Saturday, August 11, 2018

Victorian Cycling Costume

Wow.  It's been a loooong time since my last blog post, but I'm so giddy over my new 1890's cycling costume that I decided to knock the dust off of this website so I can share a little bit about my new outfit and throw in a pattern review while I'm at it.

After hearing that a few of my friends were making cycling costumes for Costume College this year, I decided at the last minute that I desperately needed one too, so I ordered the Wearing History Bicycling Outfit pattern since I was in a rush and didn't have time to draft patterns from scratch.  This turned out to be a really excellent plan, and I couldn't be happier with the way this pattern went together.  Unlike a lot of historical reprints, Lauren has graded this one so that it includes multiple sizes, which was extremely helpful.  I made up one of the largest sizes, and I was really pleased with how close it was to fitting right off the bat.  I did end up taking in the bodice seams in a few areas, but that's totally to be expecting when working with a Victorian period pattern, and it's always easier to make something smaller than try to make it bigger.  The only part of the pattern that seemed a little odd was the neckline, which I found to be lower than it needs to be if you were attaching a high collar. But since I decided to change the design to an open neckline, this really wasn't a problem for me - just be mindful of it if you want to make up the bodice like the original and are using a larger size.  I also decided to make the shoulders on the bodice a little narrower so the sleeves didn't sit so wide (helps prevent the linebacker look!), but that's another easy change to make, and it's definitely more of a personal preference than a necessity.

Even though my final results might appear quite different from the original pattern illustration, I really didn't have to change much to get a completely different look.  The sleeves and bloomers are made up exactly like the pattern, and I love both of those elements SO MUCH!  The sleeves have the perfect amount of fulness to give you an 1890's shape without being so large that they are ridiculous.  I flatlined my sleeves with a layer of tulle to help give them body, but most of the "poof" is controlled by mounting the outer layer of fabric to the inner layer before assembling the sleeves.  It really does a excellent job of creating the right shape, and I'll definitely be using this sleeve pattern again in the future if I make more dresses from this decade.

The bloomers are my favorite part of this whole pattern, and they went together so quickly.  I used Wearing History's excellent YouTube tutorial to help me figure out how to assemble the pointed side plackets, and they both went in perfectly on the first try.  I've never used that technique before, and it was kind of like magic to see how well it works!  My only other tip on the bloomers is to cartridge pleat the bottom of the legs into the cuffs if you want maximum fullness - it makes them even more jaunty and fun, and it is much more practical than gathering or pleating if you are using a heavier fabric, like wool. 

To personalize my costume I decided to pull some inspiration from other 1890's fashion patterns and cycling imagery and convert my bodice into a jacket.  I used the pattern diagram for a "ladies' street costume" in Kristina Harris's 59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns to create the jacket peplum, and these patterns also to helped me figure out how to add a wide collar and lapels to my existing bodice.  There are a lot of great historical patterns in Harris's book (and its companion, Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns), and in my opinion, it's a million times easier to modify a good foundation pattern like the Wearing History one than to draft something from scratch.

Under the jacket, I am wearing a modern man's tuxedo shirt that I bought at a thrift store, plus a bowtie that a made from some silk scraps left over from a previous project.  I also re-trimmed a vintage straw hat with a long strip of striped silk that I sewed into a tube so that it looks like ribbon.

Amusingly, the part of my costume that got the most compliments at Costume College was my plaid stockings!   These socks were a lucky find on Amazon, and they come in a three-pack with red and tan as well.  I've always been completely charmed by images of Victorian women wearing checked and plaid stockings with their bloomers, and it seemed to be quite a fad during the 1890's.  Even if you don't have a cycling costume in the works, I highly recommend these socks if you want to add a bit of fun to your historical (or modern) wardrobe!

This costume turned out to be a real joy to wear.  It's quite comfortable, and the bloomers make you feel so free and liberated compared to heavy skirts.  I have to admit that I frolicked around like a big nerd when I was wearing this for my photoshoot.  All of that extra mobility makes you want to run and jump and flop on the ground!  I can totally understand why cycling outfits were so popular with Victorian women - they are just so much fun to wear!

And because I'm officially Extra™, I also pulled out my bicycle and took it for a spin to see how this outfit feels on a bike.  The bloomers are really comfy while riding, although you still have to dismount carefully so they don't get caught on the seat.  My only issue was with my shoes, which tended to slip on the plastic pedals if I wasn't careful thanks to their smooth leather soles, but that issue could probably be solved pretty easily by adding some rubber grips.  I've had several people ask me if I would be wearing this outfit for any tweed rides, and I would absolutely love to do that if they host any more themed cycling gatherings in my area.  It was crazy fun to ride my bike in this kooky outfit, and the only thing that would be better is if I could buy an actual antique bicycle to add to the authenticity. 

I have some more photos and another video of me riding my bike on Flickr, and you can find more Victorian and Edwardian cycling costume inspiration on my Pinterest.  I'm also having a ton of fun using these photos to practice my faux-antique photo techniques using photoshop, so I'm sure I'll be adding more of those to my Flickr account whenever I find some more time to play.


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