What amazes me most about the Dodge 'La Femme' model based on the Custom Royal Lancer is not so much that the company tried to market a car to women, but that Dodge went all-in with the names and accessories that would come with the car.
Underneath, this is just your typical mid-'50s American car, with the only real differences between the 'La Femme' and the rest of the range as female-focused marketing, styling cues, and accessories. I can just imagine a styling studio filled with grey suit-wearing men dreaming up its "Sapphire White" and "Heather Rose" exterior paint scheme in 1955 and "Misty Orchard" and "Regal Orchard" exterior paint in 1956.
The Custom Royal Lancer was the top-of-the-line Dodge (you may recognize its plebeian name, Coronet) and so the $143 option package to remodel the car into a woman-focused model was only attainable by the more wealthy members of the middle class. For enjoying the drive from suburbia to the local strip mall, that means a well-to-do husband could finally give his wife something nice to drive.
Get past its colour scheme and pink rosebud-embroidered Jacquard tapestry seats and it's apparent that Dodge was one of the first to fully colour-coordinate and accessorize a car right from the factory: La Femme owners got a pink calfskin purse (featuring a brushed metal medallion large enough to engrave a name onto) that had its own compartment built into the back of the passenger seat.
Inside the calfskin purse, you ask? Face powder, lipstick case, cigarette case, comb, cigarette lighter, and change purse.
But that's not all! Owners also got a raincoat, rain bonnet, and umbrella that matched the car's rosebud seats. For its next model year, 1956, the interior trim was even more elaborate—but the La Femme package no longer included a purse.
While it wasn't the first example of a vehicle being engineered to delight women—and certainly not the last—finer points surrounding the Dodge La Femme are still hotly debated today, including just how many were made. Not considered a full model by Dodge meant that its option package wasn't enough to see the La Femme broken out on sales charts. Research suggests that fewer than 2,500 were made in total, with fewer than 60 accounted for today.
It's clear that Dodge themselves weren't sure if women would gravitate toward such a vehicle—even their brochure wasn't all that convincing:
"Never a car more distinctively feminine than La Femme…first fine car created exclusively for women! In this superbly designed car, Dodge brings together luxurious, delicately-toned interiors and ultra-fashionable appointments…every sophisticated touch your heart could desire! Here is, truly, the ultimate in fine motoring."
The La Femme was one of the first cars to focus on the fairer sex, but history shows us it's far from the last. Do the sexes really need their own cars? Or maybe all of these seemingly gender-focused models don't carry the same stigma in 2015—even rapper T-Pain has his very own 'Gucci Edition' Fiat 500.