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SYMHC Classics: April Calahan on France's Fashionable Resistance

2018-03-31 | 🔗

Today we're revisiting a talk with fashion historian April Calahan about the surprising ways that women of France protested German occupation during WWII.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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so listens April's interview and then check out dressed the history of fashion at dressed, podcast, dotcom, walkin stuff. You missed in history, tat supports that come well, and one asked I'm calling for. I see me well Tracy, and see what our listeners will recall back in January. We had fashion historian and author April Callahan of the Fashion Institute of Technology on to talk about the stenciling technique, Apush WAR and her amazing book on fashion plates that covers a hundred and fifty years of style. Is it jobs and not long after the interview as April, and I were emailing back and forth. She mentioned a lecture that she gave a few years ago about war war to fashion in France, and I was a media
intrigue, and so she had sent me some of the info about it, and I asked her to please please. Please come back and talk about that. So that is what we are talking today. I remember when that conversation happened and you are immediately so excited the Tracy tries it just go. They talk about it. Why, in addition to being something that is, is one of your personal interests. The subject itself is incredibly interesting and not something I ever had thought out of before right. We ve talked on the show win, Fashion has been dictated by world events because of things like there was a shortage of fabrics, though everybody war, things that require less break, but this is a whole other
way, more involved, timeline and and factors that that we're looking at today, yet one of those things that, if you are maybe a listener who is not into fashion stuff, I encourage you to give it a listen, because it might surprise you. We are gonna talk about fashion, but it's really about how fashion became a tool. All for the people of France. Yet so what Holly in April talked about in this interview is how fashion reacts at times of conflict and help fashion became a form political resistance in France, specifically, so, if you think of fashion as something frivolous that people should really spend the time talking about these emphasised that April shares, the place of style and the greater market place than economy of a culture. My really change your mind on that
yes, it was operating in writing. Today was nurse. We once again have one of my favorite guess at her April cower handbag to talk about some fashioned history. Welcome back to the podcast April. Having here, I think, I'm blackening right now thank you for having me. I'm always delighted to talk to you, because you always have cool information, and today we are going to talk about fast, as a form of rebelled. and but not necessarily in the sense that people might think of in terms of young people bending rules, but an actual historical moment time, which is France during the german occupation in world war. Two, an april- did a lecture on this particular topic at Yale, some years back and she was kind enough to share the notes on it with me, Sir it seemed like just wait. You rich and cool a topic to let go by without doing a show on it. So, first I have to ask you: what is
I urge you to research french fashion during the german occupation yeah here so, and I think I'm in this matter- and I was on the show, bat and the intersection of war and fashion has always been kind of one of my special interests at the fashion historian and had in fact and react in times of crisis. To me, this is a really fascinating question and a lot of really creative, interesting things happened: a fashionable clothing and wrath during these period that extra, conflict when people are forced to balance the basic services subsistence, that's required for their daily lives, with this in eight human desire to outwardly, define ourselves to others as human beings. Clothing is, of course, one of the main ways that we practise defining our two others. So, a few years ago, I, when I was invited to speak at that, I'm, supposing that you reference at Yale, it was actually on street style.
Oh, I didn't. I didn't really want to speak about Contemporary Street fail because I fear, and my fellow prevent herds. We're gonna cover this with a great power. I wanted to do something a little bit different, so I started digging back and I became entirely smitten with how these french women were using fashion during the Nazi occupation, as is really active, former political resistance and ever since then for something. into and I actively collect both french and german fashion magazines from the time, basically, one thousand nine hundred and thirty nine one thousand nine hundred and forty five the sum it may seem a little bit odd for the idea of clothing and specifically style to be really vital aspect of a country's wartime experience, but
this really really was a massive concern in France when the german occupation began. Can you talk about why that was the case? Yeah yeah and I think that thinking about fashion and work together can seem absolutely antithetical at first and I'm in a fairly generally here when I say that many people you fashion as a sort of frivolous unnecessary luxury,
and they don't give any due weight to withdraw and our economy. But fashion is truly a cog in the wheel of capitalism for capitalism. The work the desire to consume have to be sparked and fashioned system as a catalyst for igniting consumers desires to replace still useful objects with a new one that are perceived to be more in line with the current mood, and this is a huge part of what drives the marketplace. But in terms of France, the sun, King himself, Lou the Fourteenth recognise the significance of fashioned way way back in the seventeenth century, and I'm talking to sixteen hundred here.
and he started actively and aggressively cultivating France of luxury industries are the way to strengthen his nations economy. And then what happened was over the ensuing century. France really establish itself as this arbiter of style for the whole rest of the world. So by the time we were to happen by uniting forties, there was an international cachet associated with all things. French, and especially french clothing fashion was therefore both a matter of economics.
Letty for the country, but also a matter of national pride. So it's not really that surprising that it was a hot topic when the German, these control of a large portion of France and also with resources and nineteen forty and I mention resources. These resources were super important to the Germans to keep their war machine functioning. It required all sorts of basic things like food metal, fuel, it required wall and leather for clothing and scope for parachute. So, under the terms of the armistice, the Germans retain the right to make demands of France's raw materials and- and this pertains this is what happens. A system rationing starts be implemented. Fuel was the first thing to go scarce three months into the occupation. Food started being rash.
and good stuff like meat, Brad, milk, butter and eggs really basic things. Sugar also, those became subject, rationing, but more important to what we're talking about now later that year, the Nazis instituted restrictions governing the manufacture and sale of clothing and you can in in your paper that they set up this point system for allocating wardrobe vouchers and I'm really curious how exactly worked and, moreover, how it was received by the French and then you also talk a little bit about a trend called system d, and I want you to talk about have
arose from this whole voucher situation, yeah here and so had about your system work, whether our work and what each french citizen who held a food rations card, because the food rations system was implemented first and they were also issued coupons, which totalled thirty point, and this was where their annual clothing consumption. So were you to go into a store of its peak to buy something you would have to prevent your coupon and also- pay for their pay for their prey for the garment or accessory, and this allotment is number how they assigned the points. The value systems to think this is really at the early at subsistence level. So if you in a single year, purchased one Wall Skirt one shortly blouse and a pair of cotton stockings, this is, it was essentially all you
I fear that with it, so you can imagine how this is really demoralising to the french fashioned had been part of their national identity port centuries. This is something that they are very proud about, and and and for so what emerged in the wake of this clothing restriction system is really super inspiring Similarly, a lot of friends reminder via they we're not gonna. Take this lying down. It was really important to them that they rapid them retain a reputation for Sheikh and they started coming up with all sorts of creative work around to these clothing restrictions. The first package they employed became known as the stand, their french pronunciation or system, be you know it wasn't choice,
a b or see who's toy could be your fourth options. You know the one that you had a very little choice but to accept and what it was a more extreme, warm of the american campaign that got dubbed make do and manned from the same time period and both of these campaigns encourage recycling, the reuse and reporting of garments. So, for instance, they were, take on Swine earth and unravel them for the yarn and then ring at them into new garments or a man
and old suit might be ripped open at the themes can be used for the textiles and Rica until boys, you or maybe a woman's jacket. Women would take leaf or trimmings off old, garment that couldn't be repaired and then transfer them on to new garment, but am one in a funny and most interesting examples of the same day that I've seen with detailed in a french fashion magazine which provided the really detailed instructions, like practically step by step of how to take dog, hair groomed from long haired breed like poodles and how to spin and card it. In turn, it into meeting on That's fantastic, it is, and I imagine if you had rabbits, you would be set with Angora, and I'm also wondering when I say I love system day in terms of just the day. I, why angle to it is so, as you said it very inspiring and its of charming, even though it's really a very
he's the overboard term of fierce, but it it really is it dig in leg, just digging in your heels and going nope, you cannot do take what we, where we're going to find our own way. I love love, love it and never take back and defiant patient this happened go of stuff you missed in history, glasses, brought. You buy Norton three sixty with lifelong, let's just say shopping online with your smartphone. I do it all the time. They sure feels that your personal info is right there in your hand, but that's not always the case. Yes, because, as soon as you hit submit, your personal information could start going other places. In fact, when you shot bank or browse online. Your personal info can get out of your control, which can leave you vulnerable to cybercriminals. More threats demand more protection. That's why Norton and Lifelong are now part of one company,
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I know you talk a little bit about this in the research that you did. But will you talk some about how rationing changed footwear in France, because I think that is fascinating, yeah, yeah and and and had an interesting, twin and and connection to contemporary fashion and which all speak about her and a second? But an shoes were a huge problem in occupied France in nineteen forty one alone, the Nazis took for themselves five million pairs of the country's overall production of eight million, so more than half. at the same time, under under the governance and rules, are they instituted? The French were only allowed to reform their shoes. Once a year and they were allowed to by no more than one new pair of shoes made from rationed materials every four years. So this is a huge problem.
Other with one of the main Russia materials and seriously in short supply, so cobbler started riesling their clients, shoes with whatever materials they could get their hands on, and some of these were very bizarre, including old tyres. They would water our board, and he is that an either braid or play strips of straw and use that you recall their client shoes, but manufacturers at the time also recognise the problem. So they started trying to these alternate materials that were unregulated by german mandates and through this necessity that one of the most iconic looks of nineteen Borys afford Shoemaker started using wood cork in plastic, all of which were unwrast and materials, and they sorry, you didn't
create Hetty platform and wedge shoes, and the thickness of these ensured longevity of your purchase right because the height would take longer to wear it out, though. And anyway, you out there, who are fans of wood or cork wedge few that are like zebra, fashionable, nay you can. You can pick me, can thank french ingenuity of this period. Next time you you strapped them on that, is so funny to me, because we think of that as such, like particularly em resort where cork has set a course user. So popular and it's all because of a time when the idea of having resort time was really not in the picture at all love it. The next thing I wanted to talk about was the rather he's in move or plan on the part of Germany that ended up, thankfully getting derailed, which was that apparently there was a plan to move the couture industry out of Paris, which is terrifying,
and how exactly did they get derailed like? How was that stops? So indeed? Yes, then, plan for the moving of them but her industry to Germany were well under way and the Germans recognise the fiscal significance of not only french okochee but also their own domestic fashion industries. It's really curious and a point that kind of underscores the hypocrisy of the Nazi Party on one hand they were on the domestic comfort. They were officially promoting this archetype of the wholesome german hausfrau and are wearing traditional draft, but on the other hand, in practice they were actively supporting german high fashion exports for monetary gain, and I- and I feel it is an important point here- to make that the general german populous were also subject to clothing. Rationing start
in nineteen, thirty nine. But by that point within Germany it was almost a moot point, because so much of the country's own resources had already been drained for years prior to nineteen thirty the german people had kind of in railroaded into giving and donating whatever they could spared. The war effort you know that their there are instances of young bride did it. Maybe they're wedding gown to the cause, because it up at the silk might be able to be used for parachute. But yes, during the occupation, the Germans raided the offices of the governing body of Paris or culture industry. and they some the president at the time. Who is the Couturiere Luciano along and It is a complicated process at the Germans back and forth back and forth, but long was eventually able to convince them that oh couture was too inextricably hide apparent that to force it for a wholesale deportment of the industry did Germany that would kill it. Sped
and and also that it was really kind of an unfeasible proposition to export. All of these, general industries that applied to cut her? You know you had the textile manufacturers. You had risen in flower maker. You have dire leaders, Heatmakerz, embroiders embroidered milliners you to move all of those people with all those people and industries can be a herculean efforts, and showing an you're lecture. It was titled sleeping cobras. Will you explain to us what a sleeping cobra was in the context of fashion in France, in the nineteen forties
How was that style? Emblematic of France really kind of hanging onto its national identity during this time of occupation? And so I think the camping cobra can be, it can apply in a couple differently and I was kind of using it in two different ways and my reference there I'm first it could be a metaphor for these women right who were kind of violently protest thing with the fashions that they were wearing. But the phrase itself is something that's loosely based on. Are the writings of monopoly leading Katrina, the period Alsace Gap rally in one of her agrifuels she written about the hat that french women were wearing during and just after the occupation and a lot of people were legitimately shocked when the first images of Paris appeared after the liberation, because the fashions aimed so strange
oh, but are the silhouette had really become extreme and exaggerated? It had a really wide heavily padded shoulders is Paul. Clunky shoes and the headlines had risen and become much shorter, have they had? They were truly bizarre and really call them an incredible horror compared heard giant proven that these women were wearing he compared and few monstrous cobra the head huge meal and crawled up fleet and and and people beaten, who was a great cultural, touchstone of the time and bombed evolve and for they looked like domestic plumbing but now I love it, but at the hat
really kind of one of the main ways that french women were using fashion as a form of political resistance. During this period, and one of the reasons for that is the materials many other materials used to make hat that were used and millinery were unrestricted. So this became the sort of unexpected medium through which women were able to wage a violent protests. And then what how this kind of happened, whether that and then I can thirtieth hath, were little more trim little more tidy, but in the night he pointedly morphed into these really thwarted. Outlandish oversized creation and turbans grew so large that some of them actually required sure? Your wooden architecture that then, would be rapid and Swat, would like yards and yards a fabric, so the shape the size,
and the trimmings leave hat for exaggerated the point of being ridiculous- and this was intentional when there are basically flaunting extravagance and the faith of the enemy, they had no choice right, but to wear these threadbare, dresses, are things were kind of like mended and pat there are making do they were wearing, shoes which may or may not barely be holding together so tat. This is there a way to express themselves, and, and sometimes these has functioned explicitly as objects of revolt- and what am I very fair hat and the time Harry, which is in a collection and France? It were. It featured a really wide upturned brim and the brim had been printed with hash mark that resemble the hash marks of a radio dial and, above that it was,
the region and post Christian had been a really popular radio station before the occupation and when the Nazis, these control of the media is silence, persuasion and replace it with a different station a pro german he now collaborators nation facilities hat that they were wearing were. Actually. Why pointed in the political statements that they are making and speaking additionally of women who were really driving some of this protest. Will you talk little bit about the minutes and how they were really kind of the arbiters of style in some ways: yeah yeah pressure and minutes for women who work in the fashion industry. Oftentimes. They were young women and they were. kind of the hand or the worker of the fascinating they had all these technical skills rate, so they took system day or system
to a whole new level of sophistication, and they were so old scarves together to create these wild patchwork, textiles from which they would create ermine and they had all to fund with ribbon, because ribbons were unwrap, and so they so them together to make these really wide whimsical skirts. But once again it was with half that they were really taking it to the German. And they made enormous hats from loop loops of ribbon and scrap the cardboard and oil cloth, and sometimes they would build like fully fashion little vignette and themes into the hat You know it might be like a reproduction of a french village are really important french shockoe, but there was an article in vogue about the minuet right after the liberation of Paris and nineteen forty four I'm talking about them and how many of their creations were intentionally made to annoy the Germans and and this issue
point that wasn't entirely lost on, not the officials. They actually complain to loosen the long headed the numbers and a cow about it in his response, I think you'd, probably loving every minute of what the nuts are doing, but his official response was I can't do anything about this view. Styled are not being issued by fashion houses and I think that's really scores how a lot of these dials period and what were what you were saying D. I why fashion neither street styles created by people? I love the idea that, just by virtue of walking down the street in the garments that you have made and chosen to where you are making huge political statement, and in talking about so these sort of coded rebellious messages. There is some stuff in
Your lecture notes about coded messages on belts. You have to talk about the EAST yeah because either kind of green so women were painting embroidery about this is nothing new, but they started doing it during the occupation with Motifs, Frequently held hidden, meaning, you might see a very pretty belt and decorated, with little dare delicate arabesque, but there actually these to symbolise victory. Some of the belt you see, have musical notes on them which seem pretty harmless and charming. But if you could read music none of their score was actually taken from patriotic french funk and one of my favorite of the period where the belt that was entitled long ago,
and with hand painted an end of a campaign him with little images, a favorite French to his, which had disappeared, given all the food shortages that so cool it. I mean it's one of those things that I suspect many people at a time like most german officers for not thinking. Oh, I bet they're coded messages and those ridiculous belts. So, at such a wonderful sort of sneaky Wade is still like assert your feelings on the matter of occupation. Yes, so sub alternate universe, the fashion industry, move to Berlin and probably bite off, and I being interested in fashion and clothing and selfishly glad that it is not this universe. Thank you, Lucy
along wholesale, I'm really interested in some of the stranger trends that grew out of this time, like the but turban, so big that you had to have a wooden infrastructure under it yeah. It's it's a lot to think about wearing on your head, and I really love this secret messages that are, there were embedded in some of the fashions of the day and the way the minutes were purposely making annoying clothes just to anchor the Germans April is so good at like doling out so many really inspiring and interesting tidbits, and now I totally want to embed secret messages in everything I make so next April is miss Eyre details of fashion at the race track during the war meant burst. We're gonna have another brief break for a word from one of our sponsors. This episode of stuff, you missed in history, glances brought you buy Sakharov three years a really good time to take stock and change your habits, because we all want to be our best selves and
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Well, this sakharov dot com, slash history, so this last segment is gonna. Give you are really wonderful, Easter egg about the term clothes horse, as well as some pretty mind, blowing information about how salons are one salon in particular, was using some very unusual power to dry ladys hair you also talk a little bit about how race courses actually became.
sort of de facto runways during occupation? Will you expound on that? A little bit too have had two of the race track as run my isn't, actually something unique to the period of occupation and attending. The reason was an immensely popular pastime for decades prior along with the theatre, it was kind of the play CNBC so much so that fashion designers would send models or actresses to the races dressed in their latest collections of a form of advertising, and this is really an established practice by the nineteen. Forty, so the association between women, clothes and horses with so strong. This is actually where the term clothes horse comes from. The model through the air to work showing off the closures. the horses were there to work racing
during the teens during the night contains you also end and fashioned periodicals. You sometimes also see professional models finally referred to as jockeys for much Reason there was about some other really wonderful, tidbits in your notes and one of them that just delighted me and sort of blooming away at the same time is this piece about cyclists, like bicyclist, being used to dry hair in the salon of the hairdresser Gervais. Will you talk a little bit about worked right, hand in hand with all this other rationing and shortages that are that was happening at the time. You can imagine it's wartime right. Sokol was also unsure of supply and it's certain points. Electricity was being rationed, so you may have you know a few hours of electricity here or there
and by the hair style that were really fashionable. The time required frequent visits to the hairdresser to maintain Fordham, waft, waved, look and usually that would be set under a hare drier. So, with all the sudden, electricity. There is one particular hairdressers surveys and he he install that panda bike and the basement of a full and he hooked up this intricate protect traction whereby he attacked his hair dryers to stove pipe and those two fan. And then the fans were were powered by teams of of two people. Writing the bike in the basement and this is something that Lee Miller wrote about at the time and She also took photos documenting then- and this is another reason that turban for a popular at the time
if your cloth with less than ideal, if you hadn't been able to visit the hairdresser, you could cover it or alternately, you could use turban to cover a wet that when you relieving the salon. Ah, I just love the idea of these poor people trapped in the basement. Basically, so people can have beautiful hair. He. He writes that here that they would power Turkey's enough power to dry around. Like a hum a hundred women head the day, that's impressive, a little bit about wedge shoes still being a thing today, was there were there any other long, lasting echoes in fashion from this sort of stylish rebellion? There was going on in France and reward to I mean I don't know so much about. Irish rebellion part, but the night before either it's always a touchstone for
fashion, designers row, your we will see from time to time these references coming back to this really heavily padded wide shoulders. in the narrow nipped we readily. I can I think you did a really great question in two thousand Levin that was kind of loosely based on that follow at was fantastic, but yeah really it's it's. Where are we Today, with it with the very explicit can and between rationing and and fashioned today would absolutely be with issues that the path for her when she was that we were today- and I have to ask if there were one style from this moment in time- from this sort of forced creativity that was going on that you could bring back today. What would you choose? Yeah? I know so much about a headache.
YO, and I would bring back and more about embracing a certain energy or mood and despite the fact that these are- a very, very difficult time. I don't. I don't know what to gloss over that. These would leave a horrific time through a lot of people, but in these fashion, You can still feel that certain issues- viva right there are very irritated there, they're very optimistic, and sometimes they were outright funny and laughable. So I guess what I would to take away from that is really embracing. The sense of playfulness and fashion. You know, have fun with action. Be bold, don't be afraid to make a statement
Ladys are making statements all over the place and then, if you want to make a different payment the next day, that's ok, you have her mission making them and make yet another different favyn Lino today, after you know, you can catch my draft. I think that an if you're having fun with fashion there aren't any mistake the lethal. My luck, o a man, I'm with you. I'm still gonna lobby, though, for the belts to cover so belts, embroider potato minor wrong. Maybe some designer role here that and in a little bark lap, and we can only I really love the idea of music. You know laid out on your your belt or any other accessory, it so sweet again. I always feel so lucky when we get to talk to you, because you have so much cool information about fashion in history and last time you were on, we talked a lot about your book fashion of the art of push war and also your books,
should plates a hundred and fifty years of style which continue to be spectacular, but there is a coup, new developments. Europe fashioned plates book is coming out in paper back. This fall yes It is true, and it is actually already available for pre order on Amazon, so the previously as a luxury addition fur. So for any view with nurse who may have been deterred by its hefty price point, There is now a much more attainable accessible version available on Amazon, maybe honour and will be out in a and if the cover is the same, one that currently posted on Amazon. It's a very cool cover, Like you get some media is. I had heard it approved the back of her last week and I will once again sing the praises of that book. I love it. So much is just such a feast for the eyes and really the soul if
and to design at all, whether you're into clothing or any other kind of design. You see so much of like how human taste is developing through the years just by looking at the clothing. So it's absolutely beautiful and I can't recommended enough April. Thank you. Much for coming and talking to us about World war to fashion. How can people find you if they want to hear or from you on line of course, you can follow if I d better connections on Instagram at at MIT special collections, and you can also search online for our blog, where we cover relief fund cool things that we have and you can just search at IP material mode block the blogger com, material mood and actually gonna put something a new right after we got off the phone here so excellent with its excellent, and we also put a link to that blog in her show notes April again. Thank you so much you're, just a delight
three. I get that. Thank you so much for joining us for this Saturday classic, since this is the I've, if you heard an email address or facebook url or something similar during the course of the show that maybe obsolete now. So here is our current contact information we're at at history podcast how stuff- dot com and then we're at missed in history all social media? That is our name on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram thanks again for listening for more stuff works, dot com. everybody. So this episode, sponsored by the all New Mazda, see Ex thirty, which actually just got to Es Dr recently in the beautiful mountains of southern california- and I
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