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Bicycle Fashion (1887-1907): Topics in Chronicling America

In the late 19th century, women have caught onto the bicycle fad and fashion designers are accomodating. This guide provides access to materials related to "Bicycle Fashion" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"Bicycle girls and their summer road gowns." May 29, 1898. The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), Image 27. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

It’s the 1890s, the dawn of the golden age of bicycling in America, and women have joined their male friends at Bicycle Row. A Washington, D.C. newspaper reports over 30,000 cyclists take to the streets in 1896. The new drop-frame bicycle solved the problem of entangled skirts, and fashion designers are producing female-friendly bicycle clothing. As one Chicago newspaper reports “the fashionable girl no longer lolls about in tea gowns in darkened rooms, but joins her male friends for a spin in a fetching sailor hat, a shirtwaist with a mannish collar, leg-o’-mutton sleeves, and bloomers.” Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

1887Women’s drop-frame bicycle makes riding easy for the skirt-clad woman.
July 1895Chicago wheelwoman arrested touring south shore boulevards in flesh-colored tights.
October 1895Cyclist Annie “Londonberry” pedals the globe on a $10,000 wager.
March 1896Washington Evening Star reports on bloomers and bicycles in Paris.
March 1896British fashion designer’s bicycle skirt nets $5,000 in four days.
July 9, 1896Bicycling leads to upswing in immorality among American women claims Women’s Rescue League.
October 1907St. Paul minister gives thumbs up to bicycle skirts hiked two inches above the ankle.