An Intro to Travel Clothing

Clothing styles for both men and women of the 1920s were changing, and with the rise in automobile popularity, outfits designed for the sole purpose of motoring came into fashion.  These too, followed the changing trends.  The hemlines on skirts and dresses rose higher, corsets and petticoats fell out of fashion, and knickers became popular.  Different activities necessitated different clothes.  Long skirts or dresses and dusters—full-length coats made to prevent road dust from getting onto one’s clothes, much like a trench coat—fell from favor as riding breeches and short coats, clothing that likely made sitting in cars and driving more manageable, rose in popularity.[1]  Clarsen writes that clothing, being the one thing that visually identifies a man from a woman and sets the socio-economic classes apart from one another, “was a primary concern to early female motorists.”  She continues, saying that women knew that “they were being carefully observed when they were out driving and that consequently they, too, needed to watch themselves closely.”[2]  For women motorists, there were different clothes to wear for every travel situation because one had to dress the part, and fit in with one’s social surroundings, no matter what it was.  Preparation for these possible fashion scenarios was key, thus many articles written by women discussed the issue of clothing.  Clarsen continues stating that “experienced motorists were precise in their approach to the question of clothing, giving careful advice to novices.”[3]

Stay tuned as I dig through my research archives and post some scans of period Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogs.

[1] A survey of the Spring and Summer catalogs from Sears, Roebuck and Co. shows this change in fashion trends.  For a discussion on clothing styles see also Brown, 182, and, for dusters especially, see Emily Post, By Motor to the Golden Gate, ed. Jane Lancaster (Jefferson, NC: McFarland 2004), 57.

[2] Georgine Clarsen, Eat My Dust: Early Women Motorists (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 24.

[3] Clarsen, Eat My Dust: Early Women Motorists, 25.

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