately with lace, little flounces passing over the shoulders. It may be worn over the corset, serving as a corset cover, and the lower part forms an under petticoat.

Bicycle stockings of silk are popular, many, however, preferring those of fine lisle thread for ordinary wear.

There are many novelties in bicycle stockings. They should harmonize with the suit as its groundwork, and may be clocked or striped with white. If tan shoes are worn, they should match the hose. No garters should be used by bicyclists.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 4 June 1896: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The question of cycling costume was a matter of highly public debate, arousing feverish passions on all sides. One of the most vital issues was the “corset or no corset” controversy. This advocate was adamantly anti-corset:

The fundamental principal of comfort for a wheelwoman lies in the underwear. Corsets should never be worn under any circumstances. Neither is it desirable to ride without any support for the body, especially if the rider is inclined to stoutness. An equipoise waist from which the bones have been removed is the best substitute for the corset, as then the muscles are allowed to have full play   and are not constricted in any way. Union underwear is now so universally worn that it would seem almost unnecessary to recommend it, but upon the wheel it becomes almost a necessity, doing away with much unpleasant thickness around the hips.

A pair of full Turkish trousers, made of black India silk, will be found an admirable substitute for the petticoat.

If preferred, equestrian tights are also extremely comfortable. Leggings are stiff and uncomfortable adjuncts, and are not necessary. They interfere with the “ankle motion,” which should be cultivated by every woman who wishes to ride gracefully. Bay City [MI] Times 3 June 1894: p. 9

While this author offers a sensible opposing viewpoint:  (Mrs Daffodil would challenge the notion that “golf hose” are “extremely English.”)

The discreet wheelwoman knows that gauze wool underwear is the safest choice, as there is always danger in cooling off too suddenly, says Godey’s Magazine. The union suit or the two-piece wool suit is best, as it causes the costume to fit snugly and neatly to the figure, and does away with all unnecessary weight.

Corsets for the wheel should give freedom to the hips; the short empire corset is a good choice, as while it supports the bust it is sufficiently short to be comfortable. Another excellent corset has several elastic gores let in on the hips, which give when mounting, and yet hold the figure firmly. Another corset, designed for summer wear is of coarse substantial net. The corset should never be tightly laced, as it renders the breathing difficult and causes fatigue.

Side-view of the elastic gores of the corset above.

Side-view of the elastic gores of the corset seen at the head of this post.

Stockings are of many kinds, but the woman who wants to be extremely English affects golf hose; the clumsiness which has already been so objectionable has been eliminated by making the feet of four-ply wool, which is almost as thin as lisle thread. Checked wool hosiery is also used, and cotton and lisle. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 23 April 1897: p. 11

Knickers to be worn under a cycling skirt. Daily Illinois State Journal [Springfield, IL] 28 May 1899: p. 17

Knickers to be worn under a cycling skirt. Daily Illinois State Journal [Springfield, IL] 28 May 1899: p. 17

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.



Mme. Grand’s Christmas Bicycle Costume: 1897

The Christmas Bicycle Costume.

The Christmas Bicycle Costume.

Startling Bicycle Costume

Sarah Grand Thought It Out After Studying Rosalind in “As You Like It.”

How It Looks on Mme. Grand

Of White Fur, with Cloak and Knickers, Following Closely the Shakespearean.

Calls It Christmas Costume

Very Pretty on Slender Women, but Some Had Better Fight Shy of It.

It’s Sure to Come to America.

Women Awheel Wearing the Sarah Grand Rosalind Dress Will Cause a Sensation in the Streets.

Special to the Globe.

London, Dec. 11. By a judicious combination of ideas based on Shakespeare and common sense, Mme. Sarah Grand, the world-famous authoress of “The Heavenly Twins,” has evolved a bicycle costume for women that is a startler. And, as Mme. Grand’s admirers point out, the subject of the correct bicycle costume for women has been for so long a favorite one with cranks and reformers of all classes that it is not an every-day occurrence for anything startling to be successfully launched on the trouble sea of woman’s apparel. To the novelty of the costume Mme. Sarah Grand has added the novelty of a name. She calls her new cycle dress for women her “Christmas bicycle costume,” and considers that in devising it she has given additional cause for rejoicing among women during the coming holiday season.

To begin to explain Mme. Grand’s costume it is necessary to take the Rosalind of act 2 in “As You Like It,” and, using her as a lay figure for the explanation, to build the Mme. Grand costume around her. Mme. Grand is an enthusiastic admirer of Shakespeare, and the more she studied the free and easy grace of Rosalind of the russet doublet and hose, the more she became convinced that had bicycles been in use during the Shakespearean era, the doublet and hose would have been the costume that level-headed women would have adopted. It was even an improvement on the male bicycling costume, argued Mme. Grand, for even the emancipated man who discarded his voluminous trousers for wide knee breeches and stockings when he mounted the fascinating wheel, occasionally complained that the revolving spokes caught in the “knicker” cloth and made trouble. But the hose of Rosalind would prevent even the possibility of a spill from the wardrobe and the wheel becoming on terms of too close intimacy during a ride.

So Mme. Grand proceeded to think out her Rosalind bicycle costume, discarding one by one the nineteenth century articles of dress that fettered the sex when awheeling.

“No waist for me,” said Mme. Grand, at the beginning of her studies, “a waist on a cycle is absurd. I can never bear to ride in anything tight, especially corsets, and I like to feel free and comfortable.”

And away went the corsets and after them the waist, then the skirt and the bloomers, until Rosalind, the lay figure, was deprived of everything that pertained to modern costuming and stood ready to be habilitated in the Shakespearian reform dress that Madame Grand had in mind. The creation that is the outcome of her efforts is declared by all who have seen it, set off on the famous novelist’s graceful figure, to be a great success. It combines the rare qualities of prettiness and comfort, and it is sure to find its way to America, where such a combination in qualities in women’s costume is fully appreciated and eagerly attached.

The costume is made for winter wear, although it can be fashioned readily enough into an attractive summer rig for the athletic girl. It is made of white fur and follows the Rosalind idea very closely. Over the shoulder is thrown the natty cloak of the Rosalind era, which can be discarded as the option for the bicyclist, but certainly adds to the smartness of the wearer’s appearance. The hose and doublet are modified into tight-fitting knickerbockers of white fur, and on a slender woman look extremely well. The accompanying illustration showing Madame Grand clad in the costume she has evolved gives a good idea of how the novel bicycle dress will look on women of attractive build. Of course the way the costume will look depends altogether on the figure and general appearance of the wearer. It isn’t everyone who makes a good looking Rosalind, and some women do well to cling to the skirt or the bloomers for the sake of the disguise they afford. A well-formed woman, however, will have in the new Sarah Grand costume a dress that will make her free from restraining drapery, and of attractive appearance when awheel.

It remains to be seen how many women will have the courage to indorse Sarah Grand’s idea by adopting it. It is such a startling long step, even from the bloomer costume, that most women will probably be a little shy about appearing in public until bolder spirits have taken the rough edge off the sensation such a costume will cause. Rosalind on the stage is one thing. Rosalind on a bicycle in Hyde park or Central park is another, although the distinction is a fine one when simmered down.

Madame Grand does not believe that she is entitled to be roughly criticized on account of her new costume.

“Nothing is unfeminine for a woman,” she said when asked about this point, “unless she chooses to make it so. I think we are beginning to show nowadays that we can do many things which used to be thought ‘unfeminine’ and yet be womanly, nevertheless. Bicycling is one of them, and the wearing of a rational bicycle costume goes with it. The skirt is evidently not the thing. I have had two bad accidents from mine catching and it is made by an excellent tailor. This is what led me to devote a good deal of thought to the subject, and made me come to the conclusion that an easy and pretty costume might be modeled from Rosalind’s dress.”

The women of America can judge for themselves and criticize the authoress of “The Heavenly Twins,” as they consider she deserves. She assumes the entire responsibility for the Rosalind bicycle costume, and, being accustomed to criticism, is disposed to regard philosophically the abuse of those who treat her original ideas irreverently.

The Saint Paul [MN] Globe  12 December 1897: p. 20

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has nothing against healthful exercise for ladies awheel, but thinks that the Christmas bicycle costume is less Rosalind than Robinson Crusoe panto Principal Boy.

Sarah Grand [1854-1943] was a feminist author and creator of the term “New Woman.” She railed against the traditional sexual double-standard and wrote about “original” subjects like syphilis and the failure of marriage in her controversial novel The Heavenly Twins. She knew whereof she wrote. Grand was married at 16 to a much older widowed Army surgeon, David Chambers McFall, who had an extensive practice in venereal diseases. Grand (who was born Frances Clarke) changed her name when she separated from her husband and began her writing career. She was a strong advocate for the victims of venereal disease (She once wrote that she hoped that some day the marriage of certain [diseased] men would be a crime.) and for the sexual education of young women. Mrs Daffodil found  the adventures of the eponymous twins, Angelina and Diavolo, to be both hectic and tedious, although she sees how the book became a sensation for its frank treatment of miserable marriages and the effects of tertiary syphilis. Critical reviews for The Heavenly Twins were mixed. Mr Mark Twain wrote in the margin of his copy of the book, “A cat could do better literature than this.”

Rosalind, the witty and intelligent heroine of As You Like It, who disguises herself as a boy, was something of a “New Woman” prototype, being feminine, clever, and “rationally” dressed.

Miss Lily Langtree as Rosalind in As You Like It.

Miss Lily Langtree as Rosalind in As You Like It.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about a costly cycling suit for a millionairess here.

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.

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.