I’ve found a very interesting YouTube video. You can find it here . It shows many ladies on bicycles in Catford, a suburb of London in June 1899. It looks like a ladies’ bicycle club outing. There’s just so much social history to be seen here, but we will concentrate on waists and corsets.
Here’s a still clip of a well corseted lady at 00:30.
I really can’t resist a few non corset comments.
First, just look at those hats! Just imagine going for a bike ride today with a large and difficult to manage hat….that’s why they used long hatpins. I can’t find one person in the video who is not wearing a hat. When did you last wear a hat in the 21st century?
Second, right at the beginning, the procession of around 100 ladies is led by a man….of course, women could not be trusted to find the way themselves, could they?
And…..how did these ladies avoid getting their long skirts tangled in the rear wheel? The easy answer is that they were well used to controlling their ankle hiding skirts, so they just did it automatically.
Also, look at the young children in the left foreground, they are all dressed in loose, easy clothes…..both women and children were beginning to have more freedom as the Victorian era was ending….Queen Victoria died 2 years later in 1901. Compare with the 1740 young girl described here .
The best way to look at the corseted waists is to look in the right bottom of the video as they move off camara. The focus and clarity are much better.
If you stop the video at the following times you can see some well corseted waists.
And here is the ideal hat for a cycle ride at 00:52!
Two well waisted ladies at 01:02
These ladies are not extremely wasp waisted, this is 1899 and not 1880 when waists were really tight. However, if there was an evening dinner after this day time event I expect that these well dressed cycling ladies would have been several inches smaller in their evening dresses.
I’ve worn corsets for reenactment type events. My feeling is that I could just about manage a strenuous bike ride in a corset, I’m not so sure I would be happy doing so in along skirt that might get caught in the back wheel, and when wearing such a big hat! Also note that many of the ladies appear (but it’s not clear) to be wearing gloves…well of course, they were well brought up ladies.
Please tell me if you agree with my interpretation, or you think that I’ve got it all wrong.
I’ve got this video as a file on my computer, send me an email if you want a copy.
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