As one of the most important mechanical inventions in the past one hundred years, automobile profoundly transformed the human society. Driving culture and fashion has been affecting women's dress, social activity and lifestyle. Ladies enjoyed the speed and passion that car brings, and as time goes by, the two influence and change to each other.
Woman in Lanchester Automobile (1900s) by Frederic LewisOriginal Source: Frederic Lewis/Getty Images/Getty Images SEA Holdings Co., Limited(Editorial)/视觉中国
Since 1886, when Karl Benz applied for a patent for the tricycle motor vehicle, various prototypes of automobiles had emerged.
In the 1920s, horse carriages were still popular in the upper class, however automobile was a pastime just for a few adventurers. But as time went on, men finally accepted cars and gradually became fascinated by the joy of driving, while women also realized the excitement of riding in a car.
Looking at the Vogue magazine back that time, you will find as if the automobiles had already become the most advanced high-tech product at that time, showing the most avant-garde lifestyle together with fashionable women.
Cover of Vogue Magazine 1 by VogueOriginal Source: gettyimages
Accordingly, women's clothes were becoming simpler and more comfortable because of the wide use of automobiles. Coats designed for women driving or riding cars had emerged as the times required: single-row buckles, loose pattern, matched with shoes of flat soles or medium heels. For the first time, women wore clothes evolved from men's clothes, which also meant the birth of modern fashion. The knee-length skirt and loose suit designed by Coco Chanel became the most fashionable dress of the time. Unfettered, self-reliant new women became undoubtedly pioneers in the era of war and economic depression.
Woman poses in front of a car (1930s) by Zoltan GlassOriginal Source: Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL via Getty Images/Getty Images SEA Holdings Co., Limited(Editorial)/视觉中国
After the fierce war, cars began to re-enter people's lives as the main means of transportation. Jeeps and SUVs have become a scene in the backyards of Americans’ home, and driving them for long distances was considered very stylish. The prosperity of the economy, especially the vigorous development of the American market, had also led to the production of more elegant and fashionable appearances of family cars.
Illustration of Vogue Magazine in 1935 by VogueShanghai Auto Museum
Not only was the appearance of cars becoming more streamlined, but women's fashion was also gradually restoring its pre-war luxury and elegance. Women's dresses began to show more exquisite curves. Women's skirts were no longer as bulky as they were before the war, although they once again have an "A" outline. The wide use of elastic fabrics made these skirts more suitable for cars.
Vogue 1954 (1954) by Jacques BoucherOriginal Source: Jacques Boucher/Getty Images SEA Holdings Co., Limited(Editorial)/视觉中国
In 1953, when Audrey Hepburn was filming "Sabrina" in the New York City, the photo of her leaned against the car window had became one of the most beautiful moments in her acting career. In addition to Hepburn, wearing a head scarf, sitting in a convertible car and galloping with a loved man on the way to the countryside, also became a common part of many romantic comedy movies at that time.
Cover of Vogue Magazine 2 by VogueOriginal Source: Getty Images
The change that cars bring to women is not only the change of fashion trend, but also the change of social status and role. Women who can drive are no longer passively waiting for others to drive for them, but can go out of their homes and participate in a wider range of work at will. Driving not only enables women to control their lives more autonomously, but also brings many new and fresh ways of life.
Vogue Magazine Cover in 1925 Photo by Georges Lepape (1925) by Georges LepapeOriginal Source: Photo by Georges Lepape/Conde Nast via Getty Images
Since the 1960s, automobile design had begun to develop in two directions: the concept of future science and technology and daily practical life. For the young people at that time, automobiles were synonymous with freedom and rebellion. Punks pulled up their beloved girls and drove far away in shabby cars in search of Utopia existing in their hearts.
Vogue Magazine Cover - 1932 (1932) by Pierre MourgueOriginal Source: Photo by Pierre Mourgue/Conde Nast via Getty Images
In these 20 years, women's fashion had also undergone tremendous changes, avant-garde and futuristic design had become a new trend. Mary Quant's miniskirt, Vidal Sassoon's Bob Haircut, and Yves Saint Laurent's Le Smoking became the symbol of that era. With the rapid development of the automobile industry, people's demand for cars was no longer just a common tool, but a pursuit of speed and passion. The jumpsuit originated from the air force flying suit became the outfit of female racing drivers, and gradually entered the fashion sector. The khakis, straight lines, sports and comfortable clothes allowed women to be as easygoing and energetic as men.
Vogue Magazine Cover in 1930 Photo by Georges Lepape (1930) by Georges LepapeOriginal Source: Photo by Georges Lepape/Conde Nast via Getty Images
By the 1980s, independent modern women began to pursue freedom, success and quality of life like men, and enjoy driving. The changes in car appearance, interior and safety had attracted more and more women, especially young people, to learn to drive. Women's social lives had evolved from monotonous tea parties to self-driving tours. Women who were independent, confident and challenge-loving really appreciated the joy of “living elsewhere”. Cars opened a door for women, which took them into the wider world and helped them become the masters of themselves. Driving also trained women's thinking and made women calm and logical.
Vogue Magazine Cover - 1959 (1959) by Constantin JoffeOriginal Source: Constantin Joffe/Getty Images/Getty Images SEA Holdings Co., Limited(Editorial)/视觉中国
Although there are many jokes about women drivers, women drivers who are skilled and steady in driving are more attractive in the eyes of both men and women. Women that drive, understand and love cars will have more common topics with men, and men will be more impressed by their rider friends who are in short skirts. In fact, cars are also being changed because of these. In the eyes of fashion, car is no longer a metal machine for transportation, but a symbol of personal taste and style.