This patent application for ‘Improvements in Ladies’ Cycling Skirts’ was registered for dressmaker Alice Bygrave’s designs on 6th December 1895.

A year later, her patent was commercialised and distributed by the British fashion house Jaeger.

The rise of ladies cycling

In the late 19th century the bicycle became a popular mode of transport for many Victorians, as it allowed people to travel where they wanted, when they wanted. For women especially, the bicycle gave them a renewed sense of freedom and many joined cycling clubs such as the Lady Cyclists’ Association.

Many members, however, expressed that their clothing was impractical for their pastime. The typical attire of the time - tight corsets and long, layered skirts – caused serious safety concerns. The skirts would flap in the wind, ride up over their knees and get caught in the bicycles’ spokes and pedals.

Bygrave’s cycling skirt

Influenced by the challenges that women faced when cycling, the object of Bygrave’s invention was ‘to provide a skirt proper for wear when either on or off the machine’.

The design makes use of both an a-line skirt and knickerbockers (loose-fitting trousers that gather at the knee). Bygrave details that when the rider is preparing to mount the bicycle, they would pull on two cords that would draw the skirt up at the front and back, revealing the knickerbockers underneath.