Cycling in a Shorter Dress

When I blogged about bicycling in this dress, reader Krista commented, “You seriously need to tell me your secret to riding a bike in a dress like that! I would be flashing drivers left and right!” My response is that with tights as insurance, flashing is not a worry with that particular dress: it lays firmly, does not ride up, and does not flap in the breeze.

Indeed, most skirts and dresses are great for cycling. In The Best Skirts for Cycling, we discussed the categories of structure, fabric and length that tend to work best. However, there are always exceptions.  The only way to know for sure whether a particular garment poses a flashing risk is to test each individually. I was reminded of this by the new dress that I wore when I got caught in a thunderstorm last week.

I figured that it would be fine on the bike because, although it is shorter than my usual hemline, it is longer than the other dress and is made of heavy silk.  As soon as I straddled my bike, though, I knew that it would not work.  The dress rode way up for some reason and even with opaque black tights underneath, I did not feel comfortable. I pulled over and tied my coat around my waist in order to feel decent. Simple solution – problem solved. I was able to ride to and from work without worrying about flashing anyone. An even simpler solution than when I stapled my skirt.

For those of you who cycle in skirts and dresses, feel free to share your experiences with different types in the comments.

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33 thoughts on “Cycling in a Shorter Dress

  1. Ash says:

    I wore a pretty short sun dress to brunch today and have good luck with cutting a pair of form fitting yoga pants to mid thigh and wearing those underneath of skirts and dresses. If you can find a pair in a gray or nude, all the better.

    • Dottie says:

      I noticed that; good idea. I have a pair of black spandex shorts that I usually wear under shorter dresses, but light-colored cut yoga pants sound much better and more comfortable.

  2. Trisha says:

    What a stunning ensemble! You must have a pair of personal shoppers. :) Very true that length isn’t always the deciding factor when it comes to being able to bike in a skirt or dress. Tying the jacket is a good solution! I’ve also turned around a skirt that had a wrap-type closure and uneven hem that made it a little indecent to ride in. With the opening in the back it was perfectly fine.

  3. trina says:

    my problem is usually my fuller flower skirts blowing up to levels i am so not comfortable with. I am always wearing leggings or tights or shorts or something under skirts but still.

    I used to work at sock dreams (boy i miss my discount!) so got to play around with all the awesome garters and clippies and such. My favorite trick picked up from a customer: wear a pair of men’s sock garters flipped upside-down so the clips are facing up towards your thighs rather than down towards your calves, and clip them to the bottom of your skirt! Another thing i’ve done is to clip the bottom hem of the skirt to the top of my socks using double ended “mitten” clips.

    • Dottie says:

      That’s a good idea, although it wouldn’t work for this new dress of mine, which rides up and does not have enough fabric to be tugged down.

  4. beany says:

    I don’t particularly care to flash people, but then my point is people shouldn’t be looking there to begin with! Also, I wear skorts in the summer and the nose of my saddle (which is brown) looks like something entirely different – I consider it my contribution to the traffic calming movement based on all the rubber necking I witness.

    I certainly have had my Marilyn Monroe moments with the wind blowing my skirt up at the most inappropriate times (like climbing up a steep hill where both my hands were required for steering) – I just pretend that any witnesses will quickly forget what they saw…or that people didn’t just see that, or something else.

  5. *amanda* says:

    I am on the brink of skirt riding, with Summer coming and all, and recently purchasing a new cruiser bike…I’ll keep your advice in mind. ;)

  6. Stephen says:

    A sensible degree of modesty in public displays of feminine beauty is not only wise, but even more attractive to those blessed by its presence.

  7. cycler says:

    Ah yes, it’s that time of year when the tights go into storage, and I need to find another modesty protector. I don’t have many dresses or skirts that are problematic, but the couple I do have, I wear with a pair of just above the knee “workout shorts” which are a cotton-spandex bike short without the pad. I got a couple of pairs of them a couple of years ago, but I think it’s probably time for a couple more. I found them at a mass market sports store called City Sports, but I bet that chains like Sports Authority or Dicks would have the same thing. REI might as well.

    I used to wear running shorts underneath, but was advised by the Scientist that they were so short as to not be visible beneath the skirt, so it still looked like I was flashing people.

  8. cycler says:

    Oh, and like Beany, If the worst happens, I tend to pretend it didn’t happen, and go along my merry way. Life’s too short to worry about things like that.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I have just bought a couple of pairs of silk shorts. The material is thin and airy, they’re close fitting and end just above my knees. I love them. For UK readers, they can be bought from an online company called Patra.

    • Sox says:

      I’ll have to check Patra.
      I have a couple of ‘bike slips’ that are really more like loose, knee-length shorts made of Bemberg rayon. They are cool and comfortable and have been adopted to wear under all my skirts, whether I am cycling or not.

  10. Deborah says:

    We talked about this at our bikey get-together on Sunday, because my knee-length tulip skirt kept blowing up in the wind. The bike-garter solution came up (there’s apparently a cute version on Etsy). Several of the girls just embrace the possibility of flashing, and wear patterned mens’ boxers under short skirts; one lady lifted a corner of her hem to show us adorable polkadot bloomers made by… Creampuffs? I think. A lady in Vancouver, maybe someone else can fill in the name. Google is failing to pull it up for me.

  11. Krista says:

    Ah! Love this post and all the comments! I took my Madelief out that lovely Sunday in Chicago when it was 80+ degrees and flashed many a cab driver. (I chose a longer skirt but there was just too much material and the material itself was too light.) I am seriously making this a mission: find the perfect summer bike skirt! No tights, no spandex shorts!

  12. Ann in Cambridge UK says:

    I love cycling in skirts, but used to find long, flowing skirts ended up wrapped round the axle of the rear wheel of my Pashley Princess Sovereign, despite the skirtguard. My solution was a couple of the plastic bulldog-style clips sold in kitchen shops to keep packets closed – I gather up the folds of my skirt and clip them together, and I can now cycle in almost all my skirts and dresses, except the long and narrow variety which just don’t allow enough freedom of movement.

    A long flowing skirt and a Pashley were just meant to be…….

  13. Rosemary says:

    Last summer it was very easy to find ‘bike shorts’ at H & M, Target, etc. They are basically leggings that are shorts-length. American Apparel has them in many colors, but they are obviously more expensive. I wear those shorts underneath any dress I feel is a little short… I actually wear them off my bike, too. I’m a little on the tall side and definitely have a good bit of junk in my trunk, so a lot of dresses don’t cover my bum as much as I’d like them to. I like to err on the side of modesty. Anyway, I highly recommend looking for shorts like that! Don’t waste money at Dick’s, REI, etc. if all you’re doing is leisurely riding around town.

  14. Flashypink says:

    Gee the best part of riding is riding in a skirt! I totally love the feeling of the wind flapping my skirt to and fro, and from the honks and hoots I get during my ride, it appears that a lot of other people like it too!! lol. I have actually had guys pull over to the curb just to tell me that I made their whole day worth while!!

  15. Flashypink says:

    Gee the best part of riding is riding in a skirt! I totally love the feeling of the wind flapping my skirt to and fro, and from the honks and hoots I get during my ride, it appears that a lot of other people like it too!! lol. I have actually had guys pull over to the curb just to tell me that I made their whole day worth while!!

  16. Kimberly says:

    I always wear tight cycling shorts underneath my skirt/dress in the event it rides up while I ride home.  The shorts also add a slimming effect under my dress, which is always an added bonus. 

  17. Kimberly says:

    I always wear tight cycling shorts underneath my skirt/dress in the event it rides up while I ride home.  The shorts also add a slimming effect under my dress, which is always an added bonus. 

  18. d nelson says:

    My daily cycle near San Francisco is generally happy and safe. A clip which
    joyously advocates cycling for woman of all ages, in all lengths of dress, mostly recorded in Amsterdam,
    “why cycle!” is here:

  19. d nelson says:

    My daily cycle near San Francisco is generally happy and safe. A clip which
    joyously advocates cycling for woman of all ages, in all lengths of dress, mostly recorded in Amsterdam,
    “why cycle!” is here:

  20. What I’ve found to work really well is a clothes pin (similar to your stapling technique) but doesn’t damage the dress/skirt and is infinitely reusable.

  21. Miss Sarah says:

    Pencil skirts and bubble skirts with very narrow hems – are the worst! Though I have cycled in all of these and it’s possible, just keep the knees close together and if all else fails, stand up and ride:)

    Haven’t ripped any hems yet.

    S*!

  22. Dottie says:

    Good advice. I am far too lazy to stand up and ride, but helpful to know for emergency situations.

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