Driving Clothes

Driving, or motoring as it was known in the early years of the twentieth century, inspired its own fashion trend, born out of the need to protect automobile drivers and their passengers from the elements. The short-lived craze for driving clothes that emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century also reflected a trend toward the development of specialized garments for special occasions.

Driving clothes were more than stylish clothing to complement the earliest cars; they were also very practical. The earliest cars gave motorists no protection from the weather. Rain, wind, and cold air threatened to soak or chill motorists, and open cars traveling at high speeds over unpaved country roads covered drivers with dust. Both men and women welcomed the protective driving clothes introduced between 1900 and 1910.

For men, the outfit started with a cloth peaked cap and a set of driving goggles that could be pushed up onto the forehead when not in use. On warm, dry days, a driving coat, or duster, completely protected the wearer's suit from dust. Dusters were typically made of cotton, silk, or linen and colored gray to conceal the accumulated dust. If the weather became more severe, a leather, fur, or fur-lined topcoat, or stormcoat, could be substituted. An 1899 edition of The London Tailor recommended "loose coats of goatskin and loose pantaloons of the same, gloves, and snow boots" for winter driving and a "long hooded great coat with deep collar and a yachting cap" for summertime.

Driving clothes were stylish as well as practical, helping protect driving enthusiasts from rain, snow, and dirt. Reproduced by permission of © .

Women also wore long protective coats, though they tended to prefer specially designed face veils to goggles. These large, usually gray veils could be tied around the fashionable hats of the day and adjusted to cover the entire head, protecting the wearer not only from dust but also from oil stains and other unpleasant hazards. Some women motorists also tried hoods that could be fastened under the chin or adopted men's peaked caps or woolen tam-o'-shanters, flat caps with a tight headband and floppy large crown topped with a pompon. Still others wore large face-covering bonnets, like beekeepers' hats, with a glass window to see through, or carried tiny hand-windshields, which they held in front of their faces to keep dust and bugs out of their eyes.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Russell, Douglas A. Costume History and Style. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1983.

Yarwood, Doreen. The Encyclopedia of World Costume. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1978.

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