More flight attendant uniforms – and astronauts!

I decided to write another post about the Fashion in Flight exhibit on the history of flight attendant uniforms that was on display at the San Francisco International Airport – note the past tense – was. The exhibit closed last Sunday. I feel bad that I didn’t get around to blogging about it until the week before the exhibit closed (read my earlier post here). So here are a few more photos, plus a look at spacesuits because so many flight attendant uniforms of the 1960s were inspired by the astronauts of that era.

Photo credit: Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas

Braniff International Airways hostess in uniform by Emilio Pucci (1965)
Photo credit: Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas

This ensemble is part of a collection of designs designed by Emilio Pucci for Braniff International Airways. He called it “Gemini IV,” after NASA’s Gemini program, which was the precursor to the Apollo program that sent astronauts to the moon. Clearly this plastic helmet was a takeoff on astronaut headgear. It was worn for publicity photos and when greeting passengers before they got on a flight. Braniff liked to call its flight attendants “air hostesses.” (You can see more photos of this uniform in my previous post about Fashion in Flight. Note: The nice photos are courtesy of the SFO Museum or the airlines that loaned them the images or uniforms. The photos with glare are the ones I took at the exhibit. All the uniforms were behind glass and it was difficult to take a good photos.)

This flight attendant uniform made me curious about astronaut outfits so I decided to look for photos of NASA spacesuits on its website and Flickr page. (NASA is a U.S. government agency so their images don’t have copyright restrictions. Check out NASA’s Flickr album Astronauts.)

Here’s the very first group of U.S. astronauts, known as the Mercury 7. They were part of Project Mercury, NASA’s first program to get a man into space.

On April 9, 1959, NASA introduced its first astronaut class, the Mercury 7. Front row, left to right: Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald K. "Deke" Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter; back row, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. Photo credit: NASA

On April 9, 1959, NASA introduced its first astronaut class, the Mercury 7. Front row, left to right: Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter; back row, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.
Photo credit: NASA

This publicity photo was taken in 1959 but they didn’t make it into space until 1961. It took all that time for NASA to figure out how to get a manned capsule into space and then several more months to determines how to orbit the Earth and land safely. One thing that this group of astronauts had in common with the flight attendants of the era is that they had to be of a certain weight and height because of the size of the capsule. (Check out this article “Women in the Skies,” on flight attendants, excerpted in Ms. magazine.)

Speaking of space flight, I’ve been reading Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures (affiliate link here), which is the inspiration for the film of the same title. If you read the book or see the film, you will be inspired by the stories of the incredible African-American women mathematicians behind the complex theoretical math calculations that helped make the space voyage possible. If you haven’t seen the film Hidden Figures, go see it!

Now check out this flight attendant uniform from the 1960s – note the silver fabric. Unfortunately, I didn’t note which airline had this uniform when I took this photo last month. The fabric has that astronaut sheen to it. 😉

1960s flight uniform

Here’s a spacesuit from 1966, part of the Gemini program. The neck makes me think of the 1960s funnel necks and more recent patterns such as  the Tilly and the Buttons Coco Top + Dress.

Gemini-Titan 4 (GT-4) Prime flight crew, Ed White and Jim McDivitt, at Pad 19. May 29, 1966

Gemini-Titan 4 Prime flight crew, Ed White and Jim McDivitt, at Pad 19. May 29, 1966 (NASA on the Commons, Flickr)

I found a fun video on the NASA website about spacesuits. After you watch the video, which is introduced by an avatar (you can skip the animated intro), you’ll see six versions of NASA spacesuits, from the shiny silver of the Mercury missions to the orange “pumpkin suit” and the most recent one designed for future space exploration.

Here’s the 1968 spacesuit design for the Apollo astronauts. Note the various valves on the torso of the suits.

Apollo 8 crew is photographed posing on a Kennedy Space Center (KSC) simulator in their space suits. From left to right are: James A. Lovell Jr., William A. Anders, and Frank Borman. November 22, 1968 (NASA on the Commons)

Apollo 8 crew is photographed posing on a Kennedy Space Center simulator in their space suits. From left to right are: James A. Lovell Jr., William A. Anders, and Frank Borman. November 22, 1968 (NASA on the Commons, Flickr)

These ladies have a space-age look to them, too. I see spacesuit touches in their necklines and the round pocket opening seems inspired by the valves on the spacesuits, eh? This photo was also in the SFO Museum’s Fashion in Flight photo album for the exhibit.

Union de Transport Aériens stewardesses in uniforms by Pierre Cardin 1968 photograph Air France Collection.DR/Air France Museum Collection.

Union de Transport Aériens stewardesses in uniforms by Pierre Cardin (1968) photograph Air France Collection.DR/Air France Museum Collection.

The front round pocket is more of a design element than any practical use. I don’t know if you can fit your entire hand in it unless you have small hands. Here’s a look at the actual uniform in the exhibit (sorry for the glare).

Union de Transport Aériens - uniform designed by Pierre Cardin - 1968

Union de Transport Aériens – uniform designed by Pierre Cardin – 1968

Here’s a closer shot I took of the pocket. (Note the interesting topstitching at the waist. It’s quite a distance from the seam, isn’t it?)

Union de Transport Aériens - uniform designed by Pierre Cardin - 1968

Here’s the last of the 1960s photos I took. This 1968 polyester flight attendant uniform designed by Oleg Cassini for Air West and has a bit of “Starfleet Command” in it, according to the exhibit. I can definitely see that. (The original Star Trek series was on the air from 1966 to 1969.)

Air West 1968 uniform designed by Oleg Cassini

Air West 1968 uniform designed by Oleg Cassini

I hope you enjoyed this foray into 1960s fashion and astronauts!

You can see more photos of the flight attendant uniforms in Fashion in Flight on the SFO Museum website here.

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