Breton Stripes: A Forever Classic
If you describe your style as classic or preppy, you should have at least one Breton style top in your wardrobe! The Breton top is a classic and has been popular with the fashion set for nearly a century, after Coco Chanel introduced the top to her fashion collection in 1917.
The original, classic Breton top was worn by sailors in the French navy, was introduced in 1858, and was supposed to feature 21 stripes for Napoleon’s 21 victories. The lore surrounding the Breton top also states that the stripes were selected so that a sailor would stand out in the sea if he fell overboard! Breton tops are most classically defined as navy and white, although red and white is fairly usual alternative. These tops have been worn by Audrey Hepburn, Kate Middleton, Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, and Alexa Chung, to name but a few. Taking stock of my wardrobe recently, I realised that Breton stripes had become something of an obsession, so I decided to do a post featuring a few of my current favourites!
Water Off A Duck’s Back
At the SkyRide I was excited to come across a British company selling some seriously stylish (and by all accounts, very waterproof) cycling jackets. Now, I already have a couple of waterproof jackets – one is for walking, and one is a cycling jacket – but both of them are fairly short and neither of them are particularly fashionable. Once you see the beautiful macs from Water Off a Duck’s Back, I’m sure you’ll agree that ‘fashionable’ is definitely the right word to describe them…
In fact, looking at them, you probably wouldn’t even realise that they’re cycling coats at all…
But, there are loads of really nifty touches to these that make them perfect for cycling – such as reflective bands on the wrists, back of the waist tie, and the collar.
The sleeves are extra long so that they can cope with the extension of your arms when you’re reaching for the handlebars. There’s even a special clip at the base of the coat that keeps it from flapping open as you cycle. And, there’s a detachable hood as well.
You can probably make out the gorgeous purple lining in the hood too – beautiful! You can even tuck your coat neatly into the hood to make it more portable. Best of all, the coats are waterproof – not just, as the site points out, showerproof.
The coat comes in black or stone (love it, but I’m totally scared of getting it dirty!) for £130 – not cheap, admittedly. In fact, probably more than I’d pay for any coat, but let’s just say the sun was shining, my credit card was calling me, and Antonia was offering a special discount at the event which shaved off a few pounds…
Check back later for a real review of the coat in action – I’m pleased to say I’ve not had to use it yet, but my favourite season is approaching and I’m sure there will be plenty of showers!
Lady in red: Maloja cycle jerseys have style
Although I’ve yet to buy any special cycling clothing, except for headwear, that doesn’t stop me from looking… Whilst a lot of cycling jerseys for women are… uninspiring, to say the least, there’s an excellent selection at Minx-Girl. The site is right up my alley – cycle gear for women who aren’t going to put up with flourescent pink monstrosities…
You might remember me saying that red is my thing at the moment, so I was instantly drawn to this amazing red jersey from Maloja. Check out that gorgeous embroidery style detailing around the neck – love it! You can find it here: currently available in large for £44.25. (It’s also available in blue here.)
Keeping with the theme, this sleeveless number is cute beyond belief:
Check out the pretty alpine scene – and the gingham, and the stag…
And, check out this amazingly roomy back pocket! The Maloja Sunrose sleeveless jersey is available here for £44.25 in large and extra small.
This is a short sleeved version of the tunic above, with a snazzy dark blue colour added into the mix. I love this one, it’s sporty and cute at the same time, and I’m totally a sucker for the stag. This jersey is £48.00 and is available in extra small here.
I’m totally loving Minx’s range, and Maloja’s designs are amazing. I’ll have to keep a look out for designs like these in my size! Check out Minx’s huge range of great cycle tops here.
Ribcap: a review
You might remember me mentioning before that I was interested in looking for alternative cycling helmets. I have an aerodynamic helmet from a cycling shop at the moment in a light electric blue – and it’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with it at all, but there are plenty of really cool helmets out there that I’d much prefer to wear.
After discussing the Ribcap, I thought I’d do a bit of investigation and actually purchase one. They’re quite difficult to find in the UK, as although they’re a European company, their official UK site seems to be a reseller rather than the company itself.
Given the rather limited range, I went with a Marley beanie, because red is sorta my thing at the moment:
The original RRP of this hat was £60 ($95), but this was on sale for the more reasonable sum of £27.95 ($44.59). I think I would have been incredibly disappointed if I’d paid full price for this.
So, first of all, the safety claims. Ribcaps have a material sewn into them in rib shapes which is slightly soft under normal contact, but which hardens when knocked. So, it’s malleable to mould to the shape of your head when wearing, but in theory, if you knock your head against something, the material will harden to protect you. Because there are gaps due to the way the material is sewn in, the Ribcap can’t protect you from a pointed surface, as there’s a possibility the impact could fall between these ribs and into the fabric. However, on a smooth surface, the ribs will absorb some of the impact. The greatest protection Ribcap claims to offer is against ‘mild concussion’.
The reactions of my friends to this have been mildly negative. All of them wear helmets and I don’t think any of them would consider wearing this instead of a helmet. My husband certainly wasn’t keen on it being used as safety equipment, and another friend was quite incredulous at the idea of me wearing it cycling.
But forget that, let’s just be a bit shallow about this for a minute… what does it look like on?
I have to say, I don’t usually wear beanies, and I think they look sorta dorky on me, but I’ll make an exception to avoid ‘mild concussion’.
The unfortunate thing about this cap is its tendency to make you look a little bit like a pixie… Because of the stiff ribs, the top doesn’t really mould itself to your head, so you end up with a bit of a peak at the top. Also, there’s a large gap of protection at the top where the ribs don’t meet, which is a bit worrying. But I suppose if you’re going to be landing upside down on your head, a Ribcap isn’t going to help you…
In summary: the Ribcap is an excellent idea and I can definitely see it would be useful in sports or activities where it’s not traditional to wear headgear, but where head protection might be a good idea (ice skating, even walking on icy pavements). However, the claims floating around about the kind of protection it offers are not backed up by the company itself, and I think that third-party claims about the protection it does offer has been somewhat over exaggerated. It will only protect you from bumps and bruises and maybe offer some mild protection if you knock your head, but it’s certainly not going to offer you the same protection as a helmet. If you have a choice between this and a helmet, the best advice would be to wear the helmet every time. But if your choice is more likely to be between this or nothing, this is obviously the better choice than a naked head… And, it’s warm too!
Lady of the Night: Miss Cyclist 2011!
I love Bobbin Bicycles’ site – if I was an affluent girl about London-town, I’d pop in a pick up a Pashley Princess in black (or maybe a Pashley Sonnet Bliss Claret), a cycling mac and some leather gloves, and then cycle around Piccadilly Circus, dodging buses. Alas, I need something a bit cheaper and a bit more practical, when it comes to my bike, but I still love to browse. One of my favourite products is the Miss Bobbin Sash:
Priced at a rather reasonable £20, this is a reflective sash that you can wear over your coat or clothes, and personally, I think it looks awesome! I wish I’d had something like this last year when I was jogging at night – it’s a useful item that really doesn’t need to be limited to cycling use.
It shows up quite well in the dark, and because it’s so prominent, you don’t need to be wearing light coloured or reflective clothing underneath to be seen. Also, I would imagine you could store it in your bike bag so you never get caught out on a dark night (or morning!).
I love the colour schemes of these as well – and check out those cute little buttons!
Find the Miss Bobbin Sash at www.bobbinbicycles.co.uk.
Beginner’s Quandry: What to Wear?
Okay, I admit to being shallow. I know there’s more to life than what you wear, but anything I do invariably revolves around clothes. I’m going to use an excuse here and say that working from home affords me no opportunities to dress nicely, so any time I actually venture out the door for any kind of occasion, bar a trip to the supermarket, I get excited.
But when it comes to riding a bike, especially if you have no experience of it, what the heck do you wear?
This is about all I knew about cycling clothes about a month ago. Tight-fitting lycra. But you know, there are a few simple rules that I learned simply by being on a bike for one afternoon.
1.) You don’t need special clothing to ride a bike.
2.) If you want to wear a skirt, wear one – just give a bit of thought to your underwear, maybe wear some shorts underneath, and think about whether your bike has a drop-bar or not.
3.) Capri trousers are great for cycling, because they keep you cool and there’s no chance of your cuffs being caught in the moving parts of the cycle.
4.) Jeans aren’t a great idea, unless they have a forgiving fit. They’ll probably want to shimmy down your bum, and restrict your leg movement, especially skinny ones. Also, they will make you sweat.
5.) What you wear on your top half is really down to you. A good idea is to look for a top with extended length, particularly down your back, as you’ll be leaning forward and a short top will ride up a little. Floppy long sleeves could get in your way.
6.) Layers are good, in case you get hot or cold, but think about what you’re going to do with any items you take off. If you tie a jumper around your middle you not only create a sweat swamp as the material makes you hot, but you run the risk of having the dragging parts fall into the chain or wheel. If your bike doesn’t have a basket or panniers, you could take a bag – but again, you could end up with a sweat patch on your back if you’re carrying a backpack in the heat.
7.) A light, waterproof jacket may well save the day if it starts to drizzle. I am no expert on this, because I’ve been wearing one for years that my mother-in-law rescued from the lost and found at her secondary school. But it doesn’t have to be a special cycling jacket – just think about length all the time. Is it long enough to protect my back if I’ll be leaning foward? Is it so long I’ll run the risk of it being caught somewhere?
8.) Footwear – a real quandry here. I know some ladies that bike in heels and look awesome doing it. In fact, heels are great because they naturally allow your feet to slot onto the pedals and make it harder to slip off, plus they give you a platform to stand on when you stop in traffic. However, if you’re a beginner, it might be an extra difficulty you don’t need right off the bat! Ballerina shoes and similar flats are totally fine, but if they have floppy soles you may find it harder to pedal, and if they have a loose fit, they may slip off. For my first ride, I wore a pair of trainers, which worked out very well as they have a hardish sole to make pedalling easier, and they have a built-in grip on the treads that works well with the bumpy grip of the pedals.
Needless to say, unlike some other sports, you don’t need a special sports bra to cycle, unless you’re going to be pedalling in a very vigorous manner!
That’s me in the middle – and this is what I wore for my first ride. Trainers, long shorts and a long top with adjustable sleeves. Simple, not very exciting, but certainly not lycra! I rode a hired bike for this trip, and hilariously I was completely colour co-ordinated – my trainers were blue and white, my shorts were blue, my top was blue and white, and the bike was blue and white. Have to make an effort, after all!