Trip Back In Time

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Boeing 747 Tiger Lounge
Courtesy, Teague/New York Times

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1950 Boeing 377 Stratocruiser Lower Lounge

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Elvis Presley, Fun in Acapulco, 1963

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Brigitte Bardot in A Very Private Affair, 1962

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In 1956, five sets of stewardess twins make good publicity material for TWA.
From Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet by Keith Lovegrove, and Laurence King Publishing.

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Anouk Aimée and Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, 1960

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Pan Am Hawaii Poster, 1957

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Pereira and Luckman’s 1952 design for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) called for a glass-enclosed central terminal, with a world map etched on the central column. Their original plan died because the city’s Building Department found it too radical, the cost of air-conditioning would have been exorbitant and the airlines wanted their own individual terminals. Image courtesy LAX Flight Path Learning Center.

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SAS Hostess Birgitta Lindman
LIFE Magazine, 1958

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TWA Terminal New York, from the 1961 TWA Annual Report

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Pan Am Airlines, 1963

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Confab pretence — a United Airlines stewardess chats to a passenger in a simulated cabin of a Douglas DC-10, 1968. From Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet by Keith Lovegrove, and Laurence King Publishing.

DESIGHSIGH go back in 1950s, where rose a new group of wealthy socialites for whom the sky really is the limit. Rich, under-employed and oh-so-glamorous, the Jet Set are about to take flight on a whirlwind of party-hopping weekends amid stretches of leisurely loafing on sun-drenched shores, powered by the arrival of revolutionary jet-engined passenger planes. These amazing machines, beginning with the de Havilland Comet and later the Boeing 707, opened up a new world to those with the means and opportunity to leave it all behind. All you needed was a ticket.

The world of films had hitherto seemed an unreachable fiction for most people (Fellini’s La Dolce Vita epitomized the life of the Jet Set in 1960), but now destinations glorified in the movies were within the gloved grasp of the well-to-do middle classes. Adolescent boys who had fantasized over movie star pin-ups on their bedroom walls might now in adulthood aspire to meet their idols in person, on the beaches of the French Riviera, Acapulco and Hawaii, in the cafes of the great European cities, or in Hollywood itself. More and more international routes opened up as the jet age gathered momentum, and by the 1960s it was possible for the adventurous and loaded to fly to the four corners of the globe. And fly they did.

In the 1950s and 60s, flying was a very different experience to that which we enjoy today. Modern air travel is all about volume, value and efficiency, but back then airlines marketed themselves as high-end luxury service providers. First class was five star, and even in the cheap seats there was room to stretch and the drinks kept flowing, served with a smile. The journey began at the airport of course, and airports were designed to reflect this futuristic method of travel.

Another massive draw of air travel, especially for the lone male business traveller or idle playboy, was the promise of glamorous air hostesses, colloquially known as “trolley dollies”. Hired in the main for their good looks, these young women were the subject of both welcome and unwelcome attention in the execution of their duties, and were held to stringent (and by today’s standards, outrageous) regulations regarding appearance – gain weight and you were grounded, or dismissed. Despite this, the job of air hostess was tremendously desirable, as it offered young women from any background the chance to enjoy the Jet Set life of international travel, albeit on a more modest income. The image of the job was further enhanced by LIFE magazine’s 1958 cover featuring Birgitta Lindman, a beautiful platinum blonde Scandinavian Airlines hostess who beat 53 other hopefuls to land the coveted covergirl spot.

As Keith Lovegrove’s book Airline: Style at 30,000 feet — published by Laurence King — shows, air hostesses were held in far higher esteem than a common-or-garden variety average waitress on the ground. Rather, these intrepid women were seen as sophisticated style icons – aeroplane runway models navigating a tricky environment in contemporary, often daring fashions while all the while maintaining perfect balance and composure.

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