Illustration of Catherine Baba by Diana McNally
An overview of the connections between high fashion, high heels and two wheels
Story by Alyssa Garrison
Some might say the marriage of cycling to high fashion began four years ago when Cynthia Rowley sent models down the runway on customized cruisers. Others would protest that the unveiling of Lagerfeld's Chanel ride, complete with black quilted chain guard and Chanel clutch saddlebags (retailing at about $17,000) was the official "I do.” Perhaps it was when The Sartorialist started a section specifically dedicated to pictures of stylish men on bikes in Milan, or even as early as the days when the iconic Audrey Hepburn climbed onto her two-wheeled treasure to get from studio to set in the 50s. No matter where the union began, it's clear the loving relationship between pedals and pedal pushers is here to stay.
Although fashionable women on bikes may seem like a recent urbanite trend, two-wheeled travel for women, and their subsequent struggle to find the appropriate riding attire, dates back to the 1890s, when bicycles gave the women's movement the speed and freedom they'd been craving. The rise of the bicycle as a common form of transportation meant women no longer had to rely solely on men to get where they wanted to go: suddenly, a woman could move as she pleased. This new form of transportation, deemed the "freedom machine" by women at the time, also gave way to a fashion revolution. Women who were previously limited to corsets and massive billowing skirts used the bicycle craze to make the switch to practical skirts or bloomers, and clothing that fit more freely. The boldest of feminists, like Annie Londonderry, would eventually resort to full men's riding suits, shaping the idea of The New Woman.
More than 100 years later, there's a new breed of cyclist speeding around town, and she's not afraid to sport cropped trousers year-round to avoid chain grease stains, or balance on pedals in a new pair of platform shoes whilst trying to get to work on time. Fashion is no longer sacrificed for cycling, but complimented by it. While today's city cyclist is faced with the age-old fashion conundrum of form vs. function, the answer for modern women is quite simple: why not both?
Wondering how this amazing balance can be achieved? Simply look to the streets for a quick fix of savvy style on bikes. British model Agyness Deyn has been noted as a diehard bicycle devotee, braving the taxi-filled roads of New York City on her basket-clad cruiser. Often accessorizing with rainbow handlebar streamers, black Keds, and a Kryptonite mini-lock, Deyn takes her bike love seriously. On the opposite side of the spectrum sits stylist Catherine Baba, a woman who manages to balance brightly coloured turbans, heavy fur coats and six-inch stilettos... all while coasting upon a smart black upright bicycle. Baba's insistence on riding to all the Paris Fashion Week shows and events, despite her incredibly high heels and fabulous ensembles has created even more buzz for bikes in the industry.
The onslaught of fashionable women (and men) taking to the streets via pedal power has created a massive growth of bike-related fashion in the past few years. Blogs celebrating beauties en-route like The Common Elite and Copenhagen Cycle Chic have gained ground, and designer bicycles seem to be almost as common as designer shoes. The sudden return of stylish backpacks to the runways, as unintentional as it may be, offers a practical option for commuters tired of trying to pedal with a purse on their arm. The true nod to the cycling trend this year however was Philip Lim's 3.1 Fall 2011 collection. “It's about these chic women who ride bikes to work, to brunch, to a cocktail party," Lim said to a Style.com reporter before the show; the result was modern set of garments that were perfectly balanced between fashion and function.
Perhaps freedom is the reason cycling and fashion seem to be forever unified. Fashion gives way to the freedom of personality, expression, and individuality, but cycling provides the freedom to go wherever those things take you. No matter what your budget, hairstyle or choice of shoe, two-wheeled travel offers you the chance to choose your own destination, and forces you to take the initiative to get yourself there; that's a trend we could all stand to subscribe to.
dandyhorse magazine will launch it’s Summer 2012 issue this Sunday at sponsor shops. Writer Alyssa Garrison models helmet- friendly hair for our fashion shoot in our upcoming issue of dandyhorse. She wrote about the hairstyle on our dandyBLOG too. And illustrator Diana McNally drew Zach Paikin for our upcoming youth issue of dandy.
These shops will carry a limited supply of complimentary copies for a short time:
Big Carrot thebigcarrot.ca
Cycle Couture cyclecouture.ca
The Cycle Shoppe
Sweet Pete’s sweetpetes.com
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