Tag Archives: Victorian wheelwomen

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.



“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.

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.