November 17, 2011

Fly Girls!

By Chris Varaste

Leather banquettes! Deluxe cabins! Leg room! Best of all, iconic stewardess uniforms! Flipping through a magazine on a recent — cramped — red-eye from NY to LA, I came across an ad for Pan Am, the new drama about flight attendants onboard the famous luxury aircraft in the 1960s.

In addition to a glitzy media campaign, Pan Am boasts the star attraction of Christina Ricci as a rebel fly girl earning her wings on a period-perfect Boeing 707. Hair styled in a pageboy, sporting the fashionable flight suit, the actress struck me as a vintage Barbie® doll come to life, wearing one of the doll's career girl uniforms.

The Pan American Airways Stewardess Barbie® fashion appeared in 1966 — part of Barbie's new line of ultra-glam couture, referenced as the 1600 series. The collection featured tailored suits and pillbox hats reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy's classic wardrobe designed by Oleg Cassini during her White House stay. An amazing reproduction of the retro flight suit appeared in 2009 for the My Favorite Barbie Doll Series .

Now, the fantasy of the past — of fashionable stewardesses wearing tidy white gloves to serve caviar and champagne — has manifested a supersonic Jet Age on television. Following in Mad Men's Emmy-winning footsteps, Pan Am is recreating America, circa, 1963. The result replicates an idealized world that Barbie's design team captured in vivid detail the first time around via fashions, cars and that still-attainable Dream House (check online auctions)! So who first dreamt up the adventurous life of a Pan Am Stewardess? The lucky girl who received the spot-on Barbie fashion in 1966, of course! What do you love most about those halcyon days when Pan Am ruled the sky?


Chris Varaste started out at ABC-TV, producing segments for the Emmys, Tonys & Grammys. A fascination with fashion and pop culture led to his first published book, Barbie: Face of the American Dream – and an appreciation for all things Barbie! His insights on collectibles/brand success have been published in the New York Times, The Economist, and Spotlight Cinema Networks.

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