These days the idea of a car marketed specifically at women seems like blatant sexism. But back in the 1950s Chrysler realised that women were becoming increasingly interested in cars and they had greater in influence on decisions for couples buying cars.
Chrysler’s response was the La Femme, an option package on the magnificently named Dodge Custom Royal Lancer launched in 1955. For an extra $143 the La Femme got two-tone Sapphire White and Heather Rose paint, an interior trimmed in beige vinyl and a tapestry-type material with a rosebud motif, and a pink calfskin clutch. Designed by ladies’ outfitter Evans, the clutch contained a powder compact, lipstick case, cigarette case and lighter and a comb and purse. If that wasn’t enough, a raincoat, bonnet and umbrella were thrown in as well.
The brochures grandly stated that the La Femme was made “By special appointment to Her Majesty… the American Woman.” For ’56 there was new paint and trim but no clutch. Dodge told dealers it was a “stunning success” but it was dropped for ’57. Production is estimated at 2,500, of which maybe 50 still exist. In short it was a flop.
Why? Lack of marketing, essentially. Single sheet pamphlets were all the materials dealers got. There were bigger fish to fry in the Chrysler group anyway, legends like the Chrysler 300 series and Plymouth Fury coming at the same time.
Though it seems deeply questionable now, the Dodge La Femme was a step forward for women because it showed the car industry was starting recognise the growing importance of female consumers.
By Only Motors