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Fly Me. The Civil Aeronautics Board controlled rates and route asments for the tightly regulated industry. But airlines controlled branding, and stewardesses were part of the brand. During the s, as travel by plane began to surpass that by rail, becoming a stewardess was a glamorous way for adventurous young women of the middle class to escape careers as teachers, nurses, stenographers, or housewives.
The stewardess field was competitive, with very few openings. There were compulsory finishing schools where the basic requirements of passenger safety and comfort were taught alongside classes on posture, cosmetics, and physical fitness. Once on the job, stewardesses suffered pre-flight weigh-ins and could be forced to wear girdles or other form-contorting underwear. There were on-brand makeup schemes and fines for smoking while in uniform.
And no matter how perfectly coiffed and catwalk ready a stewardess was, no matter how professional and dedicated to her job, she could not be married. A stewardess could not be pregnant. A stewardess could not grow older than her early thirties. In the fifties, flying was a rarefied form of travel for a well-heeled clientele, women in matronly uniforms served dinner on trays and poured cocktails.
As businessmen came to dominate commuter flights, particularly in the smaller regional markets, the uniforms became less austere. Pacific Southwest Airlines led the race to the bottom by dressing its stewardesses in colorful miniskirts and go-go boots through the late sixties, before delving into hot pants in the early seventies. Despite their dual roles as mothering servant and objects of sexual fantasy, women were fighting for changes inside the airline industry.
Throughout the sixties, stewardesses filed discrimination suits with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as grounds to end the policy of firing women who married, became pregnant, or grew older. The years of proceedings and setbacks began to pay off in the early seventies, laying a foundation of legal precedence that changed labor relations in the airline industry.
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Welcome to mid-century air travel, where marriage, pregnancy, and being over thirty could get you fired. Brendan Seibel Follow. Timeline News in Context.
Timeline Follow. Written by Brendan Seibel Follow.Sexy lady on southwest flight
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Retired Southwest flight attendants fondly remember 'hot pants,' parties on layovers, lifelong friendships