While Im not quite sure why Ted, my fearless editor, is researching the 7Most Baffling Things About Womens Clothes, his suggested reading did inspire me to consider the benefits and shortcomings of womens cycling clothing. Fortunately, I dont have quite as much to gripe about as the author of the piece that sparked this reflection (although I do agree with much of what she says with regards to everyday clothing for women), but here are my thoughts, for better or worse.
1. Fit: Its a crapshoot. Pardon my French (or Dutch or wherever that lovely term came from). I am always a medium, top and bottom, except for when Im not. I apologize if that doesnt make much sense, but neither does some of the European or faux-European sizing schemes that some cycling manufacturers implement.
I realize that part of the beauty of consumerism is the vast variety of choices that we have as consumers, but I dont think that brands are doing themselves any favors by forcing women to size up to find an article of clothing that fits properly. After years of riding (and working in buying for a bicycle retailer), I have found a few manufacturers that I can rely on for consistent, non-self-esteem-destroying sizing (Gore Bike Wear, Pearl Izumi and Bontrager). If a piece catches my eye from another brand, I know that I better try it on (and probably not after eating a burrito for lunch).
2. Style: As David Hume said, Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them. Im pretty sure that he was referring to commuting attire when he wrote this insightful line. Ive yet to meet a woman (or man) who picks up a cycling jacket in screaming yellow or safety orange because it matches her complexion or brings out the color in her eyes. These brightly colored jackets are attractive to commuters because they help us avoid being run over.
There are other options as well if you dont want to fully commit to being a moving pylon. Most cycling-specific jackets and many commuting-specific pants have reflective piping on the backs, sleeves or legs. So, if youre an autumn and you must have that deep lavender cycling jacket, you can be both safe and fashionable (just dont forget your blinky lights).
3. Functionality: Believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen who like to read about ladies clothing, functionality should be high on the list when selecting your commuting attire. As the author of the 7 Most Baffling Things post points out, the lack of appropriately sized and placed pockets on womens clothing is stuff that falls out of a bulls rear end (she uses a different phrase but Im trying to keep this family friendly). Cut, wind and waterproofing, and reflectivity are all important features to consider when selecting commuter apparel, and there are plenty of women-specific pieces that offer these features and more. For example, the Gore Bike Wear Ladies Fusion SO jacket includes all of these points as well as elastic sleeve cuffs with thumb holes (so that you can tuck into your gloves without any wrist exposure) and a foldaway shirttail that you can drop down on rainy or muddy rides for extra protection.
There is, unfortunately, a lot of junk on the market. There are a few brands that produce jackets or shorts in cuts that are very similar to their mens offerings, throw in a few pink stitches, and call it a womens garment. However, there is a rapidly expanding acknowledgment of the female cycling population from the top down in the bicycle industry (driven from the bottom up), and there are numerous reputable cycling brands that are making fantastic womens apparel for commuting, recreational and competitive riding.