From Pillbox Hat to Bullet Bra: The Anatomy of a Pan Am Stewardess Uniform
For Pan Am star Christina Ricci, wearing the airline's iconic '60s flight attendant uniforms not only make her look the part, but also feel the part. And it all begins with squeezing into the historically accurate underwear.
"We have these undergarments that we wear, a girdle and a longline bra," Ricci told reporters in September. "The girdle keeps you from being able to do anything boyish like run or jump or take any large flights of stairs. The longline is a bra attached to a mini-corset so it basically makes you stand up really, really straight. ... You have to walk like a lady at all times, so immediately you're just put into this mindset of 'I'm a lady. I sit a certain way. I walk a certain way.'"
In Sunday's episode "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" (10/9c on ABC), the crew transports journalists to Berlin to cover President Kennedy's speech. No one is more excited than Maggie (Ricci), who had campaigned for him and is determined to meet him in person. For Pan Am costume designer Ane Crabtree, the energy and excitement during that era of possibilities (a fledgling NASA, young and charismatic JFK) is reflected in its youth, such as Maggie, and their fashions. "Pan Am was very hip and cool and of the times," Crabtree tells TVGuide.com. "They changed with what was happening in fashion."
Check out Crabtree's insights into those tunis blue uniforms, from the tops of their carefully constructed hats, down past the gossamer thin stockings and to the very sensible, not-too-pointy shoes.
What sort of research was involved in recreating these uniforms?
Ane Crabtree: We're so lucky because Nancy Ganis, who is our executive producer and who created this story, was a Pan Am stewardess. We had access to an original uniform [and] every inch was measured and photographed. ... Also, I have maybe every book ever made on the history of airline uniforms, uniforms in general and on airline stewardesses. Finally, we looked at old footage, old documentaries on the airline industry that we can all get online now.
Were the original, real-life Pan Am uniforms designed to be practical versus good-looking? Did they want them easy to clean?
Crabtree: It's all of those things. Any uniform, whether it's military or a flight attendant, a pilot uniform, a janitor's uniform, they had to be practical. For these busy people they created these uniforms that would stand the test of long hours. They would look crisp, and beautiful, and feminine on these crazy long flights. And easy to clean, yes.
Were they designed to project a certain image?
Crabtree: They were looking to project an image of the perfect ladylike representative of Pan Am: chic, quiet, elegant. That bestows confidence on Pan Am patrons, because, don't forget, not a ton of people had been flying for very long [in 1963]. So, there was a heck of a lot more of in-flight worry perhaps.
I love the little hats. Can you tell me about those?
Crabtree: In '63, you weren't allowed to have your hat too far on back of your head, and the hairstyle had to go with that. It was actually supposed to cross the hairline, sort of two fingers above the eyebrow was a perfect place for it to land. That was until the uniform changed in '65 where it sat further back like Jackie O.