Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Flying the friendly skies in Travilla

International Travel had began to expand in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the introduction of larger planes with stronger engines. And it was a time when people DRESSED for travel. For many, it was a part of the vacation just as much as the destination. Wide seats. Meals served on china with actual silverware and cloth napkins. For those that so desired, you could smoke afterwards. And not one x-ray machine or surly TSA agent rummaging through your well-packed belongs.

Travilla himself had by now flown over much of the world and knew exactly what the female passenger was looking for - versatility in look with minimal number of pieces.

SAS sketches as published in newspaper article.
In Spring of 1961, Scandinavian Airlines commissioned Travilla to design a complete "Jet-Away" globe traveling ensemble that would fit into one suitcase weighing under 25 pounds and provide everything from a formal evening gown to a reversible coat. The eleven pieces were based on two colors - black and a taupe shade called "cinnamon stick "and three fabrics -  wool jersey, lace and occasional accents of silk. The complete collection was a staggering $3500, or each piece could be purchased separately.

Several of the outfit combinations from the Jet-Away ensemble.
But Travilla's foray into the business-side of aviation travel began as a complete surprise when his former model now fashion director Gina Cord, read in the newspaper that TransWorld Airlines (TWA) was looking for a designer to create the new uniforms for the 1965 season. Travilla only found out when Gina informed him that TWA had set an appointment in his salon to discuss the project. Travilla quickly created a series of sketches showing a variety of Summer and Winter wardrobe in both a wool jersey blue 3/4 length sleeves with a couple of neckline variations with a straight skirt and a 3/4 sleeve jacket with skirt in charcoal/black tweed with blue blouses and berets with black gloves.

The rejected TWA sketches which led to United.
TWA chose French designer Givenchy rather than Travilla, most probably to help promote their International destinations, but Chicago clothing manufacturers Hart, Schaefer and Marx  somehow got a hold of his designs (Gina?) and wanted Travilla to update their 1965 Summer flight attendant uniforms for United Airlines, who was at the time, the largest airline in the United States.

Since their introduction in 1930, United's stewardess uniforms had been fashionable to the times, but retained a military or business-like influence that by the mid-1960s, needed a rejuvenation of youthfulness which Travilla was able to provide according to the November 1964 edition of United's in-flight magazine "The Shield" - "Fashion will fly high next summer as UA Stewardesses go aloft in a brand new outfit. Frankly feminine & at the same time practical, it was designed especially for them by Travilla, nationally recognized California stylist." The new ensemble was previewed in L.A. on Nov. 20, during California Fashion Creators Press Week. Worn by a Travilla model, it received an enthusiastic reception from fashion editors & others attending the showing.

The final uniform was a combination of the top sketch's jacket (sans lace) with lower sketch's skirt. But lace?
Both were made from a Dacron polyester/worsted wool mohair material in "Blue Frost." The jacket has a softly rolled V-neck collar, in a lightly fitted, boxy style that falls a little below the waist, 3/4 length sleeves with detachable, white drop cuff trims that snapped in place. The skirt was smartly flared with 2 pleats in the front & 2 in back, a back zipper with a button closure at the top of the zipper.  Underneath the jacket is a white crepe Dacron blouse with short sleeves & an "avril" round neck with an untied ascot drape. The outfit is topped by a perky "sugar scoop" style hat with an optional white sheer scarf for windy days.

1965 Uniform. But LOOK at that interior space per person.
Former attendant and now Museum Guide Eleanor Ginsberg remembered "I wore this uniform when I first started flying for UA in the summer of 1965 out of the JFK base. It was often called “the cheerleader skirt uniform” since the skirt “flared” as we walked. It was “fun” to wear the uniform & we often received compliments from passengers. The color was most attractive & the style was quite different from past UA uniforms & from most other airlines’ uniform styles, as well."
A gaggle of grads wearing Travilla.
Another we'll leave at just Pamela described it in an email to me as "My most favorite out of the five I had in my eight-year career. The material was wonderful and we always looked fresh! 
 Summer 1965-67 United Airlines Blue Frost uniform.
My personal uniformed, pieced together from three sources.

For airline number two, and Frontier Airlines 1967 revamp, Travilla decided on richer tones of blues and golds to represent the beautiful skies surrounding Denver Colorado where Frontier was based.

Travilla's sketches for Frontier's new look.
A white rolled-collar blouse of Dacron whipped cream material with three quarter length sleeves under A-line jumper pants. Loosely fitted jacket with military-type stand up collar fits under blouse collar giving a hint of astronaut influence. Turquoise jacket accented with gold. Accessories include gold patent boots, gold purse and a vivid gold, lavender, turquoise and green printed silk scarf. Topped with a little boy-type billed hat of turquoise. For inclement weather, a turquoise double breasted top coat with gold lapels and tie belt. For in-flight service, gold flats with A-line striped smock of blues, golds, and greens.

Promotional photo of uniforms and on actual flight attendants.
I am still trying to locate an example of uniforms of any kind from this era. I'd be happy with just better quality photos. If any former Frontier Airline stewardess or flight attendants or you know of one, please have them contact me through this blog!

With both Southern California and Southern Florida sharing the same weather, beaches and palm trees, it only made sense that airline number three, Miami-based National Airlines chose the California designer to update their image to go along with the growing trend of young travelers to the Sunshine State. Gone were the old red and blue colors of their parent's generation, replaced by the bright tropical colors of orange, yellow and lime - both in the decor of the plane and the attendant's uniforms.

Uniform combined bottom of first and top of second sketch. Final coat color white.
Travilla submitted several variations from shifts to culottes with a variety of blouses and necklines, however, the final decision was not his, and the choice was reminiscent of his earlier United uniforms with the cheerleader style skirt, but in a dress style. Or as the airline so eloquently described it when it debuted as the finale of a fashion show in front of over 250 guests and press.

Modeled by actual flight attendants.
"A basic short-sleeved skimmer made from Dacron and wool, topped with a stand-up collar and double pleated skirt falling just above the knee. Accented with a silk chiffon scarf for either wind protection or neck wear. A matching outer coat was bone colored worsted wool. Double-breasted with a bib yoke and large brass buttons. Gentle A-shape, flaring at the hem. Accessories include bone-colored travel tote and pumps." An over sized visor with sweeping amber-tinted curved lens helped to promote the "Sun" theme the airline was now marketing itself as."
Lime. Looks much better on a mannequin.
The dreaded visor and uniforms in lemon and lime.
While some attendants didn't mind the outfits and their colors, others felt that they looked like tropical fruits as they wandered the streets of London after National inaugurated service in 1970. And many hated the fact that the visor would not remain in place due to certain hairstyles. 


But of all the airlines, Ohio Arts choose National and Travilla's designs to appear on their lunchboxes. One in mint condition can be worth upwards of two hundred dollars. Mine has a few scratches so through the magic of Photoshop I made it look almost new.

Yves St. Laurent's designs were chosen by National over Travilla's in 1972 and most of the stewardesses strongly disliked the chocolate brown coat with black tiger stripes with matching hat, often referring to it as their "hooker coat."

Seriously? Tiger print to represent the "Sunshine State?"
With airlines now going with more European designers to compliment their International travel, and sick of the way women were "dressing in denim and any old thing." California-born Travilla decided it might be time to take a break from the industry and he soon moved to the tiny village of Malegna just off the coast of Spain for almost five years.

Wonder if he flew?

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