Have you ever stopped to fix a flat? Have you ever tried to put a dropped chain back on?
CLEARLY NOT. Because if you had you’d realize that of all the colours for a bike dress, white is just not on.
I realize you don’t have to do what I tend to do–wipe bike grease off on my black bike shorts–but still. Even for the most fastidious of cyclists–say one who carries wet wipes for wiping their hands (here’s looking at you Martin!), white isn’t a colour that works.
I’m not sure what makes this a bike dress. Almost any dress can be a bike dress. Like the nap dress. I’m sure it has special features that make it bike friendly but still, no matter how good those features are, they are overruled by the not very bike friendly colour.
I know, I know, all dresses can be nap dresses. You can also nap in just about anything. I’m sure I’ve done it. I’ve regularly napped at work through the years since I often have to stay on campus (back in normal times) for evening events.
But now we are in pandemic times and I’m still working at home, working out at home, and napping at home. I’m starting to make clothing choices that make sense for not much leaving the house.
The nap dress is one answer to what to wear when working at home and napping, because (in my case) very long workdays, inconsistent sleep due to nightmares and pandemic anxiety, and late evening bike races.
Besides, they’re summer dresses and they’re on sale, so I bought one.
“Since sleeping through the night was not happening, I figured an outfit specifically designated for daytime dozing might be just the thing. One could theoretically wear a Nap Dress to bed, but it is decidedly not a nightgown. (For one, it is opaque enough to wear to the grocery store.) It is not the same thing as a caftan, which, though often luxurious, is more shapeless and more grown-up. It is not a housedress, which we tend to associate with older women shuffling onto the stoop to grab the morning paper, the curlers still in their hair. A housedress is about forgetting the self, or at least hiding it under layers of quilted fabric. The Nap Dress, on the other hand, suggests a cheeky indulgence for one’s body, and a childlike return to waking up bleary-eyed hours before dinner.”
Or for more a critical analysis of the trend, read The Uneasy Privilege Of The Daytime Nightgown in which Veronique Hyland talks about the politics of who gets to wear a daytime nap dress during the pandemic. It’s not frontline workers, grocery store clerks, transit workers, and people driving UberEats to pay rent. I used to teach about fashion and I confess if I were teaching about fashion this semester I might give a lecture on pandemic fashion and the nap dress.
I don’t need to know if you don’t like it. I do! Also, yes, I know white is impractical.
Even amidst all the COVID news and political strife news and racial injustice news and climate disaster news, sometimes there’s a bit of a lull. In that lull, journalists are searching for something, anything to write about that will satisfy our perceived need for news all the time.
Enter bike shorts as proposed fashion item.
The New York Times eagerly reports the latest pairings of the humble bike short with high-fashion runway looks:
So maybe bike shorts were always destined to have a moment in the summer of 2020. But as with 1,000-piece puzzles and sourdough bread, quarantine has given them new appeal: Bike shorts are a comfortable, practical item of clothing that can seamlessly transition through the vague shifts between work, exercise, worry and rest that characterize a life spent mostly at home.
Depending on whom you ask, bike shorts are an enlightened choice for the times or a tumble into a life of permanent sartorial laziness. Either way, they work.
The article burbles on:
Bike shorts, on the other hand, walk that careful line between loungewear and actual clothing. Plus, some have pockets. The fact that they are comfortable and form-fitting makes her feel tucked in and dressed, [an Instagram influencer] said.
Tess Gattuso, a 27-year-old writer and comedian in Los Angeles, took it a step further. “I think they’re super sexy,” she said. “I need that excitement in quarantine.”
Sexy? Exciting? Bike shorts? Do I detect just a tiny bit of an overreach here? I get it– it’s mid-August. Even in the middle of these unbelievable times, there’s just less to report on. And people have to make a living. So okay– bring on the bike shorts.
I might add that this is not the first time the New York Times covered a high-fashion/humble activewear collabo with such enthusiasm. In early summer 2019, they wrote about how Tevas (the utilitarian sandal) all of a sudden got cute, courtesy of pairing up with fancy designers and fancy clothing manufacturers.
The article is quick to acknowledge that they know these shoes aren’t cool, but their uncoolness, when worn by cool people, rehabilitates them:
Tevas — often grouped with Birkenstocks, Dansko clogs, Uggs and Crocs as “ugly shoes” — are popular in part because of their outsider status. “There’s something so normal about them that if you’re a fashion person and wear them it’s kind of funny and cool,” said the stylist Kate Young, whose clients include Selena Gomez and Sophie Turner, in an email. But that doesn’t rule out genuine appreciation for their functional design: Ms. Young wears Tevas in the summer while camping and swimming in streams with slippery rocks.
“They were way too crunchy for me when I first saw them. Lately they hold this sort of nostalgic minimal sport appeal for me,” she said.
I’m not sure what “nostalgic minimal sport appeal” means. Let me just say that I don’t need nostalgia for Tevas. I can just look down.
Honestly, I think it’s fun when designers take a humble piece of everyday wear and elevate it or incorporate it into something new and creative. What is less appealing is when wearers of the new-new-fashion item feel the need to distance themselves from those of us who’ve been wearing the aforementioned everyday item, well, everyday, and doing just fine.
Long live bike shorts and Tevas!
Hey readers– what items of clothing do you wear that you noticed have become fashionable, or become un-fashionable? I’d love to hear from you.
The ads in my digital media news feeds know what I’m up to. Which is to say staying at home, working from home, exercising at home, spending time with family, and napping. I’m also dressing differently now my life is one big blur of working, exercising, doomscrolling, eating, sleeping etc.
Enter the nap dress. I swear ads for different versions of this dress make up half of the advertising I see these days.
Rachel Syme writes, “Since sleeping through the night was not happening, I figured an outfit specifically designated for daytime dozing might be just the thing. One could theoretically wear a Nap Dress to bed, but it is decidedly not a nightgown. (For one, it is opaque enough to wear to the grocery store.) It is not the same thing as a caftan, which, though often luxurious, is more shapeless and more grown-up. It is not a housedress, which we tend to associate with older women shuffling onto the stoop to grab the morning paper, the curlers still in their hair. A housedress is about forgetting the self, or at least hiding it under layers of quilted fabric. The Nap Dress, on the other hand, suggests a cheeky indulgence for one’s body, and a childlike return to waking up bleary-eyed hours before dinner.”
In “The Uneasy Privilege Of The Daytime Nightgown,” Veronique Hyland talks about the politics of who gets to wear a daytime nap dress during the pandemic. It’s not frontline workers, grocery store clerks, transit workers, and people driving UberEats to pay rent.
“I can appreciate the aesthetic appeal of a nightgown. I get that they’re comfortable, and who doesn’t crave comfort right now? It’s possible that I’m projecting way too much onto a few yards of fabric. But the nightgown, especially as daywear, strikes me as reactionary. Its evocations of passive Victorian and pre-Raphaelite femininity feel like an uncritical throwback to those eras’ mold of white female fragility. The styling of these images evokes sleeping beauties or Ophelias, or worse, invalids. Fashioning yourself as a tubercular Victorian might once have felt ironic; with millions in the grip of a real pandemic—one that is disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities—it feels Marie Antoinette-at-the-Hameau-level out of touch. And in 2020, the idea of “checking out” and into the seductive world of blameless slumber that the nightgown invites us to, does too. It serves as a reminder that while some people are taking to the streets, others are taking to their beds.”
Unlike Cate, up until the pandemic, I’ve never been much of a work from home person. I’ve been a pretty strict compartmentalizer. In my usual life, I relax at home and work at work (mostly). I wear work clothes at work, gym clothes at the gym, bike clothes on my bike, and PJs (or PJ adjacent yoga pants) at home. A change in clothes signals a change in activity.
But there are no boundaries any more. Life is one big blur of working at home, exercising at home, and relaxing at home. I occasionally look at my shoe collection in puzzlement. Will I ever wear real shoes again? I still have underwire bras hanging off a doorknob, neglected, and I’m wondering why I ever thought they were a good idea. These days only my comfiest of sports bras are in regular rotation.
I do wear earrings once a week or so but that’s just so the holes in my ears don’t grow over.
I’m not wearing anything that requires dry cleaning. And mostly I’m wearing clothes that also do double duty as workout attire. But I’ve now got a broader definition of what that entails. In the blog post #StayAtHome Sam Looks Different I talked about working out in sports bras. That’s still true, especially Zwifting in a heatwave. But I am also doing yoga in machine washable dresses with sports bras and fitted shorts underneath. If it’s hot I whip off the dress.
On a good day I walk Cheddar the dog in the morning, lift weights or use resistance bands at lunch, and either do Yoga with Adriene or Zwift at night. The only bit of specialized clothing I’m wearing are bike shorts and my bike socks. I still have too many bike jerseys but they are not getting much wear.
So now my wardrobe, like my life, has blurred into one or two laundry hampers of clothes. I’m wondering when I go back to working at the office, with people, how much will change? I’m not throwing out the underwire bras and the fancy shoes just yet. But my social media newsfeed is still full of ads for leisure wear and “relaxed, comfort pants.”
What you about? What are you wearing to work out at home? What are you wearing to work at home?
Most cyclists have different kinds of things they wear, depending. When I was riding with Coach Chris, I wore Coach Chris kit on group rides. But I didn’t ever wear it on casual rides with friends. I felt it was my speedy outfit! Club kit is for riding or racing with the club.
I also have other serious cycling clothes for long rides, like my very best (expensive) bib shorts. And then I have the old beat up, worn out bike shorts I wear under dresses when commuting to work or out and about running errands.
Then there is the fun casual cycling variety of clothes. Star Trek jerseys and Simon the cat jerseys (thanks Susan) fall into this category. Their message is that I’m out riding to have fun.
Zwift is sort of the same. You get awarded kit by doing events and by riding certain distances and leveling up. I now have a wide range of virtual jerseys, socks, helmets, gloves, and sunglasses. I’ve even been known to do some events (Hi Betty Designs!) just to get the kit.
I wear club kit when racing in Zwift so teammates can recognize me but if I’m noodling slowly around Watopia on a recovery day, I want to wear something fun and casual, that matches the speed I’m riding.
Last night I was doing the Monday night race series with my team and just off the start I caught sight of my socks. Eek! I was wearing purple Pride socks with my yellow team kit. They clashed horribly. Still, they made me smile. Stealth Pride rider in the race.
There are lots of photos of Catherine McKenna–Mom. Swimmer. Climate advocate. Ottawa Centre MP/Députée. Minister of Infrastructure and Communities/Ministre de l’Infrastructure et des Collectivités–riding bikes. My fave are the Winter Bike to Work Day images. But this Bike to Work Day McKenna wore a dress (and a mask) and shared photos and the internet blew up with meanness like Twitter had never seen a woman riding a bike while wearing a dress.
Cute red bike and pink dress, right? That’s what I thought but I might be in the minority. There were lots of negative comments. I won’t share the meanest.
One Twitter user wrote, “So a short dress and a mask while riding a bike with a goofy basket wow. You look ridiculous.”
But feminist Twitter and women cyclists everywhere came to the rescue.
I added my “biking in a dress” photo.
Catherine McKenna responded with charm and good humour.
We’ve had our fair share of blog posts about having to defend your boundaries and territory at the gym, the climbinggym, oh, and did I mention the gym? Yeah, it’s a problem. Staring, unsolicited advice, making you feel uncomfortable and like you’re invading a space you don’t belong in… all of it is regularly on the cards for female-presenting athletes. Confronting the starers, mansplainers and territory defenders of our sports spaces is annoying, nerve wracking, and, frankly, often scary.
So, wouldn’t it be great to have a tank top to do the talking for you (like yesterday’s candy hearts! ❤ )? I’m crediting my co-blogger Marjorie with the idea: she came up with it in our FIFI-blogger internal Facebook group. “I’ve been thinking about making a set of gym tank tops with sayings like, ‘I’m not doing it for you,’ or ‘Look somewhere else during your rest periods.'”, she wrote. What a brilliant idea!
I thought about what my own tank top would say and quickly realised I needed a whole set, depending on the occasion and how outspoken I’d be feeling on a given day. “Staring is rude”, “Fit feminist at work”, and “Mind your own business” are just a few ideas that instantly occurred to me. I also asked my fellow bloggers. Here’s the round-up:
“I’m 55 and I can lift you” (Cate)
“Frigger, don’t kill my vibe” (Christine – she’s actually already in possession of said tank top, which is just awesome)
“Fitisafeministissue.com”; “Don’t be that guy” (Tracy)
“Patriarchy got me drove”; “Eat, Sleep, Smash the patriarchy” (Martha) – she also added, “I often think about the marketability of “Do I l👀k like I need your ‘help'”?” and lamented the lack of a sarcasm font to make it feasible.
Sam likes Fit and Feminist (another, sadly now defunct, blog)’s motto “It takes a strong woman to smash the patriarchy”.
“My body, my business” was another entry from Marjorie, and she has actually made one saying “Action Figure” with a woman’s profile in double-bicep pose.
That’s quite a collection already – but how about you? What would your feminist fitness tank top say?
My partner and I are currently on holiday in Spain. At the time of your reading this post, we will hopefully just have hiked three stages of the GR11 Transpyrenees trail. That’s why the other day, we found ourselves last-minute shopping for some hiking equipment. We also had a quick look around the cycling section of the two large sports shops we visited (we had spare time and road cycling is very serious in the Basque Country, so we thought we might make interesting finds).
In both shops, we were taken aback by the differences between the male and the female sections for both hiking and cycling. The men’s sections were larger and much better equipped. In particular, the cycling section at one of the shops was so cliché it was basically a joke: it was about one-third of the size of the men’s section and everything, really, I swear, everything was fluorescent pink, or had elements of fluorescent pink on it. OK, I exaggerate. There was one fluorescent yellow jacket. One. No, not one model in various sizes. One. Single. Jacket. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture, I was too busy bringing my blood pressure back down. Urgh. I often find myself getting annoyed at the lack of choice and, in particular, the lack of not-pink sports clothing for women, but this was out of this world. It’s not that I don’t like pink at all, I just don’t want all my gear to be hot pink! I’d quite like some choice, please. This was a public display of gender inequality in sports even at the most basic level, that of equipment.
Luckily, our story had a happy ending: we found a charming bike shop in the city centre of Bilbao, which kept its promise of “interesting finds for cycling in the Basque Country”. I bought one of their long-sleeve jerseys. The shop was the kind where you immediately start chatting to the guy who runs it, get competent advice and a sense of community. And they had the same-size shelf for women and men, with an ample selection of not-pink clothing. Yay!
I will say that it was also the sort of shop you might be hesitant to enter if maybe you were still a bit intimidated by a new sport, perhaps didn’t feel like you belonged just yet, or were self-conscious for any other reason. It’s not the kind of place where you can shop in undisturbed anonymity, which is sometimes preferable to one-on-one attention. It was also more expensive than the large multi-sports department stores we had been at earlier. It’s one of those annoying situations where you just can’t win: if you don’t have a certain level of privilege, you don’t make it into the shop that sells the good stuff, and if you go to the shop that might look more accessible in the first place, you don’t get much choice, either style or size-wise.
There are different challenges about bike commuting in the summer months. One big one is what to wear and I think it’s one that affects women more than men.
I’m writing this at my desk wearing full cycling kit: bike shorts, jersey, cycling socks, and clip-in shoes. I try not to do this but sometimes it happens. I went for a short ride before work with a colleague. I landed at my desk with intentions of changing right away but then the phone rang. It was urgent and so 30 minutes later, I’m late for my first meeting. Now I’m a dean the first meeting is in my office. Luckily it’s not a formal meeting. It’s about our United Way kick off and so I apologized and went ahead. After drafting this post, I’m changing. Promise.
Of course, you don’t need to wear bike kit to bike to work. Often on my commuter bike I wear skirts and dresses. But it’s still a casual look. It’s more casual than some people can get away with at work. And not everyone can afford the time to change at the office. When I’ve got a busy week I drive in on Sunday and drop off clothes, shoes, and food for the week.
“When it comes to getting more people on bikes, showing them the convenience of cycling is only half the battle. The other half is creating work environments where looking like you arrived by bike isn’t a source of embarrassment, and where you don’t have to dispose of the evidence by showering and changing clothing as though you just committed a crime.”
Lots of people think part of the story comes down to clothes.
From the CBC story: “Several of my [female] colleagues said to me they would do more cycling if they did not feel compelled to meet certain criteria regarding their appearance at work,” said Noel. “We associate cycling with a sport, we think we’ll be hot or that we’ll have to pedal fast. I had to rethink some of these ideas to make my bike commute more suitable.”
We need more wiggle room. Just like you don’t need to wear fancy cycling kit to commute by bike, everyday clothes are just fine, maybe we don’t need such fancy clothes for work. We can relax the rules both for commuting and working and wear the same thing all day.
Do you commute by bike? How do you handle the clothing question?
Me at work after changing out of bike clothes in a variety of summer casual outfits of the day. #ootd