POP articles

Jungnickel, K. 2023. Convertible, Multiple, and Hidden: The inventive lives of women’s sport and activewear 1890 – 1940, Sociological Review, Online first, 1st March – Open Access PDF

Abstract: Who gets to be ‘sporty’ and active in public is an enduring topic of socio-political debate. Disparities in participation continue from limited access, support and funding to ill-fitting equipment and clothing. This article focuses on the latter. Women have long been disproportionally restricted and harassed in public space not only in relation to how, where and when they move but also what they wear. I approach this issue via a unique data source – global clothing inventions for sport and athletic activities (1890–1940). Analysing convertible, multiple and hidden clothing patents, by and for women, reveals how inventors tackled ongoing socio-political restrictions to women’s freedom of movement from the ground up and, often secretly, from the inside out. I suggest these data might be read as acts of resistance, enabling wearers to move and inhabit spaces in new ways, engage in a wider range of activities and make claims to equal public participation and mobility rights. These lesser-known clothing inventions invite us below the surface of conventional sporting histories, expand ideas around the creative possibilities of sport and activewear, and spark imaginaries of what other kinds of inclusive and inventive athletic identities might be possible.

Keywords: clothing, inventions, making and doing, reconstructions, sewing, citizenship

Jungnickel, K and May, K. 2023. From 100 year old women’s motoring masks to contemporary PPE: A socio-political study of persistent problems and inventive possibilities, Sociology. Online first, 1st Feb – Open Access PDF

Abstract: Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) became central to daily news. Face masks may have been critical, but they were clearly not equally designed or distributed, compelling many women health workers to make their own. These issues are neither new nor specific to health-oriented fields. We offer insights from another case of individuals taking PPE into their own hands. We analyse patents for women’s motoring face masks invented in America, Canada, England, and France (1900 -1925). Our findings suggest that women invented and wore face masks not only to drive safely, but to position themselves as legitimate motorists and as citizens with equal rights to technology, public space, and resources at the turn of last century. We propose that a study of historic motoring face masks might offer insights into persistent problems and inventive possibilities relating to contemporary PPE.

Key words: citizenship, gender, invention, masks, motoring, patent, PPE, resistance

Jungnickel, K. 2022. Speculative Sewing: Researching, reconstructing and re-imagining clothing inventions, Social Studies of Science, Online First, 22 August  Open Access PDF

Abstract: This article contributes to Science and Technology Studies (STS) literatures on ‘making and doing’ by describing and analysing the practice of researching, reconstructing, and reimagining archival clothing patent data. It combines feminist speculation and reconstruction practices into what I term ‘speculative sewing’. This involves stitching data, theory and fabric into inventions described in patents and analysing them as three-dimensional arguments. In the case here, of 1890s British women’s convertible cycle wear, I examine how inventors used new forms of clothing to challenge socio-political restrictions on women’s bodies in public space and help them make alternate claims to rights and entitlements. I argue that translating text and images into wearable data renders lesser-known technoscience stories visible and (more) knowable and transforms clothing (back) into material matters of public concern.

Keywords: clothing, inventions, making and doing, reconstructions, sewing, citizenship

Jungnickel, K., May, K. & Fowles, E. 2022. Patently revolutionary: What an 1895 bicycle skirt tells us about gender, citizenship and change. The Sociological Review Magazine, 7 June – Open Access PDF

Abstract: This is a blog post for a special issue of The Sociological Review magazine on the theme of Clothes.

On 9 September 1895, Alice Worthington Winthrop of Washington, DC filed a patent for the simply titled “Bicycle Skirt”, yet it was anything but ordinary (Fig. 1). An advertisement in the Indianapolis Journal explained “the peculiar advantages” of the skirt. It was “adaptable to various kinds of athleticism, bicycling, golfing and mountaineering”. It provided generous “freedom of motion” and was especially accommodating for women wanting to ride a man’s bicycle, which had a top bar, instead of a step-through bicycle designed for heavy layered skirts. Men’s machines were lighter and faster, while ladies’ bicycles were renowned for being heavier, and combined with layers of clothing, much harder and hotter to ride. Moreover, the Winthrop, as it was known, could be used without it appearing “noticeably different from the skirt generally worn” by middle and upper-class women in the Global North.

How did one bicycle skirt do all this?

The secret lay inside.

Jungnickel, K. 2021. Clothing inventions as acts of citizenship? The politics of material participation, wearable technologies and women patentees in late Victorian Britain, Science, Technology & Human Values, Online first, 14 Sept. – Open Access PDF

Abstract: This article is about clothing inventions, material participation, and acts of citizenship. I explore how pioneering Victorian women at the turn of last century inventively responded via clothing to restrictions to their (physical and ideological) freedom of movement. While the bicycle is typically celebrated as a primary vehicle of women’s emancipation at that time, I argue that inventive forms of clothing, such as convertible cycling skirts, also helped women make claims to rights and privileges otherwise legally denied to their sex. I ask: Do clothing inventions create possibilities to act differently? Can they be thought of as wearable technology, and in what ways do they (and their invention) enact political concerns? Might convertible cycling skirts be considered “acts of citizenship?” Throughout, I mobilize concepts of multiplicity, in-betweenness, and ambiguity to make a case for the relevance of clothing research for science and technology studies.

Keywords: citizenship, clothing, gender, invention, patents, participation

Jungnickel, K. 2020. Politics of Patents: Researching, making and wearing alternative histories of clothing inventions, Special Issue: Alternative Histories in DIY Cultures and Maker Utopias, Digital Culture and Society. 6 (1): 207-210. Open access PDF

SI overview: As DIY digital maker culture proliferates globally, research on these practices is also maturing. Still, particular terminologies dominate beyond their Western contexts, and technocultural histories of making are often rendered as over-simplified technomyths that render invisible diverse local practices. This special issue brings together contributions that highlight how historicising plays a role in mythmaking and the creation of social imaginaries. These peer-reviewed articles present cultural-historical perspectives, technology and design histories and historiographies, and alternative histories related to postcolonial resistance. The contributions illustrate the relevance of craft to making as a reparative practice after the Salvadoran Civil War and as a leisure activity to spark »innovation« in mid-century corporate culture; the political-economic background to the diffusion and differentiation of community workshops in contemporary Spain and post-war Germany; and the various aesthetics and politics of technology culture manifestos over the years.

This special issue features six short alternative (hi)stories of DIY making including multiple practices, geographies and temporalities.

Jungnickel, K. 2023. Sewing, A chapter in Coleman, R., Jungnickel, K and Puwar, N. (Eds) How to do Social Research with….. (Goldsmiths Press)

Stitch. Thread. Unpick. Unravel. Seam. Interface. Piece. Cut. Fold. Pin. Press. Gather. We use a surprising number of sewing terms in everyday language. They are particularly present in the doing of social research. We unpick concepts, thread ideas through arguments and stitch theory together with methods. We combine materials, and fold and press data into shape. We are trained to look for patterns, find holes in arguments and try to mend them. Language matters as much as the clothes that cover our bodies. Both are cultural, social, gendered, and political. They hold memories and make meaning. They shape how we interact, respond, know each other and ourselves. They materialise class, race, gender, and environmental norms and beliefs as well as offering means to protest and resist them. Yet, these words, and the many methods they describe, can become so familiar in their underpinning of everyday practice that we cease to notice them. As many researchers in STS have pointed out, paying attention to mundane and everyday objects and practices can cast new light on conventional or accepted socio-political norms and beliefs and raise questions about things we take for granted. In this chapter I focus on speculative sewing – the stitching together of data, theory, methods, and fabric into three dimensional arguments. I aim to describe how the process thickens data by rendering lesser-known research stories visible and knowable.

Coleman, B and Jungnickel, K. Ed. Forthcoming. Fabulating Feminist Futures: Research methodologies for new times, Australian Feminist Studies – Special Issue

SI overview: Re-imagining and re-making futures has always been central to feminism and its intersections with other minoritarian movements, including queer, Black and anti-racist, disability and class based practices. In the context of growing interest in practice research and interdisciplinary methodologies, and at a historical moment when hopefulness is perhaps needed more than ever, we invite expressions of interest for contributions to a planned special issue exploring how methodologies are involved in the creation of futures. The special issue includes contributions from interdisciplinary scholars working in and across disciplines including art and design, visual cultures, history, literature, creative writing, geography, sociology, anthropology, media studies, cultural studies, film, architecture. Contributions address how fabulation functions as a method to re-imagine, map out and/or create feminist futures, with attention paid to how fabulation is or might be a future-making practice.

POP Books
We are preparing two books - about past + future inventors (with MIT Press)


Kat Jungnickel

This book maps new histories of old wearable technology by time-traveling through more than two centuries of clothing inventions in global patent archives. From inflatable hoop petticoats, and combination mountain climbing suits, to anti-harassment skirts and pockets in EVERYTHING, inventors in this book have transformed ordinary technology into extra-ordinary tools of resistance, rebellion, and re-imaginings not only for themselves but for anyone struggling to fit in. Over 5 years of archival research is stitched together with speculative reconstructions that invite readers up close and into the wearables, lives, and radical imaginations of their inventive foremothers. The manuscript is in development and due out 2025.


Edited by Kat Jungnickel, Ellen Fowles and Katja May

This collection brings together 25 utopian visions of ground-breaking contemporary inventors, hackers, makers and menders leading the world of wearables. They are crafting far more than just clothes – they’re forging creative and critical practices that resist, subvert and disrupt normative assumptions built into the many systems that shape everyday life and in the process carving out alternate civic and social realities. Using speculative methods, but going beyond critique, these new and established inventors question, negotiate and re-frame lesser-known or overlooked issues, problems and bodies with their radical and experimental garments, queering landscapes and forging brave new ‘desire lines’ through conventional norms along the way. This book is due out 2024.