Since the automobile revolution happened in 1908 with Ford’s Model T, cars have changed the way we live, revved up our imaginations, and driven fashion forward — literally. From dust coats and fur coats to gloves, scarves, and shoes, over the years, the automobile has become synonymous with style. In honor of this timeless love affair, we’ve compiled this brief history of how cars and fashion have influenced each other through the ages.
Eat my dust coat
Early open-air cars may have allowed drivers to enjoy the freedom of the open road, but they also left motorists vulnerable to the elements. Dirt, rain, wind, and mud assailed drivers and their passengers until the dust coat (aka car coat) made its fashionable debut. The specialized coat was designed to fit over clothes, and generally came with large pockets for maps, gloves, goggles, and other travel accoutrements.
Today’s cars may be miles ahead in technology and functionality, but the car coat still continues to inspire fashion. Look for it on this year’s runway or in your closet — you might already have a car-inspired coat hanging there.
Fur for Elise
Before the widespread availability of closed cab automobiles in the 1920s, driving in colder climates and seasons was a chilly experience. To ward against the cold, the fashion industry warmed up clothing by using fur. (Yes, PETA, we know!) Fur-trimmed collars and cuffs, coats, hats, stoles, muffs, and snuggery became all the rage, much to the chagrin of minks, sables, raccoons, and the occasional chinchilla.
But before you gasp, know that faux fur was on the scene as early as 1929. Since then, it has adorned the rich and famous and is even making a big comeback this season.
Henry Ford, meet Coco Chanel
For women the 1920s was a time of increased mobility and independence (hooray for women’s suffrage). Having driven trucks, cranes, motorcycles, and cars in World War I, women found it hard to relinquish the wheel. They took to the road like never before — and demanded that their clothing reflect their progressively active and mobile lifestyles.
So, goodbye bulky dresses, hello flappers and Coco Chanel. Famous for getting rid of the corset and unbinding women’s fashion, Chanel responded to (or perhaps was inspired by) Ford’s Model T designed for the Everyman. Her now-timeless little black dress, created to be the “uniform of every woman,” was dubbed Chanel’s “Ford” for its affordability, versatility, and durability.
High heels & high octane
Happily, the love affair between cars and fashion isn’t one sided. Carrie Bradshaw would be happy to know that shoes have inspired car enthusiasts all over the world. The result of the union between high heels and high octane: What else but shoes you can drive?
Naturally, automakers hip to the timeless appeal of sleek high heels haven’t missed a step. Concept stilettos inspired by Lamborghini, Opel and other hot cars have been used in promotional campaigns (and are coveted by fashionistas and car lovers everywhere).
It’s Fiesta time
Style and automobiles may be synonymous to many, but to Ford’s new campaign for the 2011 Fiesta, they’re a fiery combination. To highlight the Fiesta’s hip, stylish, and bold new features, Ford fused fashion with color in its advertising campaign “Inspired by Color.” The campaign cast real-life people with unique styles to create a homologous link between the fun, colorful, and efficient car and the exciting world of fashion.