Dodge La Femme
- See also 1955 Dodge
The La Femme's Raison D'être stemmed from Chrysler's marketing department's observation that more and more women were taking interest in automobiles during the 1950s, and that women’s opinions on which color car to buy was becoming part of the decision making process for couples buying an automobile. The La Femme was an attempt to gain a foothold in the women's automobile market.
The La Femme concept was based upon two Chrysler show cars from the 1954 season. Named Le Comte, and La Comtesse, each was built from a Chrysler Newport hardtop body, and each was given a clear plastic roof over the entire passenger compartment. While the Le Comte was designed using masculine colors, the La Comtesse was painted "Dusty Rose" and "Pigeon Grey" in order to convey femininity. Favorable responses encouraged Chrysler to pursue the La Comtesse concept.
Dodge received the project and renamed the concept the La Femme, which began as a 1955 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer "spring special" hardtop two-door coupe, painted "Sapphire White" and "Heather Rose". From there, the exterior received special gold-colored "La Femme" scripts that replaced the standard "Custom Royal Lancer" scripts on the cars front fenders.
The interior of the car also received attention and features. 1955 La Femme interiors were upholstered in a special tapestry material featuring pink rosebuds on a pale silver-pink background and pale pink vinyl trim. The La Femme also came with a keystone-shaped, pink calfskin purse that coordinated with the interior of the car. The purse could be stowed in a special compartment built into the back of the passenger seat, and its gold-plated medallion faced outward. This brushed-metal medallion was large enough to have the owner's name engraved upon it.
Each purse was outfitted with a coordinated set of accessories inside, which included a face-powder compact, lipstick case, cigarette case, comb, cigarette lighter and change purse, all made of either faux-tortoiseshell plastic and gold-tone metal, or pink calfskin and gold-tone metal, and all were designed and made by “Evans”, which was a maker of women's fine garments and accessories in Chicago, Illinois. Guards were eventually posted on the Dodge assembly-line at the time when Dodge LaFemme spring special models were being assembled, because the stacks of fine-quality cardboard boxes containing the LaFemme accessories were prime objects of theft.
On the back of the drivers seat was a compartment that contained a raincoat, rain bonnet and umbrella, all made from a vinyl patterned to match the rosebud interior fabric. Dodge marketing brochures for the La Femme stated clearly that the car was made "By Special Appointment to Her Majesty... the American Woman."
For 1956, the La Femme returned, with no less fanfare; letters to dealers from Dodge’s marketing department called the La Femme a "stunning success". For 1956, Dodge replaced the Heather Rose and Sapphire White scheme with a Misty Orchid and Regal Orchid color scheme. The interior of the car in 1956 did not take its cue from the 1955 model, and instead featured "La Femme" only seat patterns, headliner, interior paint and carpet. The fabrics used have proven very difficult to reproduce. The seat coverings were made of a heavy white cloth with random, organic-seeming patterns of short lavender and purple loops, in a manner very similar to loop-pile carpeting. The headliner cloth was also heavy white fabric, with many, tiny random splashes of gold paint. The carpeting was loop pile with several shades of lavender and purple. The boxes behind the seats were also changed for 1956 to accommodate the rain coat, rain cap and umbrella that came with the model. Both boxes were identical this year, because there was no need for accommodation for a purse, which was only offered with the 1955 La Femme.
Dodge dropped the La Femme for 1957 and did not revisit the concept. Because the La Femme was a $143 option package, its total production was never broken out from Dodge's production numbers, although research suggests less than 300 were made over the two-year period. Less than 50 are known to survive.
Many theories exist concerning the low sales of the LaFemme trim package. No evidence of magazine, television, radio or other LaFemme advertisements have ever been found since 1986. Given the large number of Dodge dealerships in the U.S. at the time, very few of them ever received a demonstration LaFemme for their showroom. Instead, single-sheet dealer pamphlets were the only clue that Dodge LaFemmes were available for purchase, in a time when other trim-special models such as the Chrysler 300 letter series, Plymouth Fury and DeSoto Adventurer were widely and enthusiastically promoted.
- LaFemme: a fancy and feminine statement of the chauvinist '50s Aftermarket Business, James Guyette, Author. January 2004.
- 1955-56 Dodge La Femme: “By Appointment to Her Majesty – the American Woman” Collectible Automobile, Tom Lindsey, Author. February 1988.