1920’s MOTORING COAT
Motoring was still an activity for the elite, however the privations of driving in a vehicle that broke down frequently and provided no retreat from the elements, meant clothing had to be functional and warm.
By 1920, the modern women made her appearance on the American road. The cumbersome picture hats and veils of the early motoring period had given way to snug-fitting cloches, and tailored motoring coats replaced heavy dusters. Whether a sedate housewife or a high-spirited jazz baby, the women motorist of the twenties announced with her very clothing that she took mobility for granted. (1)
Women continued to favour male motoring dress and this also crossed over into high fashion. Fur was still popular, with a fashion correspondent noting that the Motor Show in Olympia was transforming shop windows around London. She recommended the latest craze for fur-lined coats in tweed, wool velour and cheviot. Musquash and nutria were also being chosen by women motorists, while in Knightsbridge, one new store was offering women’s coats suitable for motoring made from men’s suiting cloth.
Accessories also followed the unisex trend; The Times described the arrival of neat leather caps as a fashion accessory for women in 1923. This style of sporty hat was worn in the iconic Tamara de Lempicka self portrait of 1929 in which she is driving a green Bugatti with leather cap and driving gloves – reputed to be based on an Hermès set that she had seen on the cover of the magazine Vu. As this portrait suggests, and Peter Thorold has noted, the car had become the ultimate symbol of modernity and emancipation, something that was reflected in the styling of clothes. Although no coat is visible in the de Lempicka portrait, by the late 1920’s the latest motoring coats from France were worn long, made of tweed or flannel with narrow leather belts and collars in fur or flannel. Wide raglan sleeves were popular – allowing freedom of movement – and collars could be military in style with buttons up to the neck.
In 1927, after Charles Lindbergh completed his historic transatlantic flight, the leather aviation jackets and helmets became the last trend on motoring coats, specially when riding in open automobiles.
(1) Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age By Virginia Scharff