Meet Zelda. Her name is not really Zelda, but that’s what I decided to call her. And besides, she’s only a mannequin.
During the month of May, Zelda was a fixture in the shop window of the Ralph Lauren Women & Home Store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I had noticed bicycles popping up in non-bike shop windows around the city for the month of May, but this one was my favorite.
This was the only one that included the idea of a human being actually riding a bike. In promoting the image of people on bikes, we need to keep emphasizing that riding a bike is a perfectly normal choice of transportation. “Zelda” is wearing normal clothes. She could be going to or coming from just about anywhere. Granted, her clothes are a very expensive Ralph Lauren ensemble (cost aside, it may not be everyone’s personal taste), but nothing about what she’s wearing screams “I ride a bike”. For normal day to day transportation cycling, this is the type of image we need to promote. No hi-viz, no-helmets, no spandex -no special cycling gear.
Most people can’t afford the clothes “Zelda” is wearing (myself included), nor should they strive to copy her ‘look’. But just as much as Madison Avenue tries to influence our purchasing decisions, Madison Avenue is being influenced by what people are wearing and doing on the street, every day. Fashion and design trends flow in both directions. The simple fact that the window stylist chose to dress the mannequin in stylish clothes and imply that ‘she’ was riding a bicycle for transportation shows that transportation cycling is back in the mainstream again.
Whether you love or hate the idea of Cycle Chic (personally, I’m all in favor), it’s powerful, it’s real and it’s here. Just like people on bikes. Cycle Chic was coined by Mikael Colville-Andersen (who also writes the blog Copenhagenize) in 2006. Some people get caught up in the idea that Cycle Chic is all about wearing the latest fashion or that it fetishizes women. It’s not (I stand emphatic on that) and it doesn’t (I respectfully disagree if you think it does).
As for that skirt and heels thing..no one is telling anyone that in order to be ‘chic’ on a bicycle you need to wear them. Cycle Chic is all about normalizing the idea of people on bikes- on or off the bike, you are still the same person. We don’t wear special clothes to get on public transit, drive a car or walk to our destination. Riding a bicycle shouldn’t be any different.
It’s that simple. Really.