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.