Dodge knows what a lady wants.
The beauty of nuclear-family era sexism is how self-revealing it is. In this very real, and very forgotten, print ad from 1956, we learn that of all the models Dodge offered that year, women—with their limited needs and simple interests—could be completely placated by a single option package, as long as it made the car pink.
Favorite Car Ads: 1956 Dodge La Femme
The Dodge La Femme, was made available to the ladies of the Union in 1955 and 1956, and addressed all the automotive concerns your better half might have, which apparently were limited to color, interior trim, and matching accessories. No worries, hubby can worry about the technical stuff, and apparently pay for the car.
The La Femme was first seen in 1955, and per a letter sent to dealers that year, the car was a huge success. So popular, in fact, that it would be offered again in 1956.
The La Femme was not actually a model, but an option package offered only on the topline Custom Royal hardtop coupe. The La Femme was offered only in a single exterior color combination (Sapphire White/Heather Rose for 1955, and Misty Orchid/Regal Orchid for ’56), and single cabin trim package, which was updated for ’56. Again, this because women’s needs are simple.
Included both years was a cabin-matching purse, which came stocked with such travel necessities as a face-powder compact, lipstick case, cigarette case, comb, cigarette lighter, and a change purse. The purse fillers were all made of either faux-tortoiseshell plastic and gold-tone metal, or pink calfskin and gold-tone metal, and all were designed and produced by jewelry maker Evans Case Company of North Attleboro, Massachusetts.
The La Femme package did not come cheap. The option listed for $143 both years it was offered, which comes to roughly $1600 today.
Despite employment of a tri-fold mailer/brochure which opened with the catchy line, “By Special Appointment to Her Majesty… the American Woman,” American women pretty much stayed away from the La Femme. It’s hard to know, some 70 years hence, exactly how patronizing this marketing effort was perceived to be, but even in the Father Knows Best era, the La Femme had to be looked upon cynically by most of its intended audience.
Solid numbers are not to be had, but educated guesses put total La Femme sales at about 2500 combined unites for 1955 and 1956.
Some thoughts on the La Femme:
- This car was almost certainly a resale disaster. As most vehicles sold in the Fifties were ultimately sold the men, the La Femme’s color scheme, and troubling model name, meant the universe of likely second-hand buyers was necessarily limited.
- Most La Femme purchases would likely have been as second cars. As such, they would serve as backup for the primary car in the household, however no male head-of-household—especially in the Fifties—was going to drive his wife’s pink-on-pink Dodge, even in an emergency. I would argue the car’s gender-specific mission hurt sales to housewives for this reason.
- Word is, the La Femme was an immediate hit with an unexpected customer base: Pimps. I can find little to support this claim, but more than one person around at the time has suggested that this was the case, and it was perceived to be a problem by the folks at Dodge. Sounds crazy, but it also sounds possible.
What is probably the most-galling element of this particular ad is the suggestion that the La Femme is “exclusively yours.” If, by exclusive, Dodge means the single-spec, single-trim, single-body-style model designed to fit the needs of half the country’s population, then yeah, sure, the La Femme was exclusive. This while more complicated male customers were served by the other 30 or so Dodge offerings available in 1955 and 1956, including six station wagon models. The La Femme is both rare, and only somewhat desirable, as such, it’s value is difficult to determine. As of this printing, no La Femmes are available for sale on line, though recent sales but the good-condition transaction price of Dodge’s ladies-only coupes at around $40,000. And if you can’t find a buyer for it when you’re ready to sell, maybe you can rent the car to a brothel. Might be a fun thing to park in the front lot.
1956 Dodge La Femme Gallery
Click below for enlarged images
1956 Dodge La Femme