Paper Dresses and Psychedelic Catsuits: When Airline Fashion Was Flying High

Flight attendants have always been service and safety professionals, but at one time they were blatantly used as sex symbols to lure customers. Stewardesses of the 1960s and ‘70s were fashion plates, and designers had a great time making them look different and striking. Collectors Weekly talked to former steward and uniform collector Cliff Muskiet and transportation memorabilia collector Todd Lappin about airline fashions of that era.

Because no one tried to hide the fact that flight attendants were there to be eye candy, big-named designers had a fun time dressing them up and coming up with sexy new gimmicks to promote air travel. In 1968, Jean Louis gave United Airlines stewardesses a simple, mod A-line dress with a wide stripe down the front and around the collar, and paired it with a big, blocky kefi-type cap. During the ’60s and ’70s, Pucci designed five different uniforms for Braniff International Airways.

“If you look at the Pucci uniforms, you can’t imagine that women wore these items,” Muskiet says. “There was even a space helmet, like a plastic bubble. It was used when it was raining outside, so the hat and hair wouldn’t get wet. Braniff also had something called the ‘Air Strip’ in 1965. During service, the stewardesses would take something off to reveal a different layer and a different look underneath. They might be wearing a skirt and remove it to show off their hot pants beneath.”

Airlines still try to have fashionable uniforms, but they are less sexist and more professional and functional these days. Read about how that happened, along with the history of flight attendant uniforms, at Collectors Weekly.   

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