The first person to drive any significant distance was a lady: Bertha Benz. Corsetted and bundled up against the weather, she took to the wheel of her husband Karl’s new invention and drove over 60 miles to take her two children to visit her mother.
Bertha’s costume was typical of travel wear of the day – formal with full skirts and a hat held in place by a scarf. Behind the wheel of the first ever car, she certainly cut a dash and in marketing terms, the trip turned out to be a stroke of genius, helping to popularise the car and make it a commercial success. The journey took all day and called on all the formidable lady’s resourcefulness – the car broke down several times and in the process of repairing the brakes, Bertha invented brake linings.
The roaring twenties
As the car developed from its ramshackle infancy, speeds increased and fashions adapted to keep the driver and passengers warm and comfortable. By the time we reach the 1920s and 30s, driving caps, goggles and scarves were very much in vogue.
The epitome of the extravagant era, Isadora Duncan was a flamboyant dancer and performer whose preference for long, floating silk scarves proved her undoing. The year was 1927 and the American born entertainer was visiting the French Riviera. Accompanying a suave French-Italian mechanic called Benoît Falchetto in his open top car, her huge scarf became tangled in the spokes of one of the back wheels – with fatal consequences!
Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s saw the heyday of the ‘film noir’ – a genre featuring tough, cynical men and gutsy, tenacious and sometimes mendacious women. Films like the Big Sleep starring Humphrey Bogart and his off-screen wife Lauren Bacall were box office hits.
On screen, the chain-smoking men wore fedoras and the women cashmere; off screen the stars of the day lived lives of unimaginable opulence and luxury, looking stunning behind the wheel of cars like Bogart’s sublime Jaguar XK120.
We can’t mention the 1950s without talking about one of the style icons of all time, James Dean. The rebellious star whose legendary status was cemented by his early death brought cool to basics like blue jeans, white T-shirts and leather jackets. He was a racer on and off screen, his penchant for speed costing his life when he crashed his Porsche 550 Spyder in 1955.
But when it comes to the most glamorous person ever to grace a car, there can only be one contender. Her style was simple – a head scarf and sunglasses; the effect – devastating. There will only ever be one Marilyn Monroe.
Being well dressed at the wheel is one thing, but you're not fully covered unless you have car insurance that’s adequate for your needs.
This is a guest post from Money Matters