Another Kickstarter – Sassy Cyclist

I first saw, and loved, Sassy Cyclist women’s bicycle jerseys at the National Forum on Women & Bicycles this past March, so when owner Becky Redett approached me last week and asked me if I’d share their Kickstarter, I said, “Of course!”

Love the Sassy Cyclist flow chart at the National Forum on Women & Bicycles!

Sassy Cyclist is a local business, out of Baltimore, MD, designed by women who love riding their bicycles, and who wanted more beautiful jerseys than they could find. I haven’t tried one on, so I can’t speak to the fit and fabric from first hand knowledge. Honestly, it’s the luscious prints that draw me to the jerseys. I’m completely in love with the “In Pursuit of Peonies” jersey – floral print, plum and raspberry… yes, this has my name written all over it. In Pursuit of Peonies Sassy Cyclist JerseySpecial touches that make me appreciate their jerseys even beyond just looks – the clothing measurements they use are intended to correlate more with regular clothing sizing, and they jerseys are cut a bit more relaxed than traditional skin-tight bike jerseys; AND each jersey has a reflective strip going down the entire center back. The hems are elastic-free, hallelujah, and I love the raglan sleeve look. I pretty much assume that any bike clothing company is going to use 4-way stretch, antimicrobial wicking fabric, and having them made in the USA is a nice touch, but what really sells me on these are the fabrics. They are floral but somehow, not too “shrink it and pink it.” Adding blue sleeves to the “Queen of the Road” jersey’s bold red flowers really makes it pop. Sassy Cyclist Queen of the Road

Now Becky has launched a Kickstarter to get her vision off the ground. If I hadn’t just supported Reid Miller’s Kickstarter, I would probably get a short sleeved “In Pursuit of Peonies” jersey, to inspire me to dust off my road bike. Instead, I encourage you, Dear Readers, to check out Sassy Cyclist and support them if you can (or at least follow the company on Twitter). It’s not an easy task, putting your heart and soul and bank account into a product you believe it, and I wish them luck. And I know that I will be mad with jealousy when I see one of these beautiful jerseys out on the roads and trails! Will that person be you? Capture

In Which I Try on Reid Miller Apparel

Last week, Washington DC favorite bike shop Bicycle Space in Adams Morgan hosted an evening for Reid Miller Apparel, so we could go try on the pieces from her Kickstarter collection. Naturally, I was eager to go, and carefully plotted out my Capital Bikeshare route to Adams Morgan. I hadn’t been to the new location, and boy was it beautiful! Bicycle Space Adams MorganReid was there with her display set up right in front, when I arrived, already helping some women try on the tweed blazers.

I’m a sucker for tweed, I confess (raised on BBC murder mysteries. Jeremy Brett is still my god), and I love that Reid is using Harris Tweed for her tweed jacket.

Mmmm... Harris Tweed...

Mmmm… Harris Tweed…

Reid Miller 4

Don’t I look like I should be biking through fall leaves, on my way to pick apples and my Halloween pumpkin?

Even though wearing wool makes my skin itch like  you wouldn’t believe, I tried on everything – the tweed blazer, the merino wool waffle sweater, and the jeans. I love them all – but can only wear the jeans. So please take my comments with a grain of salt – if you love biking in wool, you will love these pieces! Reid Miller 10 Reid Miller 11The jacket is cut large so that it will fit over whatever bulky sweater and scarf you might be wearing, and the sleeves are long, to accommodate your wrists as you reach for the handlebars. I love the zipped pockets, especially the one in the center back. The waffle weave merino sweater is lovely – squishy textured wool in three lovely fall colors; I gravitated towards the burgundy, which coordinated quite well with the purple Danskos I was wearing. I love waffle weave anything, because I like the texture, and this was just thick and sturdy and clearly high quality wool. A classic that I’m sure you’ll return to again and again.

I love the jeans. The sizing and fit survey that Reid sent out earlier this year resulted in this, a pair of skinny jeans that are cut more generously for women with cycling thighs and calves. Several of us tried them on, and we all looked good in them, standing next to each other. The waist is high in the back, and dips slightly in the front – not enough to catch the pooch (not that any of us have that, right?), but not crazy high. The legs are really long, which I love – this means I don’t *have* to cuff the legs to make it less obvious that they are not long enough. The denim is stretchy yet somehow sturdy at the same time, and the fit, well, I was really in love with the fit. I have both the Ligne 8 jeans and the Levi’s Commuter jeans, and I like these better. They are not as tight-skinny as the Levi’s, which ironically I rarely wear while biking because they are too tight. They are stretchier denim than the Ligne 8, and the cut of the waist is more flattering than the Ligne 8s as well. There isn’t any reflective trim on them, but you know me – I almost always have something reflective on anyway, so no loss there.  Oh yes, the jeans also have a reinforced crotch. These jeans I just might wear so often that this feature becomes useful!

There are only a few days left for Reid’s Kickstarter campaign. The garments are expensive, but will last for years of bicycle riding. The jeans are made in El Paso, TX, where my brother and sister-in-law live, which was another reason I backed them (not that either work in the garment industry, but still, it helps their city’s economy); the sweaters in Los Angeles, and the jacket in San Jose, Costa Rica (I can only imagine what they must think of the heavy tweed!). I have my fingers crossed for the continued success of Reid Miller and her apparel line! It’s nice to have one more woman thinking of things women might want when they ride their bicycles, and then try to bring them to the market. I heard whispers of Spring garments and hope to see those out soon too. I wish her well, and look forward to biking around this fall in my Reid Miller jeans!

Good luck, Reid!

Twinsies! Good luck, Reid!

 

 

Clothing Review: Levi’s Commuter Jeans for Women

I mentioned earlier that I was chosen by Levi’s to test out/blog about their new Women’s Commuter Jeans and now the time has come to do a formal review. As you all know, Levi’s came out with their men’s bike commuter clothing collection ages ago, with no apparent interest in a women’s collection. At last, however, they have caught up with the times and demands of women who bike, and released a women’s collection of jeans, shorts, shirts and jackets, all designed with bike commuting in mind. This has been greeted in my circles with cries of relief and success.

I got a pair of the Commuter Skinny Jeans in “Cityscape Blue.” They are also available in “Monument,” a light gray, and black; Eleanor’s NYC got the blue blue pair that no longer seem to be available (I know I’d seen them on the website at one point!). At first glance, they look just like a normal pair of jeans, but they are full of bike-friendly details: “temperature control technology,” stretch, “odor repellent,” a high rise, reflective detail on the inside side seam, lined back pockets and flatlocked seams for comfort. And the all-important Levi’s leather patch on the back right hip is black, rather than traditional tan; it would have been cool if this was reflective! The little red tab is there though (I would have made that reflective).

I was a bit worried about the fit, to be honest, having seen an ad somewhere that said, “Our skinniest fit yet!” and therefore asked for a size 10, one size up from my normal 8. Glad I did! They are definitely the skinniest jeans I have ever tried on. They are tight on my calves! Really? But…. once I get them on, they are amazingly flattering, thanks, I’m sure to the high rise waist. These jeans don’t just have a higher rise in the back, they are higher all the way around. This is a trend that is creeping its way into our wardrobes, and I feel ready to embrace it now. I wish I had a longer inseam pair but there is plenty of reflective detail showing when i cuff them up over my ankle bone. The front pockets are not particularly deep, nor are the back pockets, and there is no U-lock loop. I don’t wear my U-lock but know some women like to, so if you are one of them, be aware of that missing feature.

Checking out a Little Free Library in my Levi's Commuter Jeans

Checking out a Little Free Library in my Levi’s Commuter Jeans

I have worn these jeans biking as well as being a tourist in the American History Museum on the National Mall, so I have had the chance to test them out in different scenarios. The denim seems to loosen up nicely the more you wear them, which I appreciate. They are easy to bike in, and the high waist holds in my tummy a bit more than my other jeans. I don’t bike in jeans enough to worry about the crotch rubbing thin, so I can’t say how I think that will turn out, but the denim seems sturdy enough. I’ve only worn them in the cold, so as of yet I can’t speak to the temperature control technology, and I have no intention of finding out how well the odor repellent feature works.

I had The Mechanic take photos on a not-quite-warm-enough day, and I tucked my turtleneck in to show the high waist. Taking another one for the team by sharing photos I’m not 100% comfortable with…

The high rise is flattering but I'd still never wear shirts tucked into my jeans.

The high rise is flattering but I’d still never wear shirts tucked into my jeans.

At $88, I think these are a good investment if you are looking to support companies that make women’s bike clothing; not too pricey, not too cheap. Levi Strauss & Co. is a company I’d like to support more because it is a company that is trying to be more sustainable. For example, they created a line of jeans (again, only for men) that use less water in the production process, but by encouraging consumers to wash their jeans less often to reduce water usage. Putting my money where my values are means that I will explore more Levi’s products, like this women’s Commuter bike shirt.

Overall, I am quite happy with these jeans, and very grateful to Levi’s for giving me the opportunity to test them out. I am interested to hear what you think of them, if you own them or have tried them on. Susi at VeloJoy is happy with hers as well – what about you? Levis 6

 

 

Corduroy Christmas Skirt

My latest skirt looks nothing like Christmas, no holly and ivy, no red and green, no angels and snowflakes, or any of the other things that one normally associates with Christmas. But I finished making it on Christmas Day, so in my mind it will always be known as the Christmas Skirt.

Christmas Skirt_1I fell in love with this corduroy at JoAnn Fabrics earlier this fall, and just bought two yards without knowing what pattern I’d want to make it into. I wanted to make something easy and casual, and, inspired by this Express ad, decided to split the skirt to add the reflective piping in the middle, rather than on the hem.

I love this skirt, and okay, I love the jacket too...

I love this skirt, and okay, I love the jacket too…

I’d also been lusting after a Boden skirt, and studied the measurements of it, which helped me decide that all I would do with this fabric was stitch the selvedges together (it was 54″ wide, so that gave my hips wiggle room) and add an elastic waistband.

Inspiration for my skirt and outfit - they say imitation is the best form of flattery, right?

Boden inspiration for my skirt and outfit – they say imitation is the best form of flattery, right?

I carefully sketched out my pattern, but opted against adding a lining and pockets. I really wanted something quick and easy.

Pattern drafting at it's finest!

Pattern drafting at it’s finest!

I added three rows of 1/2″ elastic for the waistband, and ended up making a very deep hem, which turned out to be pretty unelegant on the backside. Actually, the front isn’t that great either, don’t look too closely. Christmas Skirt_2 Christmas Skirt_3I really love how it turned out, and have worn it several times since Christmas. I’d like to take it to New York next weekend when The Mechanic and I go up for a quick weekend trip, but I’m not sure it’s quite warm enough (I don’t have tall black boots, which it would need to be warmer). I did wear add snow boots and leg warmers on Monday, when I wore it to work. You know how New York is – much more fashionable than functional! We’ll see. But yay, a fun new skirt!

Bundled up and reflective! Legwarmers, skirt, Vespertine belt and scarf.

Bundled up and reflective! Legwarmers, skirt, Vespertine belt and scarf.

Many thanks again to zigzagmags for her mad photo skillz during an especially cold and windy outdoor photoshoot!

Talking with a Bike Clothing Designer – Part 2

Last week, I introduced Lauren Steinhardt, and shared her background and thoughts about designing bike clothing for women. Catch up on Talking with a Bike Clothing Designer – Part 1, if you haven’t read it yet.

This week, Lauren shares some trade secrets about the sports clothing industry, her research into what women like to wear while biking, and how the fashion industry predicts trends.

How did you end up designing bike clothing? What was your Master’s thesis research like? What prompted it?

I’m big into utilitarian design, reuse and recycling, and living lightly upon the earth. But I’m also a Libra, and I like things to look pretty (seriously, it’s bizarre how many clothing designers are Libras). I had a huge collection of pretty vintage skirts and dresses, and I started making these little bloomer/pantaloon things to wear under them for biking, that I made out of vintage or thrifted fabric. Then I started selling them at craft fairs, but I quickly found that it’s hard to grow from that size because the options for small-scale manufacturing are nonexistent in this country. (Though that’s slowly changing, and I’m very excited about that). I decided to go back to school for clothing design, and realized that instead of going to a debt-factory private college for a grossly overpriced associate’s degree, I could actually get a Master’s degree and do my own research, all without going into crazy amounts of debt.

I hear you - massive amounts of research at the end of writing my MA thesis!

I hear you – massive amounts of research at the end of writing my MA thesis, but such an amazing experience!

My Master’s thesis research was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! I did qualitative research, which means I actually sat down and interviewed people and then reviewed what they told me. I interviewed about a dozen women, who were so kind and supportive of my project. They invited me into their homes, made me tea, spent a long time discussing what they wore to bike to work and how they felt about it. In the end I felt like I really touched upon a need and a subject that doesn’t get enough attention. I also did a lot of research into the historical connection between bikes, the dress reform movement, and first-wave feminism, which is absolutely fascinating.

Amelia Bloomer, in her "Bloomer suit," one of the most well-known images of the "rational dress" movement in the mid-1850s. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Amelia Bloomer, in her “Bloomer suit,” one of the most well-known images of the “rational dress” movement in the mid-1850s. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

How many designs to fashion designers for a company like REI do per season that don’t get used? How far in advance do they design?

This can vary depending on circumstance and the way a particular company operates. Usually, we have what’s called a line plan that is created with the merchandising team, which gives the basic outline of what new styles we will be doing that season (example, three men’s tees, men’s MB shorts and jersey, etc). Sometimes with something like tees, we’ll design more than we need and sort through them to choose the best ones. Sometimes we’ll do a totally new style or range of styles, but then the budget will change and the styles will be dropped before production, or pushed back to another season. In a bigger company and especially with technical performance pieces, the development cycle can be at least a year out and sometimes as long as 18 months.

Do designers look to current shapes and colors; New York Fashion Week; etc? Check out the Pantone Color of the Year? Are they influenced by professional athletes, and what they wear?

First I’d like to say that these are great questions! I’m glad to share a little peek into how the clothing “sausage” gets made, and maybe get people thinking a little bit about the consumer decisions they make.

I mentioned earlier that many companies have a long development cycle. Because of this, most companies use style forecasting services like WGSN to predict trends in color, silhouette, and consumer interests. Really there are only a handful of these forecasting companies, so most clothing companies are relying on the same trend forecasting data, which is why there are consistent themes across various brands in a given season. In the active/outdoor/bike market we also pay attention to tech and performance trends. Trade shows like Outdoor Retailer and Interbike are a good place to get the scoop on that.

Interbike - this looks like so much fun! (Image from Interbike website)

Interbike – this looks like so much fun! (Image from Interbike website)

Another aspect that goes into design choices for performance/active/outdoor clothing is that it can be fairly expensive, and most people purchase it as a well-researched investment piece. If it’s too overtly trendy it can be a turn-off for the consumer because they want to wear it for a long time without looking dated. Thus, trends move slowly in the outdoor industry.

Most professional athletes are sponsored by major activewear brands, which can be great brand publicity. For instance, Nike outfits everyone from Tiger Woods to Serena Williams, and Burton does the US Olympic snowboarding team. These partnerships can definitely drive innovation that filters down to the consumer level.

Women’s urban bike clothing is still a fairly niche market. How have you seen it grow in the years you’ve been designing?

I thought Novara’s urban line was just delightful, and I am so happy that I got to be a part of it. I hope they keep doing it! Right now it seems that women’s urban cycling is still too small of a market for the big guys to pay attention. But in a way I think this is a blessing, because it’s keeping the door open for smaller, women-owned companies to get a toehold and become industry leaders.

Thank you again, Lauren, for your insights into the world of women’s bike clothing! This has really helped me see lines including the Novara line differently. Maybe I’ll complain less about what is being offered, knowing a bit about what goes into making each garment. And I will definitely do what I can to support smaller, women-owned companies become industry leaders!