In a previous post I focused on car-inspired fashion, or rather, on fashion inspired by the consequences of speed.
Today I want to tackle a similar connection mainly focusing on fashion and cars.
One of my first introductions to this topic was via my late father’s collection of Italian car magazine Quattroruote.
Dad bought the mags for job-related reasons, but, as the years passed, the magazines turned into a proper collection with almost no issues missing from the 60s on.
Quattroruote’s covers were characterised by two vital elements: a car and a female model. Despite this is probably one of most obvious combinations for such publications, Quattroruote’s covers were never vulgar, though some of them, especially the early ones, verged more towards the cheesy and silly rather than the sensual.
As the years passed, I developed a further interest in vintage fashion magazines and discovered that car adverts were often included in early women’s publication.
On the 15th December 1932 issue of Les Jardin des Modes, there are for example quite a few car ads by Renault or Peugeot.
This link – that had in a way started in 1926 when Vogue America defined the little black dress as the Ford designed by Chanel – was mainly strengthened in the 50s-60s.
During this decade car advertising campaigns showed photographs or drawings of women wearing designer’s dresses or haute couture creations standing next to modern and covetable cars.
Pick up any issue of Harper’s Bazaar from those years and you will easily spot in its pages examples of such ads.
Between the late 50s and early 60s, Vogue America published a series of Cadillac and Chevrolet adverts in which models wore designs inspired by cars.
In 1959 a group of designers - among them also Hartnell, Fabiani and Simonetta - even did a collection of Chevrolet inspired creations.
A stylish car was as fascinating as a stylish dress, in a nutshell both, to be perfect, had to display technological innovations and originality.
Roberto Capucci’s 1956 design dubbed “Dieci Gonne” (Ten Skirts) was the perfect example of this dichotomic relationship between innovation and originality born out of a great willingness to experiment.
Originally inspired by the rings formed on the water after a stone gets throws in, Capucci's dress, characterised by a sumptuously sculptural silhouette, became a symbol of an entire era and was even chosen for an advertising campaign for Cadillac.
Car ads became more futuristic as the years passed: after shooting La decima vittima (The Tenth Victim, 1965), Elio Petri was offered the opportunity to shoot a series of "futuristic” TV ads for Shell in 1966.
The job was apparently offered to him since advertising agents in Milan had seen The Tenth Victim and had fallen in love with it.
Yet, despite Petri's guilty feelings, his TV ads and the campaign that they spawned on papers and magazines, had something rather stylish about them, the futuristic costumes that called back to mind Giulio Coltellacci’s designs for The Tenth Victim, inspired by André Courrèges.
The fashion-cars marriage became even stronger thanks to glamorous movies and film stars.
Edward Quinn’s photographs - collected a while back in book format and now also available as a calendar - offer a great chance to look at film icons such as Gina Lollobrigida, Grace Kelly, Alain Delon or Jane Fonda, looking stylish at film festivals or on film sets standing next to or sitting on board of beautiful cars.
Quinn chronicled through his images how cars became for many celebrities symbols of their iconic status and of their glamorous lifestyles.
Decades after visual artist Cheyco Leidmann populated instead his universe - a fantastically surreal, impudent and at times disturbing world born out of violence, obsessions and sex - of women’s bodies wearing tight clothes in hyper real colours provocatively posing next to cars.
Fine, you may say, but where is the connection between fashion and cars in real clothes?
Well, there were subtle hints at car racing suits in the high-necked, long-sleeved dresses from Proenza Schouler’s Autumn/Winter 2009 collection and in Wunderkind’s scuba diver-meets-pilot leggings from the brand's incoherently unconvincing Spring/Summer 2010 collection.
As you may remember, Nicolas Ghesquière’s Spring/Summer 2008 bulbously sculptural rigid dresses for Balenciaga were inspired by the shapes and silhouettes of sports cars.
Yet there was a certain dynamism also in the clean and streamlined silhouettes of the trouser suits from Balenciaga’s Resort 2010 collection that made you think about race car suits. Dresses from the same collection were instead tied around the waist with safety belt-like belts.
The thread continued in the Spring/Summer 2010 collection with Nicolas Ghesquière opting for functional and futuristic skinny trousers in vegetable-dyed leather and collage-like panelled hoodies that incorporated leather, jersey and nylon foam, perfect ensembles as car or motorbike racing suits.
The boots with cylinder heels and skirts made out of compressed strips of multi-coloured leather, the leather tunics worn on dresses with brightly coloured prints and the research that went into the fabrics and textiles were instead all perfect examples of the technological inventiveness and originality that are so vital for the fashion + cars equation.
If you feel inspired by the theme of this post, here's a little automotive craft project that may help you getting rid of the toys in excess belonging to your little brothers/sisters/children/nephews or cousins.
Get roughly 16 little cars, making sure you pick flat and light plastic ones (especially if you're opting for a necklace) that have enough space under the car body so that you can thread through it a thick and rigid piece of elastic.
Slide the elastic inside the car body and tie the necklace in a knot once you reach the desired length. Tighten the knot to make sure the necklace doesn’t get loose.
You can follow the same process to make a bracelet, but remember that, in this case, you will have to thread the elastic inside the cars making it pass under the front and rear wheels, though it will be easier to make a bracelet also with metal cars if you don’t mind too much weight around your wrist.
My brother bought me the toy cars since he knew I had a constant obsession with my nephews’ toys and tried to steal their little cars to do weird and fashionable experiments with them.
Enjoy your new car necklace/bracelet and remember to drive safely.