Sport Travel Suit

by Paul, Hanno & Fritz Rößler

Inventor

  • NAMEPaul, Hanno and Fritz Rößler
  • PATENTGB190909244A and FR401967A
  • DATEAugust 12, 1909 and September 3, 1909
  • LOCATIONPatented in the UK and France – inventors residing in Seirhennersdorf, Germany
  • INVENTION“Combined Ladies' Overall & Sporting Costume” and “Costume de sport á transformations pour dames”
  • THEMEMoving
BIO —

Paul, Hanno and Fritz Rößler are listed as manufacturers from Seirhennersdorf, Germany on their 1909 patent for a “Combined Ladies’ Overall and Sporting Costume”, filed in the UK and France. It is difficult to ascertain much about their genealogy – they might have been brothers or father and sons. They might have had adventurous sisters, nieces or friends. Or perhaps simply recognised the market potential of catering to ever-growing numbers of independent women travellers.

Invention

PROBLEM —

The Rößlers identify the timeless problem for women who did a lot of sports and travel – how to dress appropriately, economically and comfortably for social and sporting settings. They explain: “Many ladies for instance, who, while occupied in mountaineering, tobogganing and cycle sport, dress themselves in sporting knickers, desire, when arriving at the destination, to appear in skirts. This is not always possible owing to the increase in baggage which it would involve.”

SOLUTION —

Their invention offers the wearer a multiple and combinable system of pieces appropriate for travelling, social situations and a wide variety of sports and activities. This meant she could pack lightly and, therefore, be more independent and able to adjust to suit-changing conditions and requirements (physical and social) while doing all the things she wanted to do. It saves, as the inventors write, “not only space but also money”.

“Many ladies, who, while occupied in mountaineering, tobogganing and cycle sport, dress themselves in sporting knickers, desire, when arriving at the destination, to appear in skirts. This is not always possible, however, owing to the increase in baggage which it would involve.”
— Paul, Hanno and Fritz Rößler, inventors
How to travel and what to wear

“My advice (...) to take as little as possible with her, and to pack that little in such small compass that she can carry it if necessary.”

The Queen, The Lady's Newspaper1899

“Travel provided education, entertainment and physical exercise and an escape route for a wide range of women.”

Brian Dolan – Ladies of the Grand Tour2001

“What is really required as far as an outfit is concerned are good well-made tailor-cut travelling dress in tweed cloth or serge with a coat of course; a short skirt for climbing, with knickerbockers to match, and a cloth cape, generally slung around the back by a strap when walking over the mountains, ready for use as required. Long skirts and petticoats are dangerous.”

The Queen, The Lady's Newspaper1899

Clothing “played a pervasive and sometimes insidious part in determining her behaviour and conditioning her to accept restrictions (...) It is not surprising then that the development of special clothing for sport, which allowed women greater physical freedom, was a major area of controversy.”

Kathleen McCrone, Playing the Game1988
Speculatively Sewing the Rößler's Invention

We made many iterations of the Rößler invention. And we are still not entirely convinced we have worked it out. We also have not made all the many options suggested by the inventors, comprising their combination travel sport suit system. As they explain: “We have therefore contemplated to construct a combination dress for ladies, whereby the latter will be enabled to wear, in cold weather a jacket, in rainy weather an overall, and besides, at suitable occasions, a well fitting sporting dress, without carrying along with them more than a sporting costume and a small cape.”

We concentrated our inventive attention on the cape (with and without sleeves) and convertible overall/skirt. Along with bloomers (which we have made many times), an existing blouse and jacket we felt we could create the ensemble.

We started as usual with small-scale paper mockups to think, make and talk through the invention. We talked a lot while waving around pieces of paper and material and taking turns dressing in the piece/s. Sometimes the simplest seeming inventions take the longest. This was one of those. We then made several full-sized calico toiles.

The cape was really interesting in its shape – the scalloped edges give it a timeless feel. In the final version, we made it double-sided, with reflective tweed on one side and a bright colour on the other – to continue our aim to highlight the invention and make it POP out. We made the key inventive features neon green in other pieces as well.

It was the overall – the skirt that pulls up to the chest – which was the tricky part. The inventors tell us that it appears to be an ordinary skirt on the surface. Straps attached at the waistband are hidden inside in skirt-form. When an overall is required, it is unbuttoned and pulled upward – “the size of the waist adjusted by suitably arranged press buttons”. T he straps are secured over the shoulders. In this form, the overall provided protection from the weather while removing any danger of constricting the movement of the wearer’s legs.

The inventors confirm it is meant to be easy to transform back, as needed: “If a lady, while mountaineering, has made use of a blouse and knickers, and, after having completed the tour, wants to appear in ordinary costume, she can easily convert, her overall into a simple but neat sporting costume.” We interpreted this in a few ways – in the final version, we made a skirt to fit the chest first, then added various fastening devices to reduce the girth to fit a waist. It had to be quick to transform and to have the minimum fastenings possible, so as not to add weight, complexity or undue maintenance.

As mentioned above, the final ensemble was made in a heavier wool – a Dashing Tweed high-vis reflective “Raver” weave. This garment was tested out by Lee Craigie from The Adventure Syndicate in our “Women On The Move” short film. Lee found all of the pieces a bit cumbersome and occasionally misplaced parts of the costume, but she did appreciate the removable skirt and the usefulness of the detachable sleeves from the cape.

We think we got close to the inventors’ aims and learned a lot. What emerged through our material investigation is how effective a combination convertible system worked for someone desiring to participate in multiple activities and to live an adventurous and fulfilling life. Women have always been required to manage multiple roles and responsibilities. This invention simply adds a sporting element to an already long and complex list. And the multiplicity of the invention renders it all visible.

Paul, Hanno and Fritz Rössler's invention in POP's short film

POP invited The Adventure Syndicate (TAS) and Mòr Diversity to try out a collection of reconstructed convertible, reversible, multiple and hidden sports- and active-wear in the Scottish hills. We made 5 customised costumes spanning from the 1890s to 1940s – including the Rössler combination sport travel skirt.

Together we went running, jumping, hiking, flying, cycling, swimming, hunting, riding horses, catching trains and driving cars, climbing up and rolling down hills and otherwise putting these amazing costumes through their paces. We made a short film (20mins) called “Women On The Move”, directed by Alice Lemkes of TAS, which is currently being shown at international women’s and sports/adventure film festivals.

The initial launch of the film on International Women’s Day 2022 coincided with the publishing of a journal article in the Sociological Review which goes into all of this in more depth. See below for links.

More research into the Rössler invention