Flight Attendant Fashions New "Style In The Aisle" Exhibit Opens


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Flight Attendant Fashions New "Style In The Aisle" Exhibit Opens

Eddy Metcalf

January 15, 2011 - The Museum's acclaimed Style in the Aisle temporary exhibit returns with exciting new flair. Style in the Aisle reveals the professional world of flight attendants and the popular cultures that influenced the job and its fashions. 

Created by The Museum of Flight, this delightful display of airline memorabilia and vintage uniforms spans from the nurse togs of the 1930s to the fab fashions inspired in the 1960s and 1970s.

While retaining the essence of the original 2008 exhibit, most of the uniforms in this exhibit have not been seen since they graced airline cabins decades ago. The collection represents 12 airlines, including TWA, Braniff, Hughes Airwest and others that flew into the sunset years ago.

Enhanced with photos, videos and artifacts, the exhibit captures the bygone ages of airline travel into the 1980s. The exhibit will run from January 29, 2011 until May 30, 2011, and includes Style-related Museum events and programs until the show closes.

"In 2008, Style in the Aisle was visited by hundreds of former flight attendants from around the country," said Kathrine Browne, of the Museum's curatorial staff, "and it inspired many of them to donate their own, treasured uniforms and memorabilia to the Museum. This new exhibit puts these beautiful items on display for the first time."  

Style in the Aisle uncovers the history of flight attendants through their fashion, their role in creating new standards for aircraft design and functionality, and their crucial involvement in the development of equitable working conditions for women in the United States. For over 80 years, American flight attendants have worked to make airplane passengers feel safe and comfortable. Sometimes underestimated, often romanticized, and always admired, flight attendants--almost exclusively female in the early days of the profession--have been the public face of air travel.  

Most of the uniforms on display in the exhibit are from the flamboyant 1960s and 1970s. The collection includes creations by Parisian designer Jean Louis, Italian designer Emilio Pucci, and Hollywood designer Oleg Cassini. Trans World Airlines, Western Airlines and Braniff International represent a few of the airlines that flew the groovy garb featured in the exhibit. Rare articles also include a 1936 United Air Lines uniform, and a 1945 Northwest Airlines ensemble accented with a mink stole.


"You have captured the spirit and changing 'moods' of the profession," said Kirk Ann Neil, United Airlines flight attendant from 1966 to 2003. "Thank you especially for emphasizing the flight attendant's role in safety on board." In 1930, Boeing Air Transport hired eight nurses as "stewardesses" to add a sense of safety to concerned passengers. In the early days, stewardesses wore a nurse-like gray uniform in the cabin and military-style wool suits and caps outdoors. Passengers welcomed the extra service and friendliness of the nurse on board. In the 1940s and 1950s, airline hostesses were expected to be feminine but modest.

White gloves, girdles, hats, and spectator shoes gave stewardesses an attractive and professional look. In the 1960s until the mid-1970s, airlines raced to stay ahead of the competition by hiring artists and fashion designers to create a distinctive image for their flight attendants. The modest suits of earlier years gave way to colorful outfits with hot pants, mini-skirts, and go-go boots.  Recent trends have brought styles almost full-circle with a sober, corporate look nearly universal in the profession. For more information on this event

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