Tag Archives: bicycling

“Scorching” on the Beach: 1897

beach cycling


Do This and You Are Up to Date According to Sea Shore Ethics

Sense of Propriety Given to the Fad When a Chaperon is Taken in Charge.

The Clean White Sand Closely Packed Down Forms a Splendid Bicycle Path

Wise Summer Girl’s Plan.

New York, June 12. To be thoroughly fashionable this year you should take a spin on the beach on your wheel. Of course you ride a wheel, because everyone does. If you cannot take a spin on the sea shore, take one along the shore of the lake and if that fails, think up a good substitute. In any event, if you are at the sea shore do not fail to take a breather just as near old ocean as circumstances will permit. Fashion has set the seal of approval on this fad and all her devotees, male and female, are scorching to obey her behests.

One of the most pleasant features of this new idea is that to be strictly en règle, one should ride in a bathing suit. The summer girl is not always at her best in a bathing suit, but if she is at her best then of course the idea suits her to a T. It also suits the summer young man and thus there is nothing left to be desired. To give the sanction of absolute propriety, it has been decreed that the way to take this spin along the sands is to do so in a party which is known as a bathing bicycle party. There must be a chaperon and the chances are that a chaperon who can ride a wheel is not oblivious to the fact that young people do not always dare to be conventional. So there is a delightful combination of a jolly chaperon, a bicycle and a bath.

It might not be thought that the beach would make the best of bicycle paths, but it does. In fact the firm, hard sand seems to have an elasticity that helps a rider to speed along at a great rate. It is very peasant also to go at a scorching pace with the ocean breeze blowing all about you and fanning away the perspiration. Those who have tried it say the exhilaration is simply unspeakable. Add to the joy the scorcher feels in the very movement of his wheel the invigorating effect of the salt air, and the result must be pleasant in the extreme.

Down at Coney Island, along that section of the beach that stretches away westward in horseshoe fashion toward Norton’s Point, lies the speedway of the bathing cyclist, par excellence. Go down there any day and you can see plenty of evidence of the popularity of the new fad. Maidens of from 16 to 40, young men, middle-aged men, and men who would like to be thought middle-aged, are all there. Therefore the fashionable summer girl and her best young man must join the B.B. club—that of the Bicycle and the Bath.

Omaha [NE] World-Herald 21 June 1897: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  “Scorching” was wheel-woman/man slang for speeding along at a blistering pace. It was no doubt capital exercise and, for the sea-side rider, it served a cosmetic purpose:

“Nearly all the bicycle girls at the sea shore—and all women who ride wheels are bicycle girls—go in the water without any head covering and take the surf as they find it, and dive and plunge just as if they were not the least afraid of wet hair. They come out of the water, don their bicycle costumes, and, bare-headed, ride up and down the roads, their hair streaming out in the breeze and being dried as fast as sun and wind can accomplish the desired result.” Evening Star [Washington DC] 15 August 1896: p. 10

Possibly the beaches of the States are more congenial to “scorching,” than Brighton’s stony sea-side.  From Mrs Daffodil’s experience with sand, a wheel is more likely to sink into it and hurl the wheel-woman over the handle-bars. Should that occur, jolly as is the notion of riding in one’s bathing-costume, the skin is apt to be “scorched” as well.

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.