It’s hard to picture a time when people would put on their mink coats and white gloves just to go flying. I don’t know about you, but for me, airplane attire is a ratty hoodie and slouchy sweats. But Prudence Black’s The Flight Attendant’s Shoe takes me back to a time when flying was a spectacular occasion that was nothing short of glamorous. Black chronicles the uniforms worn by flight hostesses of Australia’s international airline, Qantas, from 1948 to 2003.
Uniforms could seem like the antithesis of fashion—wearers are bound by restrictions, stripped of individuality, and awash in homogeny. But after the Second World War, becoming a stewardess was a dream career due to its chic allure, and The Flight Attendant’s Shoe quickly reveals that a relationship between utilitarian uniforms and high fashion does exist. Black contextualizes the subject within crucial events—changes to the flight attendant’s uniform echoed changes to the broader landscape of Australia’s social, industrial, and economic history.
My first indication of what I was in for when I picked up New Club Kids came from the book’s cover. A young woman gazed out from beneath thick, black eyelashes, wearing a white jumpsuit, a blue plastic choker, and what appeared to be a bejewelled chinstrap. I wasn’t sure what sort of party would have bejewelled chinstraps as part of its dress code, but I wanted to be invited.
New Club Kids: London Party Fashion in the Noughties starts by explaining how London’s club scene has evolved over the course of several decades, beginning when youth of the ’70s became bored with the dominant punk fashions and began to search for something a little different. Beginning with David Bowie-inspired nights at clubs, an entire subculture of unlikely party style emerged. These teens became known as the New Romantics, but they also had well-known sub-groups, and many of them—like Princess Julia, who partied with the likes of Marc Almond and Boy George—received attention from the media and gained fame because of their style, or because of their music, or simply because they were there.