Flying the Fashionable Skies

Aug 31, 2014 | 9:27 AM

When exploring ideas for my music videos and live performances, I usually discover something new and get a little fascinated by it. And if you’ve been paying attention, you probably know that pretty often my new obsessions have to do with fun, fashion, and the fabulous 1960s!


A few years ago, I played a dancing, singing stewardess in my video for “Age of Aquarius.” And you better believe my look was inspired by a time when air travel was all about luxury, class, sass, and a touch of sex appeal!



In the 1960s and 1970s, frequent-flying businessmen wore suits, and women dressed up in their finest. And the stewardesses who served them were actually trained to be entertainers as much as they were trained in the finer points of plane safety.



An ad for air travel from the 1960s


It was in the swingin’ ’60s that flight attendants became eye candy and marketing icons for airlines. The skirts got shorter, and stewardesses donned some of my favorite accessories:  go-go boots, hot pants, false eyelashes,and bouffant hairdos. Trying to “out-fabulous” each other with stewardess outfits actually became a way for airlines to compete with each other and nab more customers.


But it was super-smart marketer Mary Wells who first decided to bring high fashion to the friendly skies. Hired to help the struggling Braniff Airlines in 1965, she noticed that people saw most airlines as the same. So she launched a little campaign called “The End of the Plain Plane,” which revolutionized everything from airport lounges to uniforms.


Chic designer Emilio Pucci was hired to inject some major glamour into stewardess’ get-ups. Pucci’s first uniform for the company was a celebration of his own jet-setting, high-society clientele and the exclusive nature of air travel during that decade. He put together a wardrobe popping with bright coral reds, hyacinth blues, melons, and grass-green in ultra-luxurious fabrics. Hostesses could make as many as four outfit changes in a single flight!



Some of Pucci’s first far-out designs for Braniff Airlines



Pucci was all about the patterns!


The plastic bubble helmet designed to protect hairstyles on windy tarmacs was phased out after 1965 for being impractical. (Imagine that!)



Pucci’s Spacey Hair Helmet


Other airlines followed Braniff’s lead, and some of the designer uniforms by style superstars like Pierre Balmain, Mario Armond Zamparelli, Halston, and others got pretty darn wild! The trend continued from the 1960s, through the 1980s.



TWA stewardesses sporting designs by Pierre Balmain, 1965


Mario Armond Zamparelli for Hughes Airways

Mario Armond Zamparelli for Hughes Airwest in the early ’70s



Pacific Southwest Airlines Uniform, 1973


Quantas Airways, 1974-1985, Pucci uniforms

Pucci for Qantas, 1974



Halston for Braniff Airlines, 1977


Virgin Air still makes it all seem glam, but that’s about it for glamour when flying the friendly skies. Anyone else miss the days of glam air travel? If so, you can always watch my video to get your fill.




2 thoughts on “Flying the Fashionable Skies”

  1. Bruce Thomas     Reply

    I remember when TWA was “all that” and picking up up my grandad, Dr Luedde at DCA in the fancy terminal before security when you could walk all the way back to the gates.

  2. Robert     Reply

    When my grandparents would come to visit for the Holidays (in the ’70s, mainly), they would always travel dressed to the nines. My grandfather would be in a suit, and my grandmother would be in her fur coat.
    The first time my uncle came to visit – getting off the plane in jeans and sandals – it was practically a scandal.
    I miss the exotic cache of travel, but I’m glad I can travel in shorts.

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