A New Bicycle Skirt 1893

Perfect of its Kind and the Invention of a Woman
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This past week another name has been added to the list of bright women who have joined the ranks of the cyclists, and thereby hangs a tale a little, modern fairy story, telling of great things accomplished and goods deeds rewarded in this life, and in which Mrs. Frank Sittig of Brooklyn is at once Cinderella and the good fairy. The coach and four has arisen at her command, and now she is to have the pleasure of riding in it.

To her friends Mrs. Sittig is known as an attractive society woman, musician, philanthropist and writer of pretty little children's stories; but for the last year or more the general public has been more familiar with the name of Mrs. Lena Sittig, the inventor of a great boon for women a waterproof in which it is an impossibility for the skirts to become drabbled. This was Mrs. Sittig's first work of the kind, but once initiated into the delights of creation, her busy brain refused to be quieted. One thing followed another, and for some time past she has been casting her bread upon the waters, in the shape of the most charming bicycle suits, and now, before many days, it has returned to her, and she is tasting the delights, moral, mental, and physical, of an exercise that is neither walking nor flying, but a happy combination of both.

The inventor was quite disinterested when she began her work: in fact, it was suggested to her by a man, a prominent Brooklyn cyclist. Henceforth, it behooves fair cyclists to look well to their riding attire if they wish the good opinion of brother wheelmen. Perish the thought that men are interested in the dainty details even of woman's dress! This gentleman was delighted with Mrs.Sittig's waterproof.

"It is perfect," he said; "now, why can't you get up something for a bicycle suit for women that will prevent flying skirts and the constant necessity of pulling them down." It was no sooner said than done. Mrs. Sittig took her waterproof for a model, made a skirt, and gave it to a friend for trial. It was pronounced a grand success.The "duplex skirt," as Mrs. Sittig calls her invention, is perfectly simple, can be slipped on in the shortest space of time, and hardly weighs a pound. It is a double skirt, the under part of which is held to the hip line of the leg by straps fastened to the yoke belt. A single cord easily reached through a side plaquet adjusts the skirt in an instant to any desired length. The outer part of the skirt is attached to an ordinary band. It is not divided, or in any sense a divided skirt.

Perhaps a better idea of the entire simplicity of the garment can be obtained if one imagines a straight, round skirt about twice the ordinary walking length, gathered into soft folds at the waist. AT the middle of the bottom of the skirt the back and front are sewed together for about two inches, the openings on either side are gathered like the bottoms of knickerbockers, carried up into place and fastened as before described. The waist is like that of a riding habit, and a blouse is worn in Summer.

The leggings form an important part of the suit. They are made of the same light material and have a footpiece which is lightly caught to them at the sides. The illustration gives an excellent idea of it. it is shaped like the forepart of an overshoe, and is lighter than a dancing slipper. The upper part is of the cloth and a rubber sole prevents slipping on the pedals and keeps the foot dry in case of rain. It is absolutely free from clumsiness, gives a delightfully trim look to the foot, and the most comfortable old shoes can be worn under it while riding.

As many skirts can be worn inside the duplex skirt as may be desired, and one could go to a garden party on the wheel dressed in the lightest and daintiest draperies. It would be impossible for dust or dirt to reach them, and a few seconds in the dressing room will transform the demure, darkly-gowned wheelwoman into the gayest of Summer maidens.

Some of the last skirts have been made without the extra belt, the whole thing being fastened into one waistband. A minimum of time is saved in dressing by this improvement, but the skirt cannot be used as a waterproof and gown protector when there are no straps by which to lower it, and its threefold nature greatly adds to its value in the opinion of many of its devotees.

Its great charm, in Mrs. Sittig's opinion, is its convenience and modesty. "I have endeavored," she says, "to make the drapery as little of a nuisance and as much of a grace and comfort as possible." There is a little fullness around the hips, and being fastened, as it is, underneath, it follows every motion of the body, and it is impossible for it to draw. There are no weights to catch in the wheel, the fullness cannot blow to either one side or the other, and the neat leggings are always a protection to the ankles.

The suit is made of cravenette cloth, a material Mrs. Sittig discovered in looking for a suitable stuff to use for her waterproof. It is sold largely in England, but is not so well known in this market. It is a beautiful goods, high-priced, but wide, very light, entirely waterproof, and of course, will not shrink or fade. Mrs. Sittig has been so much pleased with it that she has other gowns of the same material, with shoes to match. Its wearing qualities are excellent.

A well-known cyclist of Brooklyn was the first person to try the practicability of the new skirt for ordinary riding, and the other day had occasion to test its good qualities in time of danger. She was riding along when, as she met a team of frightened horses, her wheel caught, and it was impossible to move it in any direction. The horses were in front, and she could not get off at either side, but, thanks to her gown, she slid safely over the back of the wheel, without let or hindrance, and as easily as a man.

A feature of the skirt is the belt, which gives with every motion of the body, and is made pliable with a new kind of webbing; it also contains a patented watch-pocket, which opens and closes at will, but firmly secures watch or money. This is a recommendation to male riders, as well, for the back pocket, which is so hard for the rider to get at, is quite accessible to the light-fingered bicycle gentry, who have not been slow to appreciate the extraordinary velocity of the wheel as a vehicle for escape as well as enjoyment. Another variation of the bicycle costume and one better liked by some wheelwomen has the same skirt, with the addition of knickerbockers, all fastened into a single band. This skirt can be made ordinary walking length, when the knickerbockers come half way below the knee, or a few inches shorter, with the knickerbockers just covering the knee. In either case, they are met by high-buttoned boots, the tops made of the same material as the gown. Mrs. Mary Mapes, a daughter of Mrs.. Eleanor Kirk Ames, wears one of the shorter skirts for wheeling.

The longer one, Mrs. Sittig thinks, solves the problem of a business dress for women. It is light, warm, and easily put on. It can be made of the cravenette cloth, flannel, or any suitable material.

"I do not object to trousers worn in this way," says the inventor of the duplex, "but I do not approve of them when worn without drapery for cycling. There are a great many women who are anxious to put them on, and, while in all cases they would not be worn immodestly, they would tend to commonize the exercise, and many of the better class of women would give it up."

In Mrs. Sittig's own bicycle gown one sees the duplex skirt with its adjuncts in a state of perfection. The material is beautiful dark green, with a chemisette of tan-colored cloth. It is handsomely embroidered with gold braid, and a little, round hat, also Mrs. Sittig's design, and trimmed with a wider braid, accompanies it. The leggings are of the green. A hat for general wear by cyclists is in course of preparation, and will soon be completed.

One of the most interesting features of Mrs. Sittig's inventive work is her apparent lack of preparation for this particular branch of it. She was brought up quietly at home, educated by her father, and her time was entirely taken up by her music and studies, which did not include needlework. What she should wear never came within her range of thought, and even for the most important events of her life her gowns were bought for her, and she wore them without a question. The mechanism of one of them was, and still is, a mystery to her. Her talent she undoubtedly inherited from her father, who was a successful inventor. No one believed it possible for her to accomplish anything in a line of work to which she was so little accustomed, and for five years she worked alone before she perfected her waterproof.


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: A New Bicycle Skirt 1893
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: New York Times Oct 15, 1893. p. 18 (1 page)
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