10 February 2016

She Would've Had Us Riding In Style--And Comfort!

When you think of female clothing designers (which, I assume, you regularly do! ;-) , names like Coco Chanel, Miuccia Prada, Vera Wang, Betsey Johnson, Carolina Herrera and Sonia Rykiel probably come to mind.  They have influenced what we--and, yes, you guys, too!--wear today. 

We American women, especially those of us who are active in any sport like cycling, owe perhaps an even greater debt to someone you probably don't know about unless you're, ahem, of a certain age. Or if you teach at FIT or Pratt.  Or if, of course, you are a fashion designer.

According to Jennifer Minniti, the chair of Pratt's Fashion Design Department (and herself a designer), the person of whom I am writing "is known as the inventor of American sportswear or ready-to-wear."  That's not an overstatement:  She was probably the first designer to understand how American women's lives were different from those of upper-class Europeans (who were, traditionally,  the main customers of most designers) and how they therefore needed clothing that was more functional and adaptable while still elegant and stylish.

Most important of all, her creations fitted and moved with the body, something that could not be said of the work of other designers, whose clients still largely eschewed physical activity. It is no surprise, then, to see that she created this "cycling costume" in 1940:


I don't expect to see that in the peloton. But, hey, forget that it isn't in Lycra--wouldn't you wear it? 


Claire McCardell, who designed it, was the first American fashion designer to garner name recognition.  She was so well-known in her time that in 1950, President Harry S. Truman presented her with the Women's National Press Club Award, making her the first fashion designer to be voted one of America's Women of Achievement.

Hmm...How would she have dressed the man who quipped, "I like riding a bicycle for two--by myself"?



  1. Now that is what I call a decent rear wheel / seat tube clearance... Path cruiser...?