Cycling became an enormously popular pastime for men and women after about 1895, able to combine an energetic sporting activity with a practical means of transport. Women could accompany men and a general feeling of freedom added to the craze. Special cycling trousers or “bloomers” were worn by some female cyclists as a much more practical garment than a full-length skirt which might catch in the bicycle gears or chain. This particular outfit comprises a jacket, waistcoat and bloomers, with a brown felt hat printed with a “time to light-up table” inside, for night-time cycling.
Although such outfits for women were practical, they were also socially risque, encouraging women to wear a form of trousers, and contemporary magazines, particularly Punch, loved to ridicule cycling women for their brash and masculine appearance. Largely because of this social disapproval, many women cyclists in England preferred to struggle with their thick ankle-length skirts well into the 20th century.