Gracey on Riding in Skirts

As many of you already know, I commute to work on my bike.  I’m lucky enough to have a fairly short commute (only about 12 minutes each way) so I’m able to commute year ‘round (rain, snow or otherwise) and in my work clothes (skirts, heels, what have you).

I’ve been bike commuting for a few years now and have figured out what works and doesn’t work for my bike commute.  Hopefully some of these tips might work for you as well.

Embrace pleats.  Trust me on this one.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, pleats can help add volume to a skirt without adding bulk.  You want a more voluminous skirt when riding so it can fall (or, as my fellow Oregon bike rider, Val Sparkle, suggests, be pinned) between your legs when you ride.  It’ll help protect your modesty.  And a full, pleated skirt is, usually, a heavier skirt and less likely to blow around (again, pinning will help with that as well).

My perfect pleated bike riding skirt is the one on this dress:

Fashion for Giants outfit featuring printed, pleated vintage dress, metallic cuff & gray suede boots

The pleats are flat and sleek, but there is a LOT of volume hidden in that skirt, making it perfect for bike riding.

Avoid pencil skirts.  I know, I know.  Everyone loves pencil skirts.  So professional.  So flattering.  So hobbling.  You know how you can’t run in a pencil skirt?  Well, you really, really can’t ride in them.   Trust me, I’ve tried and it’s awkward and strange and if you had to change directions quickly, it could also be dangerous.

But, if you insist on pencil skirts (and sometimes an outfit does), then I suggest knit pencil skirts:

Fashion for Giants outfit featuring gray sweater tunic, burgundy t-neck, herringbone tights, belt & cuffed boots Fashion for Giants outfit featuring kelly green skirt, blue stripe bow blouse, leopard belt & yellow platform sandals Fashion for Giants outfit featuring cream lace blouse, black pencil skirt, cognac belt & JC sandals

I have ridden in all of these with varying degrees of success.  The black is a very tight, thick knit and a little restrictive, but the others are great.  Enough give to allow me to pedal without losing their shape for when I’m off the bike.  I’ve tried biking in non-knit pencil skirts as well and it was terrible; these are the only pencil skirts I’ll ride in.  I save my very few others for those days I drive in.

Knee length, no more than tea length.  Bikes, can, of course, be ridden in any length of skirt one wants to wear.  However, I suggest knee length, no more than tea length, when riding a bike, for both modesty and practical reasons.  With a skirt shorter than a couple of inches above the knee, it can be difficult to pin or tuck the skirt, risking your skirt flipping up and scarring those passing school children for life.

This dress?  Not good for bike riding:

Fashion for Giants outfit featuring tropical print dress, coral belt & pewter sandals

If the skirt on the dress were fuller, the length wouldn’t have been as big of an issue, but it’s both just a bit too short and not quite full enough.  I may have given the kiddos an eyeful in this outfit.

And with a skirt longer than tea length, you probably won’t have a problem with it flipping up, but it could get caught in your chain or your pedals while riding.  If you do wear a longer skirt, I suggest pinning, clipping or tying it up while riding so it doesn’t get caught.

This skirt?  Also not great for bike riding:

Fashion for Giants outfit featuring vintage harlequin sweater vest, black turtleneck & full Ralph Lauren skirt

Although I am a proponent of volume, this skirt is extremely full, which, coupled with it’s more-than-tea-length length, made it very hard to ride in.

And here are some other skirts and dresses that I’ve found do work well for bike riding:

Fashion for Giants outfit featuring vintage tropical jacket, Karina dress, black tights, cuffed boots & coral necklace

Fashion for Giants outfit featuring vintage scarf print blouse, black pleated skirt, black tights, patent NW belt & animal print booties

Fashion for Giants outfit featuring black & brown 70s dress, eye of sauron belt, black tights & black booties

 As you can see, they’re all either pleated or full and around knee length.

I also recommend the wearing of bike shorts, pettipants, bloomers, whatever, just in case you do flash a passerby or two.


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25 Responses to “Gracey on Riding in Skirts”

  1. Sarah G

    Fantastically timed post! I just started bike commuting to work – a roughly 25 min bike ride. I’ve found that skirts/dresses and leggings make the best combo. Pants are counter-intuitively often bad on a bike – the cuffs get caught in the chain. Thanks so much for the great post, Gracey, you’ve got awesome style!

  2. daiyami

    Great post! I bike in skirts all the time too (but find non-knit straight skirts work best for me, on my retro step-through bike).

    How do you pin your fuller skirts, or keep them from flying up?

    • Gracey at Fashion for Giants

      Hi Daiyami –

      I don’t like to use a safety pin because I don’t want to put holes in my beloved skirts, so I use a binder clip. I clip my skirt together between my legs to make a sort of culotte and just pull the clip off when I get to work!

  3. Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    Great advice (and such fab looks too, you style goddess!). I often ride in skirts and agree that knee length and medium-full is the best. And something cute underneath, Just In Case.

  4. Joyce

    Terrific tips!

    Something I love about riding a bike in work clothes is that it is not unusual to meet people who are absolutely shocked–shocked, I tell you!–to see a woman riding in her normal getup. It is a conversation starter, and I have talked to many people who did not realize that they don’t have to go through much trouble to get on a bike and go somewhere, it can be a normal part of life. No expensive lycra kits or clip in shoes needed, friends!

  5. Colleen

    Two words: BIKE GARTER! IT’s a garter belt you pin to your skirt on one side to keep it from blowing upwards. You can buy fancy ones on etsy but I made my own from a piece of elastic sized for my mid thigh and a safety pin!

    • Clare K. R. Miller

      Wow! What a great post–thank you so much! I enjoy riding my bike, but don’t do it very often… mostly because I hate wearing pants. I actually bought a bike (an Electra Townie) on a recommendation as a bike you could wear a skirt on. I love my Townie, and it is better than other bikes for wearing skirts because your knees are lower, but as I found out, my preferred ankle-length skirts are not protected from getting stuck in the chain on the Townie.

      Off to look for some knee-length pleated skirts…

  6. annabeth

    Great post! It’s so hot here that layering bike shorts underneath a skirt is not really worthwhile in summer, so I take a lot of care in dress/skirt selection. I find pencil skirts with some give (knit or denim with a bit of spandex or really any fabric with a little stretch) most useful. The looser ones I find tougher to tuck and retuck, partly b/c my bike commute involves a lot of stop/get off the seat/wait get on again and grab that opening in traffic! Worrying about my skirt takes up some time.

    Shoe choices require some thought. I can bike just fine in a low heel, but I always have to choose between my bike and my beloved platforms.

  7. Yvi

    I suppose all of this is for riding a “lady’s bike”? I ride a man’s bike and have on occasion done so with a skirt. Only when wearing tights, though.

    • Gracey at Fashion for Giants

      Yes, I ride a “lady’s bike.” When I got my new bike I thought about getting a man’s bike (they tend to be taller, which I like) but really just couldn’t imagine what I’d do with my skirts.

  8. Celynne

    Thanks for the tips! I recently moved to a small town without transit service, and since I won’t be purchasing a vehicle for another few months, my bicycle is now my main mode of transportation. I hardly ever wear anything except skirts and dresses though and this had me a bit nervous about biking. So far I’ve been using an elastic to bunch up the extra fabric on my longer skirts, but I’ll definitely be trying to pinning method in the future 🙂

  9. Leslie

    Nice post. I also bike daily and I definitely ride in pencil skirts, but they have to have a slit in the back and I have to hoick them up high enough to pedal freely. It’s a bit compromising, if you aren’t careful. But it works, generally, especially with stockings/tights. And I don’t bike far. (Lots of conditions, I know).

    And I absolutely agree with Joyce – biking around in a skirt and heels DEFINITELY gets a lot of conversations started.

  10. Mia

    Did I ever tell you that Tia and I almost named our blog Riding in Skirts? Oh, what could have been…

    Honstly, with more form-fitting skirts, a lot of the time I just end up rucking them up and exposing my bike shorts to the masses, or taking them off and riding around shorts-style until I get where I need to go. Not the most elegant thing in the world, but It works! I haven’t ridden in a while, though, since I still need to get around to getting my bike fixed. I miss it.

  11. shebolt

    Am I the only one who also wants to see Gracie’s bike?

    I love this post. Too many women won’t ride bikes because of the hassle. I’m so glad to see one woman, at least, saying that it’s really no problem at all.

  12. Laurel H

    Great tips, thanks! I bike to client meetings and often wear a knee-length, full skirt. I also like to ride in a skort (but my guess is that they don’t work for you because the crotch would be too short) and in culottes that fall just below my knee. Both of them look kind of skirt-like when I arrive at my destination.

  13. Autumn

    There’s a Dutch clothing line called King Louie that was designed with bike-riding in mind, since bicycling is so popular in the Netherlands. Their dresses don’t have bike shorts in them or anything, but they’re loose and breathable and movable but still have shape. I suppose this isn’t terribly helpful for readers who aren’t going to be in the Netherlands anytime soon, but I picked up two when I was there and love ’em!

  14. Patricia

    I’m a double bass player who CONSTANTLY wears skirts and dresses, and all this advice actually works fantastically if you plan on playing bass while sitting as well (although that’s definitely a smaller niche). Where do you consistently find skirts and dresses (ESPECIALLY skirts) that work well for this?

    • Gracey at Fashion for Giants

      Thrift stores. Thrift stores are full of longer and/or pleated skirts. They’re also usually well-made but reasonably priced. In the past year or two, I’ve only purchased a single skirt at a retail store that I can remember; every other skirt has been thrifted.

  15. Anonymous

    Just curious…how do you manage to not work up a huge sweat in your clothes? Or is that just me? 😛 Any physical exertion in warm weather makes me sweat to the point of being sopping wet, so the only way I could pull this off is to ride in my bike gear, then wipe myself down with soapy water and change in the restroom.

    • Gracey at Fashion for Giants

      Oh, I get sweaty. Super sweaty when it’s humid. But, as I said above, I’m lucky because my bike ride is pretty short. It’s not enough time for me to get really, really super sweaty. The cooler morning air also helps keep me from sweating. On the afternoon ride it’s different, but I care a lot less.

      And, I do keep baby wipes at work for those days when I misjudge the weather and wear too many layers for the ride home.

  16. Lisa Walter

    All of these outfits look great, Gracey. I appreciate the biking tips; wish I live close enough to ride to work!