flight-attendant-uniforms-through-the-years

Georgia Panter Nielsen, 75, a flight attendant with United Airlines from 1960–2002 and now the international historian for the Association of Flight Attendants, walks us through some of the looks she donned on the job.

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  • Illustration: Wayne Potrue

    1959-1963
    After living and training with 15-20 women in an airplane hangar in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for five weeks�United was in the process of building its headquarters in Chicago, in what would become O�Hare International Airport�Panter Nielsen was issued the Peige uniform, a custom-dyed, pink-and-beige wool suit designed by Raymond Loewy.

  • Illustration: Wayne Potrue

    1968-1970
    �This free-flowing dress was wonderful�slip it on, and you�re ready to go. Some of the photos you�ll see show a lot of leg, but I wore mine to my knee. And by then panty hose were in, so we didn�t have to worry about girdles.� The little Foreign Legion-style hat was difficult to keep on because it was stacked up so high, but we dealt with it.�

  • Illustration: Wayne Potrue

    1973-1976
    In 1972, in the wake of civil-rights legislation, men were invited to work full time in United�s cabins, stewardesses became known as flight attendants, and pants were soon introduced into the uniforms. �We called this the Wonder Bread uniform because of the polka dots and bright colors. �It wasn�t as comfortable as it might look.�

  • Illustration: Wayne Potrue

    1986-1990
    United, almost exclusively a domestic carrier, acquired a large chunk of Pan American World Airways in the �80s. �There was an emphasis on being more worldly and continental�the uniform reflected that in looking more like the international carriers. For example, aprons and smocks gave way to serving jackets.�

  • Illustration: Wayne Potrue

    1994-2001
    Discount carriers such as Southwest Airlines were aggressively making their way into the domestic market, prompting a short-lived, low-cost United offshoot known as Shuttle by United. With it came the option of wearing a (gasp!) polo shirt. �I did have a polo shirt in case I worked the schedule. But I barely even saw [Shuttle planes].�

Illustration: Wayne Potrue

1959-1963
After living and training with 15-20 women in an airplane hangar in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for five weeks�United was in the process of building its headquarters in Chicago, in what would become O�Hare International Airport�Panter Nielsen was issued the Peige uniform, a custom-dyed, pink-and-beige wool suit designed by Raymond Loewy.

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