There was nothing secretive about the turn-of-the-century motor car. It was proud of its occupants, and anxious to share them with all on their route. Early automobiles (before cars like the Model T were affordable for the masses) whirled through towns and countryside, shouting out "if you want to see the latest thing out, look at me, and look at my passengers."
To the fashion conscious Edwardian lady, this new element of dress parade imposed the obligation of dress. In the past, it had always been possible for a woman to huddle back in the recesses of a horse carriage or sleigh, a mere bundle in indefinable clothes; but now the fair motorist must be trim and up-to-date. Her setting demanded it. It went with the car.
There was also another element that made this same demand of correct dressing, and that was because the motor car was essentially the car of wealth and culture; therefore it behooved those who were born in the era of the horseless chariot, to look their part and to uphold their station.
The Edwardian motoring lady had no reason to complain of the fashions expressly designed for her wearing. Early motoring coats bore a striking resemblance to that worn by a hard-working machinist. There was no thought of beauty or style in its designing, but in the early 1900s, the fashions for motoring were at once practical and fascinating; useful and fetching. Motoring clothing constituted in themselves a whole wardrobe, and not a very small one at that.
By the turn-of-the-century, motoring fashions for women were no longer merely leather suits. There were now motor calling costumes, theater and opera wraps specially designed to wear when motoring to the play or the opera, and of all sorts of novel fur garments for cold weather riding, as well as shopping costumes entirely made of soft Danish kid. And this doesn't count the accessories in the way of gloves, veils, hoods, hats, lap robes, and foot muffs.
Motor Calling Wraps:
Since calls now were made as often in a motor car as in a horse carriage, the Edwardian lady was paying special attention to her motor calling wraps. The most correct wrap of this sort was a three-quarter length, loose-fitting garment made with generous sleeves. Suede was a popular material to use for a motor calling coat, and it is interesting to observe that the suede coats designed specially for this purpose were either in white or some equally perishable shade. They were generally plainly trimmed with rows of stitching but usually sported very elaborate and costly buttons in the way of ornamentation. Such a coat was lined either with quilted satin or with fur.
[Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: LC-USZ62-19394 ]
The majority of motoring Edwardian women took solid comfort during the winter with a fur foot muff. Some were of white goat’s hair inside and out, and others were of leather lined with some such fur as Manchuria dogskin, or Abyssinian monkey.
Another novelty for both men and women motorists was a foot protector. It was not as stylish as a fur foot muff, but it was a warm and comfortable protector to be slipped over each shoe. The best were made of leather lined with fur.
Danish Kid Costume:
A Danish kid costume was considered a staple to the fashionable lady’s motor wardrobe. Such a costume was usually found in brown, made with a short walking length skirt and a 26-inch length, loose-fitting jacket, perfectly tailored, and trimmed only with rows of stitching and buttons. These Danish kid outfits were light in weight and yet warm, which made them very desirable as a costume either to wear shopping or when taking a long ride. Of course, with these suits there were hats and gauntlets to match.
Motor Theater Coats:
When whirling in a motor car to the theater, a number of extremely modish, all-kid coats were designed. They were made of the finest and softest of Danish kid and in such colors as orchid mauve, bright scarlet, peach blossom pink, canary yellow and ciel blue. These coats were exquisite as to their finishing and often were made with a storm collar and deep cuffs of some fur with a foot muff to match. Just imagine a bright scarlet kid foot muff lined with chinchilla!
[Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: LC-USZ62-74640 ]
Motoring Hats and Hoods:
The Edwardian motoring lady took just as much interest in her hats and hoods made solely for motoring as in her most picturesque millinery creations of ostrich plumes, velvets, and laces. At first a cap much like the one worn by her chauffeur suited her, but this soon changed. She studied the effect of her motor hat from the side and the back. She gave serious thought to its shape and practicability and she was most particular and determined that its color would be becoming.
Fur caps to match the fur motoring coats were worn with adjustable ear protectors while kid caps were worn to match the kid coats. For bad weather riding, there was nothing more serviceable than the toque made of waterproof silk rubber. In shape it was quite as stylish as any toque of velvet.
The Edwardian lady who raced through the country in a motor car continually added to her collection of veils. She invariably wore two veils at the same time, to say nothing of tucking away in her pocket one of rubber tissue to put on in a hurry in the emergency of an unexpected shower. The face veil was bound with elastic; one elastic was made to fit closely around the top of the hat or cap, the lower part of the veil being also held in place with an elastic. It was not drawn very tight, however, for the veil was further secured under the chin by the elastic fastening with a hook and eye. The second veil was not worn as a face protector, but covered the back and sides of the head, tying in front in a bow or a loose four-in-hand knot.
The most popular style in veils had an accordion-pleated curtain in front and two long plain chiffon scarf ends. This veil was finished in the front with a narrow ribbon which tied around the low crown of the hat. From this the accordion-pleated curtain fell, the long ends crossed in the back and were tied in front under the chin, drawing the accordion-pleating close to the face.
The Vanity Bag was one of the most prized possessions of the motor-loving lady. It was made of kid, generally matching her costume in color, and it was sufficiently large to carry enough toilet accessories to make her a "thing of beauty" at the end of a motor trip. The bag was fitted with a jar of face cream, a little powder box and puff, a small comb, a nail file, a box of hairpins, a vinaigrette for smelling salts and a box for holding an extra veil or two.
Gauntlets matching the color of the motor coat were a must have accessory. They were made with the gauntlet cuff stiffened and at the top displayed the wearer's monogram, sometimes in printed gold letters, and sometimes hand-embroidered. Many Edwardian ladies had as many as a dozen pairs of gauntlets, in shades of tan, brown, mauve, deep green, and dark red.
There were also foot warmers and lap robes combined, which for cold weather driving was essential. The lap robe was of some good warm fur, and at the bottom there were two spacious pockets in which to slip the feet. The robe was wrapped about the body and held in place at the ankles, calves of the legs, and waist by light steel half hoops.
Dangling from her long watch chain, or her fob, the Edwardian lady had an odd little bunch of charms, each one of which was supposed to recall something she didn’t wish to forget, so she called them her Memory Dangles. This early form of the charm bracelet was a motley collection: a diamond studded little gold motor car would glisten and gleam next to a miniature motor horn, while among the other charms were little gold motor caps, and an odd little trinket made to represent a punctured tire. A Memory Dangle representing the new fad of motoring was what the up-to-date Edwardian gentleman now gave to the motor girls of his acquaintance in place of flowers and bonbons.
Other small accessories with which a lady motoring was likely to encumber herself, especially when on long tours, were the components of small luncheon kits, perhaps carried in a smart wicker hamper, strapped to the car, but as often stowed in the most minute corners of the auto. These included tiny alcohol stoves, collapsible chafing dishes, diminutive teapots, etc., with which the flavor of a roadside picnic would be heightened by the addition of a hot dish.