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13/01/2017

Detroit auto show charity preview fashion time line

 

The North American International Auto Show's black-tie Charity Preview gala — affectionately called Auto Prom — is the biggest party in town, and every year, the clothes attendees choose to wear speak to the health of the auto industry.

Consider the last few years:

2008: Gowns and champagne. The gala is in its glory — champagne, limos and lots of gowns. North American Car of the Year: General Motors' Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan. Truck of the Year: the Mazda CX-9, an SUV. Gala attendance: about 15,000.

2009: Dark days. With attendance sparse — estimates put it between 6,000 and 7,000 — gala attire turns decidedly downscale and dark, reflecting an auto industry on the verge of bankruptcy. Women arrive in black wool pants, black sweaters and, in some cases, Christmas sweaters. Men wear business suits. Few people drink champagne; the drink of choice is Budweiser. It's a sad sight all the way around. Car and Truck of the Year winners: the Hyundai Genesis and the Ford F-150. Later in the year, Chrysler and General Motors will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Top designer creates fashions for Lexus auto show spokesmodels

2010: Color returns. With a bailout under way, things are looking better for the American auto companies. Ford sweeps the Car and Truck of the Year awards, with its Fusion Hybrid and Transit Connect van. The cautious optimism shows as some women opt for brightly colored pink prom dresses . When asked why, several say they feel the industry has turned a corner and they want their dresses to symbolize a fresh, new start. Gala attendance: about 8,400.

2011: Frugal is in. Humbled by hard times and economic realities of cutbacks and restructuring, gala-goers are intent on showing off their fiscal responsibility. They brag about how little their dresses cost, how many times they've worn them previously and that their jewelry came from Forever 21, the fast fashion store favored by teens. American automakers take honors for both the Car and Truck of the Year awards, with Chevy's Volt, a new car designed for a new generation of drivers who demand fuel efficiency and money-saving potential, and the Ford Explorer. Later in the year, the government will sell its remaining shares of Chrysler stock to Fiat, giving the Italian automaker control of Chrysler. Gala attendance: about 10,500.

Buy PhotoWendy Hamburger, left and Darcy Fischer of Bloomfield Hills pretend to be driving a fast car during the 2016 North American International Auto Show Charity Preview at Cobo Center on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 in Detroit. (Photo: Romain Blanquart/Detroit Free Press)

2012: Less formal, more fashionable. As new life is breathed into the industry, younger people show up at the gala and a new trend emerges: More women than ever opt for au courant short dresses and many choose to pair them with black opaque tights. While the look is less formal than it was before the downturn, it's more fashionable. It's also a more practical look because most people get more use out of short dresses than they do long. Meanwhile, GM introduces two concept cars at the auto show that are aimed specifically at millennials. Car of the Year: Hyundai Elantra. Truck of the Year: Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Gala attendance: about 12,000.

2013: Confidence is back. In terms of age and ethnicity, the gala crowd appears more diverse than in previous years and more stylish. As confidence in the industry grows, bling returns in the form of shiny jewelry and sequined gowns and dresses. Auto companies show that they're trying to meld style and fuel economy. Cadillac introduces its first electric car. The Car and Truck of the Year awards go to the Cadillac ATS, Cadillac's first win in the award's history, and the Ram 1500 pickup. Gala attendance: just more than 13,000.

2014: A classic returns. As things improve even more for the auto industry, guess what makes a comeback at the gala? Fur! More than ever before, it appears in the form of coats, stoles, shawls and, in the case of one man, mink accents on his shoes. Women favor black dresses. The look is classic and here to stay. Just like the auto industry? The gala takes place about a month after the government sells the last of its GM stock. Meanwhile, cars get lighter as makers push for fuel efficiency. Chevy's Corvette Stingray and its Silverado truck win the Car and Truck of the Year awards. Gala attendance: about 13,700.

2015: More, more, more. In a year that celebrates enormous trucks — the Ford F-150 is the Truck of the Year — the fashion theme at the gala could best be described as more. More gowns with sheer accents, more cleavage, more dresses with thigh-high slits. And more floor-length dresses than in the most recent past. It's as if gala-goers have confused more for better when sometimes, it's just more. The Car of the Year: the Volkswagen Golf. Gala attendance: 13,350.

2016: Rented light pink prom dresses and a new lease on life for Huey Lewis. The Kardashian influence from the previous year seems to be gone, mostly. Seriously, gala-goers look classier than they have in years. And they're so fiscally responsible about it! Many women — especially millennials, who represent the future of the auto industry — choose to rent money-saving designer gowns from Rent the Runway. It's the Uberfication of fashion. Another trend: pantsuits! And a disconnect: If there's a new generation represented in the auto industry, why is the entertainment a guy from the 1980s? Nevertheless, gala attendees seem to enjoy Huey Lewis. Car of the Year: Honda Civic. Truck/Utility of the Year: Volvo XC90. Attendance: 13,075.

2017:Stay tuned! The 2017 Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year: Chevrolet Bolt electric car, Honda Ridgeline pickup and Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

 

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