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Bustles and hoops wouldn’t fit in the motorcar, so fashion changed, but so did the vehicles

Our weekly roundup of car museum news and notes


The New York Times recently published a full-page article on how museums will need to reimagine themselves and not only survive but thrive in the post-pandemic world. No. 3 on the list of 10 suggestions was “Join together and co-produce.” 

And that’s one of the things the Audrain Automotive Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, has done as it links with the Newport Historical Society in a dual exhibition. Through August 22, the Audrain features “Women Take the Wheel: Fashion, Modernity and the Automobile 1900-1945.” Meanwhile, “The World in Motion: Fashion and Modernity” is showcased at the historical society, where the focus is on fashion and features a previously unknown collection of clothing and accessories owned by women from the Vanderbilt family.

At the Audrain, historic women’s clothing is displayed with a dozen vintage vehicles. 

The 1941 Cadillac Series 67 Vanderbilt limousine is paired with a tailored red silk suit belonging to Hattie Carnegie of New York
1936 Auburn 852 SC Boattail Speedster with 1925 Polychorme silk paisley evening coat with gold brocade

However, these exhibits aren’t just a show of cars and clothing but are designed to demonstrate how the motorcar changed women’s fashions and how women influenced the automobile, said Donald Osborne, the Audrain’s chief executive.

“About everything a woman of the middle class or above wore in the 1880s wouldn’t allow her to even sit in an automobile, let alone drive one,” Osborne explained. “Women’s fashions were transformed by the automobile.”

Consider bustles and hoops, said Rebecca Kelly, visiting scholar at the historical society, who also pointed out how materials used in women’s fashion changed, with more lightweight fabrics being used with the coming of the motorcar. 

The motorcar not only liberated women to venture out into the world, it also provided options in what to wear. 

But influence flows both ways, Osborne pointed out. 

“By the 1920s the automobile had turned from a great luxury toy of the very wealthy to a useful utilitarian object, and as we see (in the exhibit), the automobile had to adopt style and fashion, and women were more involved in decisions about cars,” he said. 

Gilmore Family Day features pre-war cars

1886 Benz reproduction
Later-day Berta Benz appears read for a drive at family day | Museum photos

The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, hosts its annual Congress of Motorcars – a showcase for cars produced in 1942 or earlier – on June 26, and this year that date also will be Family Day on the museum’s rural campus.

“It’s time to inspire the next generation of car enthusiasts,” the museum notes as it announces Family Day activities that include rides in vintage vehicles, $1 hot dogs, interactive exhibits, including a slot-car raceway, a build-your-own-miniature-car exhibit, and more, including children’s pedal cars to drive for those who fit behind the wheel.

“Holding the Gilmore’s Family Day and Congress of Motorcars together on the same Saturday in June helps us bring automotive history to life for children,” the museum’s executive director, Josh Russell, was quoted in the announcement. “Families should consider joining us for this fun, educational, and memorable day, as we celebrate the first 50 years of the automobile, and share the stories of generations of automotive pioneers and enthusiasts.”

A parade around the Gilmore campus of the vintage vehicles, including those powered by steam, electric batteries and petroleum, is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Special events this weekend

When part of a family purchases one adult ticket, Dads will be admitted free at the Newport Car Museum in Rhode Island through June 23.

The Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine plans Father’s Day weekend car shows June 19 and 20 from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. each day. The programs includes not only a car show, but aircraft demonstrations and biplane rides.

The REVS Institute (Collier Collection) in Naples, Florida, plans a Hoods-Up event staring July 19.

The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, will host a “Sizzlin’ Summer Cruise In” from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. on June 19. Among the event features will be a visit by Jimmy Rosen, his book on vintage gas stations, Got Gas?, and his 1947 Plymouth, and a Studebaker and Tucker parade.

Hello, I’m Paul Page: It’s Race Day in Indianapolis and its authors, Paul Page and J. R. Elrod, was to be featured from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on June 19 at Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California. However, the event has been postponed until September 25.

There are more than cars to see in Beaulieu, England, home to the National Motor Museum. From June 19 to August 30, the Beaulieu Palace House will showcase more than 250 sculptures in its gardens and inside the Montagu family home. And June 19 is the date for the annual Simply VW show.

The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, not only offers free admission for dads on Father’s Day, June 20, but free Vault tours as well. The museum also will have three local food trucks on side that day — Steaming Goat sandwiches, Coco’s Italian pizza and Bradley’s Creamery ice cream.

To celebrate Father’s Day, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles will open the hoods on a dozen vehicles, among them a 1947 Cisitalia 202 Coupe, 1989 Batmobile seen in a pair of Michael Keaton movies, a 1952 Ferrari 212/225 Barchetta, and a 1956 Jaguar XKSS formerly owned by Steve McQueen. The hoods will be open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California, hosts a Father’s Day car show on June 20.

LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington, will do a Hoods-Up event June 18-20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for Father’s Day weekend.

Beaulieu and its National Motor Museum and the Solent Renegades club co-host a Hot Rod & Custom Show on June 20.  The event includes the Vintage Pop-Up marketplace with retro fashions, housewares and automobile accessories.

Mark your calendar

Night to Remember performs June 24 at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museums free summer concert series in northeastern Indiana.  Subsequent performances are scheduled July 29 by the Hubie Ashcraft Band, August 26 by Big Caddy Daddy and September 23 by Whoa! Man.

Van Halen 2, a tribute band, will perform at 8 p.m. on June 25 on the Gilmore Car Museum campus in Hickory Corners, Michigan. Funds from the $20 admission charge go toward K-12 educational tours of the museum and the Gilmore Garage Works high school training program.

The North East Motor Sports Museum in Loudon, New Hampshire, hosts the Nor-Eastern Pontiac Club for an outdoor car show on June 26.

The Miles through Time museum in Clarkesville, Georgia, hosts its fifth annual car show at the Old Clarkesville Mill from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on June 26. 

Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California, features author John Zimmermann and Lost in Time: Formula 5000 in North America, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on June 26.

LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington, launches a new exhibition, “Alfa Romeo: Born from Passion” with a brunch with Italian Flair from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. on June 26. 

The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, plans another of its live concerts for 8 p.m. on July 10 featuring The Spazmatics, billed as the “ultimate ‘80s tribute band.” Unlike other such events at the museum, this will be a “walk-in” concert with visitors asked to bring folding chairs or blankets for the event.

The British Motor Museum at Gaydon hosts the BMC & Leyland Show on July 11, a gathering of British Motor Corporation, British Leyland and Rover Group vehicles. Celebrated this year are the 50th anniversary of the Morris Marina, a Historic Rally Display by the Historic Marathon Rally Group and the Mini Cooper Register, and a display of emergency service vehicles.

It’s “Simply Vauxhall” on July 17 at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, UK, where Vauxhall vehicles will gather for a show. The following day, the museum hosts its “Simply Ford” showcase.

The inaugural North East Motor Sports Museum rally-tour Around the Lake is scheduled for July 31. The event begins at the museum in Loudon, New Hampshire, and will take scenic roads to the Vintage Racing Stables car collection in Sanbornton. the event is limited to 1972 or earlier vehicles.

With so many events canceled in 2020, the British Motor Museum at Gaydon will turn the Gaydon Land Rover Show scheduled for July 31-August 1 into the 50th-plus-one anniversary for the off-road automaker. “We’re looking forward to having a belated birthday celebration,” said show manager Tom Caren.

Does your local car museum have special events or exhibitions planned? Let us know. Email [email protected]

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. I always have a vintage car but I never thought about women’s fashions changing to accommodate them into the car. This is indeed a very interesting article. Good JOB!


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