31 October 2010

Antique Cycle Chic: part 2

After months of watch-listing, I have finally added to my collection of antique real photo postcards (or RPPCs) showing stylish women on their bicycles, which I wrote about previously.

I love RPPCs because they weren't mass produced (Our site stats show the last Antique Cycle Chic post has had hundreds of pageviews, so I guess I'm not alone!). RPPCs are actual photos of real people (that is, usually not models), printed onto postcard backing papers or stamped after printing with postcard markings, and the cameras that were used to take them very quickly became standard studio equipment and soon after were sold to the general public. This means they're unique historical documents, with only a handful of copies in existence, and they often show objects or events that were of interest to the subject, photographer, and recipient of the postcard - but not necessarily to anyone else. They're also relatively inexpensive to collect.

{By the way, I'm no expert. I haven't taken photography classes or learnt about the history of photography myself, so if anyone wants to add some information in the comments about to help contextualize RPPCs or describe the type of prints they were for people with those interests I'd really appreciate it!}

I already have great black-and-white or sepia portraits that show off womens' outfits and bicycles with skirtguards to best advantage, so I've concentrated on rounding out my collection with group shots, which are somewhat harder to find, and hand-tinted RPPCs, which were mostly studio portraits - not always true-to-life, with their painted backdrops and weird props, but great for showing the fine details of clothing.

(Temporary note: These images were screen-captured and cropped from the auction images on eBay after I purchased the items, so I could share them with you right away. As my items arrive in the mail, I'll edit this post to replace the images with higher-resolution scans, and add close-ups and more information gleaned from the backs of the cards.)

Detail of RPPC addressed to Miss E. Roberts of St. Clements, and postmarked Oxford (England) August 8th, 1905. The ladies are seen at a distance, but you can pick out straw boaters, puffed sleeves, ankle-length skirts, and bicycles with front rod brakes. This must have been a beautiful ride, as the photograph shows the most idyllic setting imaginable; that house behind them is the only one visible on the whole treed lane, which takes up most of the photo's foreground.

France, 1910s RPPC, postally unused. Long scarf on hat, long striped skirt, puffy sleeves, very Edwardian - this is pretty similar to a lot of the images in my previous antique cycle chic post. I wonder how many of the women in studio shots from this period are actually just using the bike as a prop? I can't imagine she really would have ridden a bicycle with a double top bar, no matter how covetable we now think it is.

1900-1920 RPPC, postally unused, in the French Fantasy style, with printed labels in French and German on the back. The red tint is gorgeous, isn't it? This sailor-suit type cycling costume seems to have been fairly popular, and her hairdo and lace-up boots suggest this was taken before 1920. Does anyone know if that's a culotte-style split skirt that would have been worn with this? Also notice the front rod brake, pale tires, and the placement of the bell on the head tube instead of atop the handlebars.
(Update: the vendor who sold me this RPPC is now selling reprints of it if anyone else wants a copy! Mine is the original though. =P)

This RPPC is from a Parisian studio and stamped in Dutch, "Happy Birthday". The vendor says it was postally used in 1926 (so stay tuned for more details from the message on the back). She has a sailor-suit too, and it does look like a split skirt here, but she's wearing it with a cloche, bobbed marcel-waved hair, and covetable t-strap heels. I do wish we could see more of her netted skirtguard. His outfit has the high-waisted dress slacks that you see all the actors wearing in pre-1950s movies, a shirt with cufflinks, a medium-width tie, and a newsboy cap that would do Yehuda Moon proud.

French Fantasy RPPC postally used in 1909 and stamped in French. Love the drop-bar bike with the huge chainwheel, and isn't he dashing in his newsboy cap, a tweed jacket, and cycling knickers? Maybe his moustache can inspire some of our friends who are fundraising for prostate cancer for the Movember campaign.

Circa 1910-20 RPPC, postally unused. The writing translates literally from Dutch as, "my kindnesses" (yes, I know, Google Translate has its limits). This stylish outfit would be so easy to replicate today: oxford shoes, accordion-pleated skirt, white button-up shirt, narrow tie, and a beret or tam with a pompom on top. The hat's the only part that looks dated, really - isn't that amazing? Her step-through frame with front rod brake, lamp bracket, and netted skirtguard are swoonworthy, too. Maybe someone can identify it based on the unique chainwheel and headbadge shape.

Update: that last one is actually part of a set of four found with another eBay vendor! So maybe she is a model, and these ones were printed as larger editions:

Printed in France, mailed from Bilbao to Lisbon, Portugal at the end of December 1927. He has quite a fine tweed suit, and her oxfords and teal dress are really divine! Why weren't any of the dropped bars wrapped back then? Google Translate confirms the note is written in Portuguese; on the front it introduces Yoana (Joanne would be the English version of the name) and her travelling companion, and on the back:

...that is a rather torrid love letter to the girl in the teal dress! "Good (priminsa) eve, a happy new year darling, prosperity and fortunes and the burning desire to press you see desired (untranslatable) and give you lots of kisses - Maria my queen" ...Wow. {Update: apparently Google Translate really sucks. See the translation below provided by Zizzo B by email. Thank you Zizzo!}

The seller didn't provide any information to date this RPPC, but the back is stamped "Fotografija K Audze, Viesite", which Google Translate says is Latvian for Photo Stand K - and Wikipedia has an entry for the town of Viesite. So these gorgeous girls and their beautiful bicycles with knitted skirtguards are probably from Latvia. I think their dresses and frame purses date them to the late thirties or early forties, don't you?

RPPCs seem to have fallen from favour around the time of the Second World War, so any later images I have are just regular photographs...

1940s snapshot, somewhere in the United States. They're riding rented tandem bicycles! The sign on the balloon-tire tandem with the springer fork reads, "...KE Attic / ... & BICYCLE STORE / 9702 - 51 AVE".  Their outfits look perfect for the cool weather we're having now: boiled-wool jackets, leather gloves, berets, and skirts with opaque tights - and a cosy knit cardigan and dress slacks with a lovely drape to them on the lady in the rear with her feet in the air. If those are cross-shaped brooches, perhaps they're from a church group, about to embark on a delightful outing.

Pre-1950 8.5" x 11" ACME wire photo (ie, it was part of a newspaper archive's collection) taken in Palm Beach, Florida. Halter tops, t-shirts, and short shorts: classic fifties cheesecake.

15 Nov 2010 Update: the typewritten caption glued to the back of the photo reads:
Four young misses discuss "shoes and ships and ceiling wax" --- and cocoanuts and bicycles under a cocoanut tree in Palm Beach, Fla. 
I think the writer meant coconuts and sealing wax, yes? The headbadge of the cruiser with the handlebar toolbag identifies it as an American Flyer; I can't read the other headbadge even using a magnifying glass.

Late 1940s or early 1950s, somewhere in the United States. The flip side of the snapshot reads, "Eeeegads it's Gracie". Check out Gracie's sweet balloon-tire cruiser! I think it might be a Rollfast. Penny loafers, bobby socks, rolled-up pedal pushers or jeans, thin belt, and a crew-neck t-shirt... she's wearing an early variant of every teenager's uniform for the next half-century.

I'm totally going to let these photos inform my everyday personal style. Clearly I need to go out and get myself a pair of t-strap dancers' heels, black-and-white oxfords, a beret, and an accordion-pleated skirt - and I'm still dying for a set of skirt guards. What about you? Do you see ideas here that you'll use for your everyday wardrobe or your next tweed ride?

18 October 2010

Trudy Got An Upgrade

Remember the 1972 Phillips step-through that I had dubbed Mary Poppins' Little Sister?

She's finally gotten some much-needed love. I got her back from RedBike today.

Those are Cheng Shin 26 x 1-3/8 nylon tires that I scored on eBay from a guy who was offloading parts he hadn't used from a fixie conversion, a period double kickstand, the Canadian Tire Everyday saddle that had been on Mary Poppins (as a more-comfortable stopgap until I can get a Brooks), and a Nantucket Bike Basket Co. wicker basket and giant chrome ding-dong bell from RedBike.

In the not-too-distant future she'll also get a BoBike Junior child seat installed on her, and Dom will ride in the back while Audrey rides her own bike to school.

We'd been thinking of her as Ms. Phillips, but with the white tires and all that shiny chrome, I decided that she needs a 1960s stewardess' name. So she's now Ms. Trudy Phillips (after the author of a famous kiss-and-tell book).

Now that it's safe to do so, I took her for a quick spin around the block. She's a Raleigh-built three-speed. The lowest gear is ridiculously low and will only get used on the steepest of hills; second gear (big jump) feels like the third gear on the five-speed I had as a teenager; and third gear feels like the fourth gear on my old five-speed. This steel-frame bike will never go as fast as that five-speed... well, maybe if I'm headed down a steep hill. Also: hand brakes! I realized tonight that I have missed having hand brakes.

Can't wait to do a longer ride on her!

17 October 2010

Everything Looks Better With Bicycles

It seems like I have been seeing bicycles in every second magazine I open.
Okay, I get that bikes are being treated as this year's must-have accessory, 
but I think it's more than that: tastemakers have discovered that 
everything looks cooler when it's photographed with a bicycle.

Ironic dust-collecting sculptures of wild animals.
{The otherwise covetable apartment of editor Kevin Sharkey 
in the September 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living.}

Ridiculously unwearable floor-length skirts.
(Love the cloche though!)
{Promotional email sent 13 Oct 2010 by Anthropologie.}

Huge padded eighties-style shoulders.
{Jean-Paul Gaultier via Fashionising, from July 2010}

{Saks Fifth Avenue print ad campaign from Sept 2010 via Benepe's Bike Blog}

Shorts as office wear.
{Anna Kendrick in ELLE's October 2010 issue.}

Beauty is a state of mind, but please buy our skin cream.
{Marcelle cosmetics print advertisement in ELLE Canada, March 2009}

Seventies-style chunky-heeled boots and a Relic toque on a hyper-skinny model.
Of course, this bike is a vintage Raleigh-built Robin Hood,
so it naturally has the power to make things alluring enough to make out with.
{Print advertisement is from the October 2010 issue of In Style.}

Wait, the guy you were just snogging with has a bike with rod brakes and a double top bar?
Is that a Brooks B-33 saddle?
...Carry on, then.
{Print advertisement from ELLE Canada, September 2010}

...Powerless to resist ...the allure of ....vintage rod brakes
...combined with mothering instincts
...must ...buy ...cashmere ...scarves

12 October 2010

Exploring the Sharrows in Millwoods

We've been wanting for awhile to do a ride where we go explore the roads with the new sharrows in Southeast Edmonton, which have been installed painted this year as part of the implementation of the City of Edmonton's Bicycle Transportation Plan. Weddings and illnesses have intervened, but we finally got a chance this weekend, while turkey was in the oven and warm sunshine tempered the autumn winds.

We rode from Angel's place to her son's elementary school, followed the sharrows partway along the Millwoods Road loop in light traffic, then ducked down 66th Street (which is busier and has no markings) to warm up with coffee at Millwoods Town Centre. I definitely felt like the drivers on 66th were more impatient than those we encountered on the marked section of our route.

Angel has fantastic new slouchy suede boots and shiny teal tights.

The idea is that you ride square down the middle of each sharrow marking, 
but that makes it trickier to photograph them.
(When you ride over these fresh ones, unlike the older ones around the U of A,
you feel a gentle bumpity-bumpity-bump under your tires from how thick the paint is.)

A better view of an entire sharrow marking, taken with the camera at handlebar level.

Most of the way along Millwoods Road, the markings are in the middle of the lane, as seen here. 
However, there are also a couple of sections where they were placed (like a bike lane) closer to the curb,
and then cars had parked over top of them (which makes them considerably less helpful). 

The roads with sharrows also have signs like this one, reminding drivers to expect bicyclists in the lane.

Coffee was lovely. I had chai and a poppyseed roll, mmm.
Since the chain cafe where we stopped had no bicycle parking (shame!), 
we sat outside in the sunshine at a table beside our bicycles. 
The cafe could definitely use a rack, since there were three other bicycles parked beside ours.

Our next stop was Millwoods Park. We took some portraits:

Angel and Daisy
Angel complained that the wind was trying to flip up the hem of her stretchy jersey dress while she rode,
but she looked so comfy and colorful. Not to mention badass, in this shot.

Deborah and Mary Poppins

Vintage herringbone wool shift dress, herringbone patterned tights, and vintage Naturalizer pumps.
I like to imagine that the pumps were nurses' shoes in their previous life. 
I think in the future I'll wear this dress with leggings instead, 
since it had a tendancy to ride up as I pedalled, 
but the wool was the perfect weight for 13C with a cool breeze.

After Millwoods Park we swung down 26th Ave to peer through the window of an LBS I had noticed.
Then it was back via the road past Grey Nuns Hospital, and a residential street with great Hallowe'en decorations already being put up, to Angel's to chill out.

03 October 2010

A Perfect Fall Day

It was a perfect fall day today: sunny and warm with just a hint of crispness on the breeze.
We met at South Campus LRT station and chatted for awhile...

Laura and Monie both had covetable boots.

Megan and Coreen
Elise and Micah. Check out Elise's patterned tights.
then rode the multiuse paths north...

saw some incredible things...

admired the homes in the mature neighborhoods near the University 
(and commented on how few now are the original bungalows)...

I spent a lot of the ride admiring Monie's cool slouchy purse with crossover strap and polkadot dress.

... as we took a 45 minute ride skimming the top of the river valley.

Sadly the leaves have mostly fallen already, but it did mean we had views through the branches.

High Level Bridge peeking through the trees
We stopped and took photos under the trees near the Faculty Club.

Karen looks amazing! 
She was our pregnant friend in the first Critical Lass ride, & her gorgeous little boy is 6 weeks old. 
The Fluevog boots, Sock Dreams tights, and corduroy skirt are a divine match to her vintage Sparta.
 Here's another shot of the Sparta (swoon!):

Laura sewed this incredible liner for her Eaton's Road King, BeBe, herself. 
She says the crucial thing is to dry-fit the bag to the basket before you sew the bottom in 
(which she learnt the hard way).

Coreen is effortlessly cool. Check out the button detail on her blouse and the purple tights.

Gorgeous Selene and her gorgeous Raleigh. 
We're so very grateful that they weren't badly hurt in the crosswalk incident a few weeks back.

You know, Judy, it's hard to get a good photo of a photographer! 
Matching the narrow belt you cinched your shirtdress with to your covetable Yakkay helmet? Nice touch.
Judy has lots of terrific photos from the ride on her blog.

This shot really shows off Micah's sundress and t-strap shoes,
and gives a nice glimpse of a beautiful tattoo and wonderful large-gauge ear plugs (I wish I had caught her name! update: on Corby).

Group shot. Thanks to the stranger who took this for us.

After photos, we continued on to the little retail area in Garneau near the High Level Bridge.

I also attempted some self-portraits:

I made the layered sterling silver chain necklace myself 
(the secret: tiny split rings and special pliers made for holding them open).

The hemp-blend skirt has drawstrings that let you ruche the top layer as little or as much as you like.
I triple-tied them so they wouldn't end up in my spokes. 

My equestrian boots are old favourites, 
bought to allow my summery 1st-pregnancy wardrobe be worn for my 2nd (autumn) pregnancy.

The dry leaves in the bike lane rustled as our wheels rolled through them.

I'm glad not all the leaves had fallen.

Our destination.
I didn't take any photos in redbike, our favourite LBS, but it's a wonderful shop full of temptations. I finally got to meet Cliff, the owner, and got some advice on a rack for installing a child seat - and Chris noticed that one of Mary Poppins' tires has a loose spoke and needs attention. (So *that's* what's creating that wobble in her gait!). I'll be returning very soon so they can attend to that and some other somewhat-urgent maintenance matters for me (Getting to EBC has been a challenge for me lately!).

Then we popped into The Sugarbowl for rehydration and an early supper. I probably spent an hour a day there back when it was a cafe and I was a grad student. The menu has changed, but the atmosphere is still wonderful there. We arrived just as the menu was switching, so some of us ordered right away from the brunch menu and the rest of us waited 15 minutes and ordered from the dinner menu. I had the delicious corn bread and part of an enormous serving of crab fritters - the rest got packed to come home.

Doesn't Selene's oatmeal look delish?

Karen's husband Dan and a friend met us at the bistro, so we all got to see her beautiful baby boy.

Then we parted ways, and Laura and I rode back the way we had come. 
On the way back I just enjoyed the ride without using my camera.

Thanks to all the fabulous women who came out for the ride!
Next Critical Lass ride date will be announced soon.

Update: in addition to Judy's blog post, there are more fantastic photos of our beautiful ride at Coreen's blog.