Cold Temp 1

And It Got Cold…

And Lo! It was Winter.

That is certainly what it felt like – so gradual slide into below freezing temperatures, just Bam! Freezing! Of course, the DC Metro region isn’t the only place prepared to shiver, as most of the US is dealing with snow, ice, and these super cold numbers. Yes, I know many places regularly see numbers much lower than ours have been, but this is still unusual for here, and I’m experiencing some, I don’t know, PTSD? from last winter’s Polar Vortex.

Last week I wrote a guest post for Bike Pretty about winter gear, and although I have been thinking about what I’d like to get for this winter, I wasn’t fast enough and had to dig out my old stuff.

Last year's winter gear - red down coat, scarf, the "chaps" I made, pink winter bike gloves, black Land's End boots

Last year’s winter gear – red down coat, scarf, the “chaps” I made, pink winter bike gloves, black Land’s End boots

I layered up and had four trips back and forth to work to unscientifically determine what needed the most help. Tuesday I wore my one set of poly thermals (byJockey, but it doesn’t seem like they make the same ones anymore); dress/work pants; my cool new Boden shirt; a cotton V-neck sweater; added the winter layers, and changed shoes at work. I was pretty comfortable wearing the thermals all day, since our office isn’t overly heated at the moment. Wednesday I wore my thermals again (don’t judge!); corduroy pants; my reflective sweatshirt; the winter layers, and changed shoes and scarves at work (for a cuter cotton one). Since the high on both days hovered around 32*F, with the mornings and evenings about 10* cooler, I had a good chance to test everything.

I love pretty much anything Boden, and am really happy with this shirt.

I love pretty much anything Boden, and am really happy with this shirt. (photo from Boden website. Mine is in the dirty laundry pile and I didn’t want to share that….)

Here is what I determined:

  • Fingers first! By the time I got home last night, my fingers were bright red and going numb. They hurt as they warmed up! I was a bit worried. And I was wearing the “winter” gloves I bought last year. I promptly ordered new gloves, and hope they do better. I went partial-lobster; not ready to fully commit.
  • Toes survived. I have been worried about my toes, and honestly, they managed fine, so I will continue to look for nice warm boots, wear these, and drag work shoes back and forth with me.
  • Neck might be tricky. My neck is the first thing to get cold or overheat. I am very happy that turtlenecks are so “in” this winter, because I love them, but I think that wearing them whilst biking makes me overheat. What’s a delicate girl to do?! I think I may trade in my big fun scarves for something a bit more, well, machine-washable. I’m currently lusting after these “Bandit” neck warmers by Choucas. I need to be able to pull it over my nose, then pull it down mid-ride, adjust as needed, so I prefer this option over the traditional bike balaclava.
  • Thermal underwear. I want to stock up on thermals, but they need to be cute, they need to be sleek, and they need to be NOT wool. I know, I know – everyone loves wool. Not me. I cannot stand it on my body, it is too scratchy and itchy and I simply can’t have it on me. And before you start asking, yes, I have tried everything, and yes, it all still bothers me. No SmartWool tights for me! This means silk or some sort of poly fabric, and I am obsessed with the Land’s End Thermaskins collection. (I’m sort of a Land’s End fan, in case you couldn’t guess!) The cute prints mean that I can let them show in the office, and not feel dorky. Or wear the bottoms under skirts. With those super warm boots I’ll eventually buy.

The bike-related Facebook groups I belong to have been full of people looking for advice on what to wear in the cold, and basically it boils down to – whatever you would wear to take a walk in the winter! For some people this means super technical gear: I’ve seen crazy lists of Pearl Izumi tights this and that, with many layers of wool thrown in. For others it means ski gloves and goggles! Glad I don’t live where they live. Not everyone wants specialized gear, even for winter, and I totally agree with that. I still want to look professional, or at least not “bikey.” Because I try not to have to change clothes when I get to work, I want to find ways to layer under and over, but even I give up being cute at some point. Usually around 15*F.

Here is where I gave up and just layered on everything! (March 2014)

Here is where I gave up and just layered on everything! (during a blizzard in March 2014)

 

 

Momentum Do We Need

Why I Think We Need Bike Fashion

In the November/December 2014 issue of Momentum Magazine, Editor-in-Chief Mia Kohout asks the question, “Do we need bike fashion?” For a magazine dedicated to making biking-as-transportation “Fun, smart, stylish and sexy,” it might seem like a surprising question – bike fashion fills many of its pages. Mia answered her own question by saying that of course anyone can bike in whatever is in their closet, and that well-made, expensive bike fashion pieces are, like any other expensive wardrobe investment, just that, an investment piece. “Well-designed and well-made clothing can be expensive, whether for riding a bike or not,” she states. I agree – I could buy a knit wrap dress anywhere, but I still aspire to an original Diane von Furstenberg.

Diane von Furstenberg's iconic wrap dress

Ooh…. Diane von Furstenberg’s iconic wrap dress (photo courtesy of DvF website)

Regular readers of my blog know that I am obsessed interested in bike fashion, and started making my own clothing that is both office-appropriate and bike-appropriate. Fashion is not only important to me, it is important to all of us, whether we like it or not. In The Encyclopedia of Fashion, by Georgina O’Hara, the author writes, “Fashion is a mobile, changing reflection of the way we are and the times in which we live.” Michael and Ariane Batterberry write, in their massive Fashion: The Mirror of History, “To our minds, clothes have traditionally served four basic functions: to protect the body, to exalt the ego, to arouse emotions in others, and to communicate by means of symbols.” We may not need fashion, but we do need to be covered, to protect our bodies, and that need combines with the need for self expression, which then becomes fashion. The need to be covered, protect myself, and express myself results in my reflective bike fashionFashion Books

Mia’s question made me return to Lauren Steinhardt, the designer who designed the REI Novara dress I bought earlier this year, and gave us some insights to the bike clothing world (be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of her interview). For her MS in Design and Human Environment, Lauren’s thesis, titled “Women’s Commuter Cycling Apparel: Functional Design Process to Product,” spends a lot of time considering the different elements of bike commuting, and what women want to wear. Lauren interviewed women bike commuters in Portland, OR, to get feedback on what they want in bike commuting clothing, and then designed a small collection based on that feedback.

Lauren’s background research initially explored identity and apparel as group membership – anyone can relate to high school cliques, uniforms, the “roadie” look of a full Lycra kit, the “Kate Middleton” effect, and so on. We dress in ways that express not only who we are, but with whom we wish to be identified. However, as Lauren points out, “the cyclist who uses the bicycle primarily as a form of transportation may not wish to identify in the role of recreational or professional cyclist” (pg. 17). The women whom Lauren interviewed did not identify as “cyclists,” but as professionals, and chose their clothing based on that, rather than cycling function.

In evaluating her research, Lauren used research done in 1992 by J.M. Lamb and M. J. Kallal, “A conceptual framework for apparel design,” (Clothing and Textiles Research Journal 10 (2), 42-47). Lamb and Kallal developed a design process that considered the functional needs, expressive needs, and aesthetic needs of the clothing consumer. Functional needs includes fit, mobility, comfort, protection, and donning/doffing of the garment. Expressive needs includes values, roles, status and self-esteem of the consumer. Aesthetic needs include art elements, design principles, and body/garment relationships. I’ve never seen this breakdown before, but it was the perfect format for Lauren’s research, and makes sense to me.

The FEA (Functional-Expressive-Aesthetic) model of consumer needs, but Lamb & Kalla, 1992

The FEA (Functional-Expressive-Aesthetic) model of consumer needs, by Lamb & Kalla, 1992 (Scanned from Lauren’s thesis)

Based on the interviews of women commuter cyclists and an analysis of cycling clothing companies that existed at the time, Lauren determined that most women’s cycling clothing, even that intended to be for bike commuters, did not fulfill the expressive or aesthetic needs. Regardless of how “fashion forward” each participant may or may not have been, each apparently expressed a dislike of traditional bike clothing and accessories, and rejected clothing that could have been more functional because it was not expressive or aesthetically pleasing, and didn’t fulfill the need to be office-appropriate. The majority said that they wanted to be able to walk into their offices looking professional, and that since many of them participate in social events or run errands afterwards, they wanted clothing to wear that was socially appropriate for those situations. Some of the women also owned “bike gear,” such as padded bike shorts, but were dismissive of wearing bike-specific clothing on their commutes, and didn’t see the point in buying clothes (such as by Trek or Pearl Izumi) at bike shops.

Apparel Needs Model for Female Bicycle Consumers, by Lauren Steinhardt

Apparel Needs Model for Female Bicycle Consumers, by Lauren Steinhardt (Scanned from Lauren’s thesis)

Lauren’s thesis is full of more and better detail, and I definitely recommend the section where she designed 6 garments and prototyped a pair of pants. But for the purpose of this blog post, I want to focus on the functional, expressive and aesthetic needs reported by her research. The reason why we need bike fashion is because there are those of us who do not want to buy or wear bike sports clothing, ie, jerseys covered in brands and logos, padded bike shorts, clipless shoes, and so on, because although it fulfills our functional needs (keeps clothing out of gears, keeps us warm, functions better with a road bike perhaps), it doesn’t appeal to our expressive or aesthetic needs. For example, I do not identify as a “roadie” or “cyclist,” so I don’t want to wear a hi viz yellow jacket or anything Lycra. I identify as a professional (or fashion designer, haha!), and as such, wish to look like one on my way to and from work. Hi viz pink and yellow definitely do not fulfill my aesthetic needs; they are colors I look terrible in (frankly, no one looks good dressed like a highlighter). I want to wear teal and gray and rose and leaf green. I want to be able to lock up my bike at work and walk into my office ready for meetings, or at least looking professional enough that I am not embarrassed on my way to the restroom to change and apply makeup!

This is a rather long way of saying that we need bike fashion such as the designs by Iladora, Vespertine, Ligne 8, Iva Jean, and more because they tend to fulfill our expressive, aesthetic AND functional needs better than other, more readily available commercial clothing lines. They might not yet fulfill all of our needs equally, and I will always find a way to fit Piperlime and Ann Taylor Loft into my bike wardrobe, but we need bike fashion companies to help us identify us as people who are fun, smart, stylish and sexy – and ride bikes for transportation.

Ladies biking in Arlington for fun - smart, stylish and sexy!

Ladies biking in Arlington for fun – smart, stylish and sexy!

 

Bookman Reflectors_4

Product Review: Bookman Magnetic Reflectors

I was so excited to tell you about my cool new Bookman magnetic reflectors, but then I lost mine tonight. Both of them. They were on the cuffs of my coat before I went to the event after work, then after I’d left, I realized they were missing. Somewhere they must be magnetized to the couch or floor where I’d left my coat. I’m very sad by this. I hope a local bike shop decides to carry them, so I can buy a new pair. Bookman Reflectors_1 Bookman Reflectors_2

I can tell you what they were, however! I don’t remember how I first came across them (Twitter, probably), but they are a very new product from Bookman, the Swedish company that makes cool bike accessories. You are probably most familiar with their square bike lights. The reflectors are really cool, flexible strips of reflective material on one side, red fuzzy stuff on the inside, with magnets on each end, allowing them to magnetize to themselves. This means they can clip on a sleeve, collar, lapel, pant hem, whatever you want. They are also shown around a bike top tube, but they didn’t work on my bikes. Bookman Reflectors_3 Bookman Reflectors_4I liked them on my cuffs, because I thought it would be more visible for signaling. Also, as shocking as this is, my midweight coat is black, that is, not very visible, so whatever I can tastefully add to it to make it more visible, the better. I also tried them on the back of this coat as well, on the faux belt. I’m sure that worked fine, and was potentially a safer location than my cuffs! Bookman Reflectors_6I had knocked one of the reflector clips off my cuff the first day I wore them, probably when I pulled my purse off my shoulder, so I should have known better. I had thought I’d try them out as skirt clips, too, just to see how they stayed on. Now all I can say is that might not have been a good idea either.

I am disappointed to have lost these fun clips! I hope whomever finds them appreciates them properly. I wouldn’t discourage you from getting a set, but I would caution you – be careful where you place them!  Bookman Reflectors_5Postscript – After writing and scheduling this post, I found my reflectors magnetized on the inside of my desk locker when I got to work in the morning! Huzzah! Still – keep an eye on them if you get a set!

Love these two as well

Artcrank!

The Mechanic and I spent the weekend in Washington, DC, dog-sitting for some friends. This is always a fun stay-cation, since we usually end up running around doing things we don’t normally do, and making sure we hang out with our DC friends on their turf. We had several things on the agenda for this weekend – an electronica concert at the Howard Theatre, the 8th Annual Parade of Trabants, and Artcrank, a bike art show benefiting WABA. All this, plus checking out new restaurants and bakeries and seeing friends, oh, and walking the dog, left us a bit exhausted!

The electronica concert (The Polish Ambassador headlining a permaculture weekend event) was The Mechanic’s thing, but I enjoyed the music, although I enjoyed the crowd event more; people-watching is an endlessly fascinating past time.

The Trabant parade, hosted by the International Spy Museum, was fun; The Mechanic had never heard of Trabis, and was unsurprisingly fascinated with the spartan designs. I think they are adorable, but the owners we spoke with said they don’t drive them much, and the cars can’t really handle much more than 50mph. These East German cars are getting a bit more attention these days, especially since Sunday was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

(Side note: I was in Berlin the following summer of 1990, and witnessed people madly chipping off pieces of the Wall – sort of surreal to be that part of history)

Artcrank is a sort of tour that pairs bikes with posters, and has taken place in other cities around the US. This event benefited our local Washington Area Bicyclists Association, and not surprisingly, I ran into several old bike friends, and met some new ones. Everyone knows at least three other people, so it was a great way to mix and mingle. The posters were great, I wish we had the wall space to put one up. Alas, the beer ran out half-way through the event (oh, and it’s a good thing we rode Capital Bikeshare bikes, because there was no bike parking. Every street sign and railing within blocks was mobbed with bikes), so the crowd thinned out after that, but we both enjoyed chatting and admiring art.

Shinola was there with a bike and some accessories, and rumor has it that they are opening a store in DC. I didn’t talk to anyone from Shinola, but I find the idea very exciting. I like the lines of their bikes, and can see them doing well in DC. Not so much in Arlington, which can’t seem to get over it’s road bike-ness. The Mechanic and I enjoyed admiring all the practical bicycles we saw, with racks and baskets and fenders, and many clearly customized and well used. We also really loved all the protected bike lanes we got to use. And since we were staying near Right Proper Brewing Company, we got to walk past their extra long, always crowded bike racks several times. It brought a tear to my eye. I tell you, this alone is the one thing that might make me consider living in DC.

Artcrank, and staying in DC, made me realize that I need to spend more time in the DC bike culture, checking out the shops, learning all the bike lanes, getting to know more of the movers and shakers of the region. I guess I’ll add that to my 2015 resolutions – yes, it’s time to start thinking about those!

So excited to discover this raised bus stop to the left of the protected bike lane on M Street! I hadn't biked on M Street in a long time, and was so happy about it, that the cop car in the bike lane didn't even upset me.

So excited to discover this raised bus stop to the left of the protected bike lane on M Street! I hadn’t biked on M Street in a long time, and was so happy about it, that the cop car in the bike lane didn’t even upset me.

Yes, I need to spend more time in DC. Hopefully our friends will go out of town more often next year!

Selfie with my doggie charge! Puppy love <3

Selfie with my doggie charge! Puppy love <3

... but like this at work!

Sewing Project #15: SF Fog Sweatshirt

To call this top a sweatshirt is slightly misleading. The fabric is a soft, cozy velour, updated from grandmother sweatsuits and collegiate sweats with words across the bum, plus a bit of reflective handmade bias trim. I’ll probably continue to call it a sweatshirt, but I like to think it’s a bit dressier.

I bought the fabric from Britex Fabrics, in San Francisco, while meeting Melissa of Bike Pretty for the first time. I grew up in Sacramento, and trips to The City always involved Britex – as a young stitcher/costume designer, Britex was like Mecca compared to the fabric stores in Sacramento. (Actually, it still is pretty amazing. New York City fabric stores are totally different, geared towards a different audience.) Since this fabric is from San Francisco and gray, and I love (and miss) the fog that rolls in over the city every evening, I’ve decided to name this project the SF Fog Sweatshirt. You will see why!

I used Very Easy Vogue pattern V9026, version A. Initially I wanted to find some cool digital print scuba fabric for the front panel, as shown on the pattern cover, but the prices were a bit more than I was prepared to pay. The helpful salesperson at Britex showed me this velour, and I was hooked. Better to show off the shape with reflective trim in a simple color, I decided.

Not only did I put this together in one day, it went together fairly smoothly, and I am very happy with how it turned out! I lengthened the torso, partially because I have a long waist, and also to cover more whilst biking, which I’m glad I did, although the sleeves are longer than I anticipated, which is a bit unusual. It is comfortable to wear, and am I happy with the overall fit.SF Fog 2 SF Fog 3I asked my friend ZigZagMags to take some pictures for me, and she did an awesome job, don’t you think?!

I ended up adding more reflective trim than I had originally planned. I added it to the shoulder seams mostly to stabilize the stitching, and since there isn’t much on the back that is reflective, I added tabs on each cuff. I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out, but, well, they turned out great!  SF Fog 5 SF Fog 10(Please note, I am wearing my grandmother’s rings while my wedding rings are in Hawaii getting smaller. I had to take them back to Hawaiian jeweler Na Hoku to get resized, and they were sent to Hawaii to do so. It’s hard to be parted with them; we haven’t been married long enough yet that I forget I’m wearing them!)

So the burning question is, of course, how does it reflect?! I tried a selfie, then The Mechanic took a few while I rode circles on a Capital Bikeshare bike. See for yourself – SF Fog 6 SF Fog 7 SF Fog 8 SF Fog 9I’m very pleased with how the reflective tabs on the cuffs worked out! I will probably try this on other projects too.

This was Sewing Project #15 – hard to believe I’ve done so much! You can see some of the others in my Reflective Wear-to-Work Challenge post. I do have some other projects in mind, one for next spring already, but both my sewing machine and my serger are in desperate need of some TLC. It’s probably been 20 years since they had any proper maintenance done, oops. I also need to get my scissors sharpened. Since it is practically the holidays, I might as well do all this now, so that as soon as January hits, I’m ready to jump back into things! If I can wait that long.SF Fog 11

 

Iladora Pants 5

Iladora, Head to Toe

It was a very exciting weekend, and not because of Halloween. The Mechanic and I went back to IKEA, my Bookman reflector clips arrived from Sweden, and I made my reflective sweatshirt (in one day!). Once I have proper photos of the sweatshirt and test out the Bookman reflectors, I’ll share more on them. But first, I want to share my Discerning Cyclist product reviews of the Iladora top and pants, now that the pants review is out. Bookman Clip on Reflectors_1I love that the Discerning Cyclist website titled my review, “Are These The Perfect Bike Pants for Ladies?” I wish they were! But is there really such a thing? Probably not. But these are pretty great – just not pants I’d wear to work. I’ve worn them a lot, on the weekends, to go out, to run errands, meeting friends, and, as I said in the review, I met The Mechanic for lunch one day wearing – but after doing yoga in them, just to see if I could (which I could). I confess, they are tight enough that I have realized how, shall we say, out of shape, I’ve gotten this year, since I haven’t been biking 30 miles or more every weekend, so I guess it’s time to ramp up the cardio and cut back a bit on the calories. But because the stretch holds me in, well, I do like how much skinnier I feel in them. The Mechanic likes them too!Iladora Pants 5I like the Iladora Lisa Top, but it is sort of a shame that I got it towards the end of the summer. The weather today was cold enough to make me dig out a hat and gloves, not wear my cute bike top. Very sad. I did get to wear it a few times when it was warm out, which was a great opportunity to test out the quick dry properties of the bamboo fabric. I was really impressed at how well it worked! I know that will be a go-to top next summer for that reason alone! It was extremely comfortable, and cute, and I love the color. Iladora Top 3So now I am outfitted head-to-toe in Iladora Apparel! You can read more about the pants and top on the two Discerning Cyclist website, and see more photos of me in the garments. Iladora also makes a skirt, but I guess two pieces from this line are enough. There are others out there that I want to try as well. I’m still hunting for the perfect bike pants, and there are many possibilities on my list. There are so many companies out there now, which I love. It’s nice to see women creatively solving our problems, and I wish I could support them all! I want to see these companies grow and thrive, and outfit more and more women who are looking for practical yet stylish clothing they can wear casually on their bikes. Eventually it will become as mainstream as going to the Gap or Ann Taylor Loft – at least, that is my dream. Head-to-toe bike fashion, everyday!

Bookman reflector on my jacket cuff - I couldn't wait until it was dark to try it out! Stay tuned for more info on this fun new product!

Bookman reflector on my jacket cuff – I couldn’t wait until it was dark to try it out! Stay tuned for more info on this fun new product!

 

 

 

 

I love the latest pants I made!

Let’s Talk #Reflective Fashion

Although I am always happy to talk about reflective bike fashion, a few things converged recently to prompt a post about reflective-ness. A New York Times article, new reflective clips from Bookman, and the Fall time change all mean more ways and reasons to be reflective!

The recent New York Times article, “Go Glam into the Night: For the Bike-to-Work Generation, a Move to Fashionable High Tech Clothing,” explored how bike clothing “grew up” and became “fashionable” by making office-friendly clothing reflective. The article called out a few companies I already adore, like Vespertine NYC and LFlect, others I am familiar with, including Fik:Reflectives and Betabrand, and introduced me to a fun new one, Henrichs (these capes are so adorable! And limited edition pink and glitter reflective ones? Where is my credit card?!).

The Henrichs Cape (Photo courtesy of the Henrichs website)

The Henrichs Cape (Photo courtesy of the Henrichs website)

Women’s fashion sports clothing companies such as Athleta and Lululemon are also adding reflective clothing to their lines. These pieces are made for runners, not cyclists, but there are obvious ways these can crossover. Look at how cool the “Light It Up” reflective skirt from Lululemon is, and the “Scuba Hoodie,” with it’s reflective hood! I love the idea of pulling this skirt over pants or leggings or jeans – not entirely work appropriate, but definitely for biking home from the gym, or a casual evening out. The “In a Flash” sweatshirt I can see wearing to work. Athleta offers a few pairs of running leggings with respectable amounts of reflective trim down the leg, and I can see pulling these on under skirts or dresses to bike home after dark. When we turn our clocks back this weekend, it will be darker earlier, but still not too cold to rule out the skirts, and then these would be perfect.

Lululemon Light It Up Skirt (photo courtesy of Lululemon website)

Lululemon Light It Up Skirt (photo courtesy of Lululemon website)

What I like about these garments is that these designers are finally realizing that gear worn outside, especially in the darker hours, should have a bit more reflectivity than just the token logo on a corner, or on the ankle. Here is an example of what I consider bad reflective trim – this adorable “Cyclocape” from Terry Bicycles has a single line of reflective trim down the center of the back. Although the unbroken line isn’t a bad idea, it doesn’t give any sense of how wide the wearer is, so how much room to give the cyclist, and what if if was covered by a backpack or bag strap?  (Don’t get me wrong, if someone wants to gift this to me, I’d happily test it out!) These black Terry “Metro Crop” pants have reflective trim inside the side slits, so they don’t offer much reflective-ness at all.

Terry Bicycles Cyclocape (photo courtesy of Terry Bicycles website)

Terry Bicycles Cyclocape (photo courtesy of Terry Bicycles website)

Title Nine has a decent collect of clothes with reflective trim, and although this “Slip’n Ride” commuter skirt is another example of questionable print choices, I like that the reflective trim is on the outside hem, right where you want to be visible to a vehicle.  REI’s Novara winter cycling pants have reflective stripes down the entire leg as well – just like my reflective pants!

I love the latest pants I made!

I love the latest pants I made!

I also point all of this out because Time is “falling back” this weekend, and it will be darker longer. Although I don’t believe that us wearing reflective clothing gives drivers license to NOT pay attention to cyclists (and pedestrians) on the road, I don’t think it hurts to be defensive about what we wear either. I wear a bright red coat partially because it shows up better in headlights than a solid black jacket would – the reflective Vespertine belt I wear with it simply helps.

Red coat, reflective trim on skirt, purse - hugging an owl in Copenhagen

Red coat, reflective trim on skirt, purse – hugging an owl in Copenhagen

It is easy to add reflective accessories, less expensive, and perhaps a bit more versatile to have something that can be moved from jacket to shirt to skirt, like the Bookman clips or the options from REI. Or there is always another route – Glimling is a Swedish-American company selling Scandinavian style reflectors that can be attached to purses, backpacks, coat zippers, or panniers. I have several and love them. They are so cute on my purses! Elisabeth, the owner, totally gets the importance of reflective-ness, and loves to share this somewhat staggering statistic – 70% of American pedestrian accidents happen after dark, while in Sweden, the number is much lower, 40%. Adults and children alike in that country wear reflectors – we saw them for sale in bookstores and dollar stores and in the airport when The Mechanic and I were in Denmark and Sweden, too. Check out her blog post with visibility tests.

Assorted reflectors on assorted bags - some I bought in Sweden, some are from Glimling

Assorted reflectors on assorted bags – some I bought in Sweden, some are from Glimling

So what am I saying here? Reflective clothing is going fashionable and mainstream for biking and running, yay! Designers are beginning to figure it out, and maybe by next winter, we’ll see even more. If buying reflective blazers and dresses is not your thing, or you can’t afford to (I know, the cool stuff is always so expensive!), consider accessories with a good amount of reflective coverage, and attach reflectors on strategic points.  The least it can do is make you a bit more visible!

 

 

A Much Needed Change

An impromptu trip to IKEA last night meant that I unexpectedly spent Sunday building IKEA furniture. At last, I redesigned my workspace! I think this will make me more productive, since I won’t be buried under crap, or at least might have it organized a bit better.

This desk configuration was done recently, to give me more sewing table space:

Computer on my old sewing table, an old school desk, plus several pieces of mismatched storage units

Computer on my old sewing table, an old school desk, plus several pieces of mismatched storage units (sorry for the blurry photo!)

More space for the machines, but still with mismatched storage pieces

More space for the machines, but still with mismatched storage pieces

So my day went from flat pack boxes to wide open desk space:

 

I still have piles of stuff that doesn’t yet have a home, but I plan on figuring that out this upcoming week. Regardless, having this open space makes me feel so much better! This much needed change makes me feel a bit more professional, with matching/coordinated space. Now I can focus on the changes I want to bring to my blog.

You maybe have noticed, if you are a regular reader, that I recently changed the look of my blog. I am trying to come up with something a bit more sophisticated and TinLizzie, reflective fashion-appropriate. I’m not entirely sure what that is, but I’ll know it when I find it. In the meantime, I am working on refocusing my blog to be more on bike clothing and fashion. I’d like to find more bike fashion designers to talk to, especially bike friends like Bike Pretty and Cleverhood and velojoy. I know I have much to learn from them and their experiences, and if you aren’t already following them, well, you are missing out.

So stay tuned while I tinker with things – more much needed changes coming!

Still building!

Still building!

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!

IKEA Rain Poncho – Look Out, Cleverhood!

IKEA always has the most fun stuff for such good prices, and I can’t ever leave there without spending more than planned. But I certainly wasn’t expecting to find a gray print rain poncho with reflective trim for $6! Look out, Cleverhood! IKEA copied you!

The poncho packs into its own small bag, which then acts as the front pouch pocket, which is a nice feature. The pocket flap, the two arm slits, the neck, and, rather randomly, a bit of the elasticized hood are all trimmed with reflective material, although there is nothing on the back other than the neck. The elasticized hood is a bit odd, and combined with the big Velcro flap under the chin, makes the face opening so small that it is hard to see out of. It does fit under my helmet, but the hood is large enough to fit over my helmet as well. I discovered this one evening when it started to rain heavier than expected, and I didn’t want to stop and fuss with the hood. The fabric is very lightweight, which makes it easy to fold into the pouch, but means that the fabric flapped up as I biked in the rain, and my back got wet.

 

It is longer than my Cleverhood, so it covers more of my bike, but because it is not made for biking, it doesn’t have the extremely useful thumb loops the Cleverhoods do, so I clutched the fabric and my handlebars at the same awkward time. Functional, for $6, but not very comfortable.

 

I wouldn’t use this IKEA poncho in a heavy rainstorm, because I am not confident it would keep me dry for too long. However, it’s not a bad backup to have, in case of an emergency. I could keep it at work, so if I need to bike home in an unexpected rain storm, I would be more comfortable than without. People with cars might want to think about keeping one in their vehicle emergency kit, although the solid black version is not a good idea at night. But if you are interested in a real rain cape, definitely splurge on the Cleverhood. Besides, you will be that much more fashionable in one!