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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.

Illustration: Wayne Potrue

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

�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

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

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

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].�