PBS Lady Mary

Downton Abbey at Work

There are many reasons why I think I have a really cool job, and PBS is one of them. I have spent the last almost three years working with the HR manager at PBS on active transportation and wellness benefits and amenities, and getting to go to the corporate headquarters always seems like a treat. I’ve been a PBS fan from early on, and that’s pretty much the only TV I watch these days. It’s just the best programming, and I’m not saying that because I work with the company. Not only are the hallways full of Big Bird and Mystery! series posters, but the lobby often has fun extras, like the “Call the Midwife” vintage bicycle a while ago, or the TV Christmas tree I saw today. PBS TV Christmas Tree_TLCurrently, PBS is promoting the upcoming Season 5 launch of Downton Abbey, and in a BIG way. PBS Lady Mary and Me_TLYep, right there on the side of their building is Lady Mary! PBS and the Crystal City BID teamed up to put up this huge image, and are encouraging the public to Tweet their Lady Mary selfies to #DowntonPBS – so naturally I did! Fun! I can’t wait to start the next season in a few weeks! (yes, you Brits who get to see it earlier than us have an advantage – don’t give anything away!)

My contact at PBS gave my colleague and me Downton Abbey goodies as we left – a tea bag and coaster promoting the show. You better believe I will be taking a #BIGsip with #DowntonPBS on January 4th! PBS DowntonAbbeyTea_TLAdmittedly, I mostly love the costumes, but over the four seasons, I have definitely been sucked into the drama as well. What will happen next? Weeks of torture to slowly find out… Is anyone else as excited about the series as I am?!

Fashion Albums 14

My Fashion Past, in Pictures

The Mechanic and I recently bought a new couch, just in time to decorate for the holidays, so between the two we have been moving a lot of furniture and stuff around. In the process, I have unearthed some of my fashion history. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve always been obsessed with fashion!

Starting around 1984, I cut out images from my favorite fashion magazines and newspapers, and collected them in photo albums. I’d very carefully label each page – year, album number, page number – so that if for some reason I needed to remove a page, I knew where to replace it. (yep, a bit OCD even then!)

Thirty years of fashion history, right in my own apartment! I am still doing it to this day, although I’ve graduated to sketch books and glue sticks. I’m not sure where my 1984 albums are, but I did flip through the 1990 and beyond albums. It’s funny to look back at it all, but I have to say, my taste has not changed much! There is some fun fashion history to find – a clipping from 1993 about pants suits being acceptable; J. Peterman sketches; Tweeds catalog images; supermodels when they were just becoming super.

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At some point, I started using sketch books, and started to carefully cluster like items together.

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I also occasionally used those early sketch books to sketch in, as well, moving away from having them be separate from my fashion albums. (Someday I might show you examples of those!) I’m not proud of my sketching, but well, here are some examples…

Bicycles also showed up from time to time, and more often as my interest and the trend grows.

As old-fashioned as this seems, given the popularity of social media outlets like Pinterest and Instagram, both of which I love using, there is something very relaxing to me about pulling pages out of magazines and catalogs, then carefully cutting out the prized image, and arranging it on a page with thematic others. I am actually a bit behind, and might spend some time over the holidays cutting and pasting in front of movies. I always enjoy looking over the previous pages, and wondering why I still don’t dress like the things I aspire to – price can’t be the only deterrent! But I guess it’s good to have things to dream about, right? Even while we enjoy what we have. New Couch and Tree


BECC, TDM and Me

I spent the beginning of this week attending the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change (BECC) conference, and even presented about Arlington Transportation Partners’ Champions program, a program we developed after I was first inspired by Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM) at BECC in 2012. It is a great conference because behavior change is fascinating and very pertinent to the work ATP does – shifting travel modes is definitely behavior change. BECC 1

I’ve always been fascinated by why people do things (myself included) and what influences us all. Knowing why people do things helps us figure out how to help them do things better. The conference is focused on climate change, yes, and the majority of the attendees are from the energy industry, but there are also water resources, transportation, schools/children, food waste, employees/work engagement/factories, lots of marketing, some design research companies, and so on. The real focus is how to we inspire people to care for the planet, and empower them to make changes in their lives that will help us all be healthier and have a healthy planet for generations to come.

Illume Tweeted this photo of my colleague Maggie and I as #womeninenergy

Illume Tweeted this photo of my colleague Maggie and I as #womeninenergy

This is the third year in a row that I have attended (and the second time I presented), and this time, as with other times, there has been much to learn and experience. It always takes me a while to sort through my notes, photos and thoughts, but here are some initial takeaways:

  • This being DC, there were some heavy hitters for key note and plenary speakers. Tuesday we listened to the US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and Wednesday our closing plenary included Congressman Paul Tonko and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Dennis V. McGinn. Congressman Tonko and Secretary McGinn (what’s the appropriate title here?) were both dynamic speakers, and Mr. McGinn got in some great on-liners: “Isn’t it wonderful that Noah understood something about climate change? And isn’t it wonderful that he did something about it?” Ha!
  • Design Research – Andrew Burroughs of IDEO and Lisa Jackson of frog design presented on visual designs and how it influences our behavior. As a visual person, I strongly believe that how things are visually presented to us have such power over us, whether or not we do something or not do something based on how it looks, how we interact with things, and so on. I was extremely inspired by them, and wonder how I can translate my design background, my history research background, and current TDM work into this type of work.
  • Illume, one of the sponsoring companies, had an illustrator drawing our Tweets on Tuesday, which was really fun to see! Alas, I hadn’t Tweeted much and forgot to include #picturechange, so mine didn’t get drawn – but check out the stuff she did draw!
  • The “Breaking Bad” film evening was fun. I hadn’t been before, but I enjoyed the curated commercials, the “billboard” activity we did in small groups and presented to the entire room, and of course the wine was a nice touch.
  • They always feed us well, and there are not only vegetarian meal options, but vegan and gluten-free as well. One lunch is always all vegetarian. I especially like the fact that they give us cards to place in front of us on the table, so the servers can easily identify who gets which meal. This is so much easier for all parties involved, since the servers usually can’t see a colored dot on our name tags, and we don’t have to hassle over them to get us the right food. Other conferences, TAKE NOTE!
  • The sessions I attended seemed to be a bit heavier on the academic research paper presentations. I know part of BECC is academic-focused, but for me, seeing how other organizations have successfully run campaigns and programs and have behavior-changing results is what I am there for. I need to have something concrete to take back to my office and work on. I got plenty of ideas, but there were too many text- and formula-heavy PowerPoint slides for my taste. I wonder if they could do tracks, so you could go to the academic track, the ideas/design track, the real world track, etc. That would be useful.

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The most basic function of TDM is to education and inform people about their transportation options, helping them making choices about how they travel, yet behavior research shows that information alone is not enough to get people to do something. As one presenter said, “Simply asking people to do their best is not enough.” This is where all the behavior change techniques can come in handy, like public durable commitments and social norming, or even gamification. It’s rather exciting, really, to see how these two disciplines intersect. I wish there was more TDM at BECC, but maybe that’s what I need to do, figure out how to get these two together more. Hm… Challenge on!

Well, not really - or maybe I should say, not yet!

Well, not really – or maybe I should say, not yet!


Favorite books

Books for Girls, Not Necessarily Bike-Related

One of the fun perks of being married is that now I have a niece. I’ve known her for several years already, of course, and watching her change to the very grown-up age of eight has been fun. Of course, having always wanted to be an aunt, I get very excited around Christmas, because I can think of all kinds of fun things to get her, and it gives me an excuse to buy stuff at the American Girl Doll store (I can’t really justify buying clothes for my American Girl Doll, so this is a good substitute). However, I want to make sure she gets some smart, thinking-girl gifts as well.

Conveniently, my boss recently recommended A Mighty Girl, a website billed as “The world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident and courageous girls.” What a wonderful find! I love all the stuff, and not only does it makes me want some of the fun science kits, my reading wish list has just grown out of control. I continually strive to be a smart, confident and courageous girl, so even I find their recommendations inspiring.

A Mighty Girl, one of my new favorite websites! (Image from the website)

A Mighty Girl, one of my new favorite websites! (Image from the website)

My favorite books span my decades, and I still return to them when I’m feeling stressed. Their challenges and triumphs remind me that even though they and their challenges are fictional, they overcome their challenges with strength and humor and grace. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book A Little Princess was my childhood comfort story, and no, I have not seen any movie adaption, because I don’t to ruin my mental images of the story (I also remain terribly loyal to the illustrations of my 1975 copy). Sara Crewe’s story is definitely one that few of us can directly relate to (diamond mines – I wish!), but the fact remains that she stayed gracious and positive and creative throughout her personal struggles. I think we can all learn lessons from that. Robin McKinley’s book The Blue Sword captured my early adulthood fantasies the way that no other book had, not even The Lord of the Rings. Harry Crewe, the woman warrior destined to wield the Blue Sword, was tall, blonde and independent, and the story of her birthright inspired me to be strong and athletic and powerful. And discovered maybe a decade ago by my mother, Elizabeth Peters’ character Amelia Peabody was not only a Victorian Egyptologist and lived part of the year in Egypt, but also over the course of several books and several decades, she solved murder mysteries, was thrown into at least one dire circumstance per book, was married to an eminent Egyptologist, raised a mysterious (yet sexy!) son, and strong-armed everyone she met into doing what she wished them to do. And in the best possible humor, whether intended or not!

These books may not seem very “grown up” to some people, but I love creative, well-written stories with strong female characters. I’m also looking forward to reading a new book, The Number 7, by new author Jessica Lidh. Written for teen readers, the book’s mystery, Holocaust past, and Swedish history during World War II make it of interest to me. It also helps that Jessica Lidh is my friend April’s sister! April has told me in the past about the book, and I’ve been awaiting its publication – this month! I haven’t read it yet, but it was on my list to Santa, so hopefully that will be next month’s reading. I can’t wait! The Number 7I don’t know if my niece will end up with the same love of books that I have, but I will do my best to make sure she at least gets exposure to strong girl stories. There are so many out there, all collected onto one website, that there is no way she should be at a loss for good role models as she gets older. One of her Christmas presents is a book listed on A Mighty Girl’s website. It isn’t Bicycle Madness, but if anyone wants a gift hint, well, here’s the link!

Do any of you have favorite “mighty girl” books or stories? Where did you get your inspiration from when you were young? Or did you find your might later in life? And what tips would you offer to an aunt of a young girl?

Only one of several packed bookcases - I can't help it, I love books!

Only one of several packed bookcases – I can’t help it, I love books!

Polar fleece and patterns for balaclavas, neck warmers and ear warmers.

Balaclavas and Baklava with BikeArlington

Last night I volunteered to help out with BikeArlington’s “Balaclavas and Baklava” winter accessories sewing event, and had a blast! Erin Potter, the Events & Outreach Coordinator, arrived in Arlington last spring with winters of Chicago biking under her belt, and took inspiration for this event from something she had participated in back in the Windy City. Needing extra sewing hands, she recruited a few of us from the office, and organized an awesome event!

Polar fleece and patterns for balaclavas, neck warmers and ear warmers.

Polar fleece and patterns for balaclavas, neck warmers and ear warmers. Check out that pink!

Erin did an amazing job of wrangling the 35 attendees who RSVPed, the 20 on the waiting list, piles of fantastic polar fleece, several volunteer sewing machines (mine are still “in hospital,” alas), thread and pins, baklava, mulled cider and even a fire in a fireplace! Okay, that was on the computer monitor above us, but was the perfect thing for a cozy cold weather craft night. Everything was organized into stations: pick your pattern and fabric; cutting out your fabric; pining; sewing; admiring your mad sewing skillz! Seriously, she thought of everything, even a large framed mirror to check out your new bike accessories.

It seemed like everyone had a really great time! Many people had never sewn before, and I helped several men pin and sew, which I thought was really inspiring. I enjoyed troubleshooting a range of sewing machines, from a super old Singer to a fancy computerized one that kept giving me an error message and we finally had to reboot it!

I love this old Singer (yes, that's Edgar in the background)

I love this old Singer (yes, that’s Edgar in the background)

Given the popularity of this event, I’m pretty confident Bike Arlington will do something similar again. Maybe we can convince them to repeat it in January or February – we might all need new accessories to perk up the winter doldrums by that point. If you think you’d like another night like this, or have other suggestions, email them at info@bikearlington.com, Tweet to them at @BikeArlington or leave them a love note on Facebook.

I am happy that I was able to help so many people with their winter biking accessories, and that I was able to sneak a bit of that pink polar fleece to make a neck warmer for me. Hey, it matches my gloves! Successful evening all around!



MonkeyLectric 11

Lighting Up the Night with Monkey Lights

That’s right, I said Monkey Lights! If you aren’t already familiar with the company MonkeyLectric, the onset of winter and early sunsets is the perfect time to become so. Founded in 2008 just outside of San Francisco, CA, the company focuses on making bike lights fun. Not intended to replace the front and back lights of bicycles, their “cutting edge digital art platform” has fancy electronic components with designs and patterns created by their designers to make bikes more visible, and to put a smile on everyone’s face. The lights are made in California, and were thoroughly tested by the company themselves, who are all avid bike riders and involved in the Bay Area bike community.

When I was offered the chance to review the MonkeyLectric M204 Monkey Light, I jumped at the chance. Adding a touch more visibility in creative and colorful ways?! Yes please! I’ve seen these lights before, and love all the fun designs you can create in lights on your bike wheel. I’m not sure I’d go for pink elephants, eyeballs, flames, or skull-and-crossbones, but I still think they are really fun.

All the different patterns for the M232 MonkeyLights

All the different patterns for the M232 MonkeyLights (fancier than what I have!)

Okay, I admit it – I was a bit intimidated when the set arrived and I unpacked everything. The key piece, the light board, looks much more high tech than anything I normally deal with, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to figure it out on my own. I read the instructions and watched the installation video a few times, but had The Mechanic on stand-by, just in case.

All the gadgetry that came with the light, including the anxiety-provoking light, center.

All the gadgetry that came with the light, including the anxiety-provoking light, center.

Turns out, I managed fine on my own. It was a bit tricky trying to get my pliers between the spokes, and I did need The Mechanic to help me cut the zip ties, but other than that, I did it on my own!

Not patient enough to go outside and see how it works, I had to test it out immediately. But naturally, I did go outside with it.MonkeyLectric 4

I really can’t tell when I’m on the bike how well it reads, but during one evening commute, a gentleman rolled up next to me on his bike and said, “Love your lamp! That makes you really visible!” The Mechanic also said how bright the light is from the side (he was taking video, so he’d know!), so I guess it works better than I can see. I have used it during my morning commutes, especially if it is overcast, but at night it is obviously more visible – and the most useful. I have been testing all the different light combinations, to see which I like best, but haven’t quite decided. I think it would be fun to color-coordinate the light to whatever I’m wearing. Be sure to watch to the end of the video below, because that’s when the lights start to do some crazy things!

I haven’t installed the metal “anti-theft strap” yet, because I was waiting to see if the light would slide on the spokes, but it hasn’t. I now feel pretty confident that I won’t need to adjust the placement of either the light or the batter pack, so I’ll probably add that strap soon. I’ve biked in the rain and light snow so far, with no negative impact, which is good, since the company says it is waterproof and can be used in all weather.

Overall, I am pretty happy with this light. The potential is there for this to be a gateway light to the bigger, fancier set up, but I will see how we get through the winter first, then decide. Bunnies on my bike wheels would make me pretty happy…

Home Depot Flower Turkeys

Thankful for You

I have much to be thankful for this year:

Getting Married

I am thankful that not only did The Mechanic and get married this year, that we were able to celebrate with our closest family and friends. Having a small wedding meant being able to truly enjoy everyone who attended, and that made the day truly special and memorable. Wedding PhotoOur Amazing Honeymoon

Our three-week trip through Europe was such an amazing adventure, and I can’t wait to bike through Europe again! I am so thankful that we had the ability to be gone for three weeks, since it will be a while before we will have that much time off together again! Konstanz


Although I haven’t touched my road bike all year, I am still thankful for the biking I have done, and look forward to planning a few half-centuries next year. Biking is still my commute mode of choice, a lifestyle I prefer, a way to stay healthy(ier), a fun way to get around, and heck, a fun thing to style. I hope that I’ll be biking as long as I live, and I will be thankful every year I’m able to. Iladora Top 3Sewing

Even with wedding planning, the wedding and a long trip, I am very pleased with the number of sewing projects I was able to complete this year. I am thankful that I’ve picked up this hobby again, and have turned it into something useful, something that combines my love of fashion with my interest in biking. I’m thankful that I found a way to funnel my creative energies! Fake Fur_TinLizzie


I am thankful for all of you read my blog, and comment and like posts. It’s a nice way to feel connected to a bigger thing, to feel a sense of community. When I was young, I wanted to be a writer, but grew to feel that “everything” was written about, and there was no reason for me to keep it up. Blogging has enabled me to return to that first dream, and I’m beginning to write for others. If you haven’t ready my latest post for The Discerning Cyclist, check it out, and be sure to read my tips for stylish cold weather biking on the Bike Pretty blog. Hopefully there will be more where that comes from.


We may not have ever met. We might “chat” via Twitter or this blog. We might have been friends a long time ago, friends who haven’t talked in ages. We might chat all the time, and you just like to read what I write and share in my adventures. And to my family, most of whom live far far away, and my new family, who live closer, I am so happy, thankful, and grateful to have you in my life. No matter what our relationship might be, I value it. It is part of what makes me who I am, and for that, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Home Depot Flower Turkeys

Scarf Fabric_2

Lost Without My Sewing Machine

It has been two weeks since I dropped off my sewing machines to be serviced. Knowing that they haven’t been professionally examined in decades, I suspected that they really needed some TLC, so I wasn’t surprised when, last week, the service man said that he’d had to order parts, and it was going to be another week or so. (Actually, I’m pretty happy that he was able to get parts, still.) But knowing that I will have to survive another few weekends without being able to sew is sort of killing me! I feel a little lost without them.Print Corduroy Skirt_2

I don’t actually sew to relax. I know that many people do, but I don’t really find it relaxing. I enjoy the mental challenge of putting pieces together, but also find it stressful, at the same time. Of course, my mother will tell you that I always pick the most challenging projects, so maybe that’s part of it….  For me, sewing is more like an itch that I must scratch – must sew! Must create! Must make something NOW! I’ve been trying to think of non-sewing machine things I can do while I wait.

I made some iron-on patches with scraps of the reflective material I have. I bought the Heat’n Bond and the templates at JoAnn Fabrics, and tried a few of my favorite shapes. Chances are good I will never use the car template!

I am pretty excited about this, but now I’m not sure what to do with them!  I think need to make a floral print spring skirt and add random reflective figures to the hem.

I’ve also been a bit obsessed with making infinity scarves, so I went to G Street Fabrics, and looked around. Although I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I found many other things!

Scarf Fabric_2I ended up buying this pretty poly chiffon remnant, so I will probably make a scarf out of that, and perhaps add some reflective details. I suppose I could attempt a hand rolled hem, eek! That would keep me busy for a while. I’m also eying my pile of reflective grosgrain ribbon and thinking up things I can hand sew with that. Ribbon cockades come to mind. I will probably try these while I wait to get my machines back; it will be good to try something different. Nevertheless, little hand sewing projects don’t necessarily make up for creating a new garment for me.

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!