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The Well-Dressed Motorist

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On: Mon, Sep 16, 2013 at 4:32PM | By: Karen Cook

The Well-Dressed Motorist

Next time you pull up to a stop light and you have a moment, take a look at what the people around you are wearing. Jeans? A T-shirt? Tank tops? A suit or dress, maybe? When we get into our vehicles today we are dressed for our destination. You can tell by looking who is most likely going where. We have climate control in our cars, thick glass all around us, and we even feel a modicum of privacy inside our mobile boxes.

Things were much different a hundred years ago. If you owned a motorcar you also had to have special clothing to go “motoring”. Much of it was practical and served a purpose. You had little protection from the first windshields so men wore goggles to keep the wind and dust out of their eyes. Women needed to protect their stylish hats and intricate hairstyles and usually chose to wear large gray netting as a veil, over faces and hats and tucked into their coats. Overcoats came in varying forms depending on what type of weather they were to defend against. Thin “dusters” protected men and women alike from the dust thrown up from the dirt roads while traveling at such blistering speeds as 30 mph. If it rained an oiled coat was employed. Of course, cold weather required fur coats. Luckily PETA wasn’t around yet, as there were no synthetic furs available.

You also needed other accessories such as driving gloves and special driving shoes. No one wandered around in flip-flops or, heaven forbid, drove barefoot! There were even specialty items such as a hand-held windshield wiper for women to use with special bonnets which had glass in the front over the face much like a bee-keeper's hood. The wiper could be used on the bonnet to remove rain or bugs or anything else that impeded the vision.

In Florida in the middle of summer you will see people standing next to their cars in a parking lot with the doors open letting some of the stiflingly hot air out before getting into the vehicle. I’m wondering what it would have been like getting into such driving gear in August to go a-motoring with no air conditioning and nothing between me and the scalding sun but layers of heat trapping clothing. I complain now at how long it takes my car to cool down after I turn on the air. Maybe I should be more thankful for my modern amenities.


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