Motoring Clothing for the Millionaire Set: 1905


1905 motoring costume design from the Victoria and Albert Collections

1905 motoring costume design from the Victoria and Albert Collections

When Young Mr. Croesus, in January last, made a flying trip from New York to Washington, the members of his party were as a matter of course well provided with wraps. All of them, including the ladies, wore fur coats, fur caps or hoods, and fur gloves. The chauffeur, however, was clad in a complete suit of leather, which, with the head-piece, made him look somewhat like a mediaeval man in armor, and, because his feet could not be wrapped in such a way as to interfere with his control of the machinery, he was provided with fur boots that came up over his shoes as high as the knees. Nevertheless, and although so voluminously protected against the cold, the millionaire and his guests were becomingly attired. It is no longer considered necessary that an automobilist shall get himself or herself up in the likeness of a bear or a burglar, and the fur garments worn under such conditions by persons of taste and fashion are made of squirrel skins, Persian lamb, or other short-haired pelts which can be cut to fit the figure.

Such auto-coats are not made for ordinary folks like you and me. They cost from $500 to $1,000 apiece, and some of them are lined with velvet, so as to be utilized on occasions as opera cloaks. Another thing that is nice about them is that they have capacious pockets, rendering a muff unnecessary, when a lady is the wearer; and it is worth mentioning that the one worn by pretty Mrs. Croesus has a wide collar which may be turned up so as to cover her ears. Furthermore, she has a hat of grey squirrel skin, like a Highlander’s cap, with a scarlet bird’s wing on the side of it, to lend a touch of color.

One of the products of the automobile fad, industrially speaking, is the auto-tailor, who devotes his attention exclusively to the making of auto-garments. He will make for you, at prices by no means impossible, an auto-coat of coonskin lined with musk-rat, of mink fur fringed attractively with mink tails, or of white goatskin lined with white broadcloth. But the very latest thing is the costume of Russian or suede leather, soft and pliable as satin, the coat and skirt edged with black astrakhan. If possible, the leather should be dark green in color, with a toque of the same material and gaiters to match. To make the costume fit closer to the figure, a belt is worn, likewise of leather, with clasps of silver.

You may buy for $30 a pair of beaver gloves that come to the elbow, and a cap of the same material will cost you $50. A hat of beaver or suede, with a chiffon veil, is becoming to the average woman, but ladies of fashion are showing an inclination to prefer, for cold or disagreeable weather, or for use at night, hoods so contrived that they will serve to cover any hat, even though it be made of flowers or feathers, without doing harm. Some of these hoods are of silk, lined with squirrel fur, or of opossum skin lined with satin.

Generally speaking, the tendency in automobile garments is in the direction of becomingness. Summer costumes for the women are far prettier and more tasteful than they were a year or two ago, and even the dust-proof cloak which covers my lady from head to foot is made of champagne-colored silk, with a hood to match. In winter she encases her dainty feet in a sort of fur bag, lined with the same material, to keep them warm. As for her chauffeur, the oddest and most novel item of his personal accouterment is a pair of “spring pants,” as they are called, which, made of leather, are fastened about his waist by a semicircle of steel in lieu of buttons. When, finding himself too warm, he wishes to dispense with the garment, he simply gives it a jerk and throws it aside. Auto-robes of fur, by the way, are made now-a-days on the same principle, rendering it easy to tuck them around one’s person or to cast them off.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is reassuring to read that the tendency in automobile garments is in the direction of becomingness. The early protective headgear and goggles made ladies look a fright as in this insectoid example from 1902:

motoring veil

Still, one supposes that such veils reassured the ladies that they would not be subject to that dire malady, Motor-car Face, which we have previously discussed in these pages. It is also comforting to know that the chauffeur, so often known for his overheated nature, can cool himself by discarding his “spring pants” in a single motion. Mrs Daffodil has heard of similar garments being worn by the young persons who perform at Hen Nights.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.




1 thought on “Motoring Clothing for the Millionaire Set: 1905

  1. Pingback: That Queenly Young Creature, the Automobile Girl: 1899, 1903 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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