Vintage Photo Essay: Glamor Girls Of The Air

One of my favorite time wasters is to look through vintage photo stories.
I don't glamorize the past--I wouldn't want to live in any previous decade for more reasons than I can briefly list, but I do enjoy vintage fashions and the quirky, sometimes hilarious photo stories that can be found online now. Like this one about a popular squirrel that wore clothes or this series on American teenagers in the 1940s. My latest discovery is a series on stewardesses in 1958. While we might imagine what flight was back then when only a privileged few could afford to travel by plane, most of the article actually focusing on the making of a stewardess. Aside from lessons on how to guide a blind person to their seat a lot of focus was put on their appearance (see why I wouldn't want to live back then...). The women had to take classes on makeup application (use sparingly) and their appearance was regulated from the uniform to hair length, posture, and weight, "slimming is part of curriculum at American Airlines’ luxurious college for stewardesses near Dallas." The ladies do look glamorous in their sharply tailored uniforms and pristine hair, but I don't want to fall into the trap of mistaking aesthetic appeal for anything more than it is.

"The first thing a girl does at school is to get to look like a stewardess. She has her hair cut to the company’s standards of shortness (it must not come below the collar), takes quick courses in make-up (must be used sparingly) and in posture (walk erect, sit like a lady)."

"Course in slimming is part of curriculum at American Airlines’ luxurious college for stewardesses near Dallas. Here trainees roll away excess hippage."

"U.S. airlines employ 8,200 stewardesses. The positions are so eagerly sought that only three to five of every hundred girls who apply to major airlines are taken. To qualify, a girl should be between 21 and 26 years old, unmarried, reasonably pretty and slender, especially around the hips, which will be at eye level for the passengers. She should have been to high school, be poised and tactful, have a good disposition and a pleasant speaking voice."
“Cavorting in California between flights, United stewardesses Dorothy Jordan, Jill Weinhart and Barbara Scherer splash in the surf at Hermosa Beach.” photography by Peter Stackpole for LIFE magazine, 1958. read the article here



  1. Hi Rebecca,
    I found your blog recently, and I'm enchanted! From your pretty blue hair, fairy tale-like home, unique style to your amazing photos, I adore your blog.
    This vintage photo-series has given me even more reason to like you: What a great idea, and what an interesting peek back into the past! I can't make up my mind if I'm appalled ("trainees roll away excess hippage") or merely interested in a time long gone. As you said, I'm definitely happy to live now, and not back then. The freedom we have now is invaluable!

  2. Wow! Fascinating! As a history major, I love looking at this sort of thing. Thanks for posting.
    Joy from OutfitZest

  3. What a great collection of vintage photos!

  4. My jaw figuratively dropped reading those quotes. It's horrifying and yet pretty laughable. I can't imagine living in a world where things like that were just acceptable and probably no one batted an eyelash at them. jeeeeeeez!

  5. Thanks for sharing! I like vintage clothing too, and I think it's a very common misunderstanding that people think I love everything about that era... Well, no, mostly the aesthetics! Reading old articles like this is so eye-opening... I don't know if I should cry or laugh! Especially the part about having to be slim around the hips. The photos are gorgeous though!

  6. If only "excess hippage" could be just rolled away ;) Great series!

  7. Love this inspo so much! Aren't they all just so classy?


  8. My sister-in-law is a flight attendant with United, and I'm so glad she didn't have to experience the kind of training women had to go through in the '50s. Some of those quotes made me cringe a little. "Excess hippage"?? Still, I couldn't help but be captivated by the photos!!

  9. Pretty shocking stuff in there. Learning more about history is one series of surprises after another! Yet it's encouraging how far we've come since then...

  10. I found your blog recently, and I'm enchanted!


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