American automobiles were once the most sought after cars in the market, particularly in the 1950s. This period is still considered the heyday of the American automobile industry, and taking a look at these advertisements will show you why. In order to promote competition in the market place, Detroit manufacturers took to hiring stylists to change the design of their new models. Careful consideration was given to the shape of the carriage, seat lining, and accessories. Virgil M. Exner, former styling director of the engineering division at the Chrystler Corporation explained in a 1955 interview in American Fabrics Magazine:
We felt the American public was ready for cars which would be poised in appearance and possess a lithe slimness, imparting a feeling of motion, even when stationary at the curb. . . The school of design which champions boxiness and slab-sidedness was completely rejected. American people are graceful, and they live among graceful surroundings. Their cars, we felt, should mirror this atmosphere. (p.82)
No doubt the stylists turned to women’s fashion of the time to help the design process along. The 1950s were a celebration – gone were the wartime restrictions on textiles and trim, economic prosperity was at an all-time high, and the families were reunited. Many women had entered the workforce while the men were fighting in Europe during WWII, and were encouraged to return back to their household duties. The ideal woman was considered to be an ultra-feminine housewife that cleaned the home, cared for the children, and made meals from scratch in stiletto heels, billowing skirts, and had tiny, cinched waists.
American cars were touted as the “Second Livingroom”- a room that was meant to showcase style, good taste, and a pretty face. It seems that the 1950s car culture brought voyeurism to the mainstream. The second livingroom was meant to display passengers like they were in a fishbowl. This also meant that special attention was given to the interior design of the vehicals. Car manufactures worked closely with textile mills to use innovative upholstery fabrics for the seats:
Since you often spend more time in your mobile home than in your stationary quarters, you’re getting to be quite a public character; and a pretty fancy one at that, reclining on your opulent upholstery with its radiant colors. . .The motor makers have enlisted leading mills as co-conspirators in the plot to dazzle the eyes of all who clance into your second living room. The textile designers in turn have had a field day, as the new two-tone interiors testify. You wonder what is next. We’ll tell you: Sport clothes for Mr. And Mrs. in colors and patterns coordinated with the upholstery of the new cars. ( p. 83)
My favorite? The 1959 De Soto with swiveling seats – so you can step out like a lady.
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