In the 21st century, the job of a flight attendant, otherwise known as a stewardess in the 60s, isn’t seen as a glamorous job, but more as a waitress-in-the-air kind of job (quoted from my mother from when I told her I wanted to be a flight attendant so I could travel the world). However, back in the 60s, the job of a stewardess was very appealing, but to be one you had to adhere to a strict set of rules and meet ridiculously sexist standards.
To be a stewardess, you had to be a young, attractive woman between the ages of 18 and 30. Employment advertisements for stewardesses stated that they should be pretty, thin and petite, weighing between 100 and 130 pounds and standing between 5’2” and 5’6” in height. Additionally, the woman must be single and have never been married, nor have had any children. This would be because if you had a ring on your finger, it would "turn off the client". Eek.
As ticket prices during that time were determined by the government, and not by the particular airline, that meant airlines couldn’t compete with their prices; but with their stewardesses. Airlines competed for the most attractive stewardesses, turning job interviews into beauty pageants. Less than 3% of applicants were hired to be airline stewardesses… a lower acceptance rate than Yale University.
Classy Vintage Photos of Flight Attendants from the 1960’s
As fashion gradually became sexier and more promiscuous in the 60s, the stewardess uniform reflected this change. Their skirts which started off knee length got shorter. Their jackets were replaced with fitted dresses. In the 1970s, some airlines even required their stewardesses to wear hot pants and go-go boots. And to complete the whole look, stewardesses were required to wear hula orange lipstick, false eyelashes and eyeliner. Due to the popularity of airlines at the time, fashion designers like Emilio Pucci were recruited to design stewardess uniforms.
Want to know what the typical ad for recruiting stewardesses during that time was? How could airlines entice young women to take on a particular over-glamorised job? Here is the copy from an ad that aired on a Los Angeles radio in the summer of 1969:
Right now PSA, the airline that is famous for its stewardesses, is looking for girls. Yes..girls to fill a cute orange mini-uniform…girls who smile and mean it…girls who give other people a lift. Now if you’re single, 18 1/2 to 26 years old, 5 foot 1 to 5 foot 9, 105 to 135 pounds, have a high school diploma or better–come in for an interview at the Los Angeles International Airport stewardesses department Tuesday or Thursday. PSA is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
This trend didn’t last very long though. Once airlines had control of fair prices, the playing field changed. And in 1974, the new fashion turned more conservative, which meant short skirts were out and more appropriate clothing was in. Business men weren’t pleased.