Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pattern Trail

Ok, time to actually finish my little story that starts with this pattern:

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It's a mail-order pattern apparently bought through the Kansas City Star and sent to a Dallasite. Her full name and address was on the envelope but, just in case she's still alive and wants privacy, let's call her Millie. So Millie bought this pattern and did what I do to so many of them - cut out the pieces fairly roughly but never made anything out of it.

Curious to know about Millie I typed her full name into google, the knower of all things there are to know. And it actually found a hit. This picture of the 1960 graduating class of Braniff Flight Attendants:

Now some of you may have heard of Braniff International Airways but this child of the late 80s was clueless. Fortunately Wikipedia was there to help with a history of this Dallas based airline. So let's see, we have a late 50s/early 60s style pattern shipped to a Dallas address and a flight attendant for a Dallas airline starting her career in 1960? While it's not certain, it seems at least very likely these two are the same.

And in many stories this would be the intro to this woman's life, her dramas, her family, and an epilogue of either her death or current life. In many stories. Not in this one. This one picture and one pattern are where my investigation of Millie ends. Yes, I could go through old microfiche of the Dallas newspaper and find record of her marriage or death or something. But honestly ... I don't care all that much. It would be neat to know more about Millie but not that neat. Especially when I'm behind in my Greek collating.

So Millie's story ends here but it opens up a whole little world of absolutely amazing stewardess uniforms. You see, Braniff International Airways wasn't content with being just another airline. They wanted to fly with style. Granted, it took them a while to get to this point. Their
uniform for their 1937 debut was nice but, from what I've seen from other airlines of that period, nothing all that special.

This trend continued for a while, though their uniforms in 1943 included "scandalously short" skirts. I mean, just look at these skimpy things:

Horrors! You can almost see the knee! LOVE the shoes, by the way.

In the 50s they began moving towards more designer uniforms with Neiman Marcus designing this beauty which included kick pleats for walking and gussets that stretched from the underarm to the waist for all those times they had to put luggage into overhead bins. Stylish and practical - I love it.

And once again I love the shoes. However those bright white lapels are a bit much for me ...

Moving to the early 60s things got boxier and more subdued. While I like 3/4 length sleeves, those plus the gloves just make my wrists cold. But still, very stylish looks created by Nardis of Dallas. Whoever that is.

All fine and good - the stewardesses (this was long before flight attendants!) looked like nice, tailored stewardesses.

But that wasn't good enough for the new management of Braniff. They wanted luxury, style, and sexiness. For this they turned to Emilio Pucci (hear of him?) and this is what he gave back:

Take special note of those boots.

The fun doesn't stop there. These uniforms just kept getting more and more creative.

And yes, that's a large plastic bubble to protect the flight attendants' hairstyles while they walked to the plane. Apparently this was a concept that only lasted 3 months, longer than some of the other ideas that probably never made it off Pucci's runway. Still, neat ideas. And I love that coat. And no, these pictures aren't in chronological order. These are all Pucci designs spanning the decade between the mid 60s and mid 70s and giving just a hint at what it must have been like to fly Braniff during this time.

Pucci's bright colors and space-age styling lasted until the mid-70s when, for whatever reason, the Braniff suits decided to go with a little less inspiring look.

Listen, I'm trying to be fair and understand the times and all ... but that is NOT a stewardess/hostess/flight attendant look. That's mom heading out for her day job. Mom who never learned that color is good for you. Admittedly, it takes style to make a fluffy shirt and cardigan look good together but after the craziness of the 60s looks ... this just doesn't do anything for me. I don't even like the shoes.

The male stewards, who had until this point dressed like the flight crew, were also given a makeover.

For some reason some song about neighbors is now playing in my head. Can't imagine why.

Unfortunately the downturn of the uniforms was indicative of the airline as a whole. In May of 1982 the airline flew it's last flight. The era of Pucci-decked stewardesses was officially over. Still, while it lasted it was a colorful, wonderful time.

If you enjoyed this tour of stylish, modern, and sometimes crazy uniforms please check out the official website of the Clipped Bs, the Braniff flight attendants who were there to serve on every flight.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

Oh I loved this story! And to think it all began because you googled a name on an old pattern. Thanks for sharing it!