A fantasy blend of stitched-on pinstripes and mint-colored wool, designer Aubrey McMillan's severely rad flight-attendant apparel manages to be crisp and saucy at once, with retro details recalling the opulence of early air travel, when planes had piano bars, four-course meals, and spiral staircases accessing lower decks. In Airline, Keith Lovegrove describes a ritzy first-class lounge from 1972 with mirrored ceiling tiles, walls set with "bright orange, deep-pile" carpeting, and a windowed podium draped in faux tiger skin that "doubled as a viewing port through the bottom of the aircraft."
Sci-fi themes gripped the '60s scene, and stewardess uniforms mixed geometric silhouettes with mod accessories: flat kid boots, molded tunics, marshmallowy fabric. For Braniff International, Emilio Pucci created the ridiculous "Space Bubble" clear plastic helmet, designed to shield elaborately sculpted hairstyles on wind-roiled tarmacs before the invention of sky tunnels.
Flight uniforms pushed the gimmicks. TWA deployed a line of disposable paper costumes carefully styled to match the in-flight meals: "black Roman togas for lasagna, Parisian couture gold mini-skirts for éclairs, tavern wench ruffled dresses for shepherd's pie, and Manhattan hostess pajamas for steak," according to Eve M. Kahn in the New York Times. For Pan American, Anne Klein paired a "cosy" sweater with "jolly plaid pants" for a "fun mom" look, wrote Keith, and components of American Airlines' commemorative Daniel Boone outfit were seemingly pulled out of a bucket: a flowing tartan cape, knee-high rain galoshes, and a coonskin hat. Other flight-attendant garments engaged a free fall of fashion details such as mid-thigh hems, lace-up go-go boots, wet-look vinyl hot pants, bold swirls of color, and shimmery aprons. There were flared trousers, low-slung chain-link belts, fishnet stockings, kimonos, and sculptural headwear that resembled "a cross between a jockey's cap and a mailbox," wrote Bruce Handy in Vanity Fair.
The clothes looked great, but bullshit accompanied the job in towering loads, what with the era's suggestive advertisements, groping passengers and staff, and the silly weight and beauty standards. In 1974, Stewardesses for Women's Rights members set fire to a batch of uniforms in protest, "only to find that the synthetic fabrics melted and burned with shocking rapidity," according to Kathleen Morgan Barry in Femininity in Flight. It's easy to imagine the residual charred-chemical smell resembling some special mix of firecrackers and meth labs.
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