Book Review: The Flight Attendant’s Shoe

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.
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The Influence of Sam Haskins

I haven’t been familiar with Sam Haskins’ photography for long, but something about his black and white work has captivated me. His ability to capture his models as if they were actors in a play is truly astounding, making for some fascinating photographs.

Drawing inspiration from the late Irving Penn, Haskins’ noted use of several style techniques have remained prominent in fashion photography for the past 40 years. However, Haskins remains a photographer first and a fashion photographer second. He has credited high-brow fashion editors, with a view of models as props instead of people, for his initial disengagement from the fashion community. Unwilling to be pin-holed into the highly-structured business of fashion, Haskins preferred to shoot his own work in lieu of giving up any creative control. Intent on capturing personality in his models while making the female nude’s movement seem ever so effortless, Haskins’ photographs instantly spark the viewer’s curiosity.

His most iconic works are captured in his seminal collections: Five Girls (1962) and Cowboy Kate (1964). These sixties classics remain cherished landmarks, projecting the elusive stylistic qualities that would become so popular in fashion photography. Five Girls challenged still photography by giving the female form movement, with its cinematic approach to capturing the persona of its characters in provocative, yet compelling depictions. In a 1963 article published in Journal Infinity, Andreas Feininger described Haskins’ work: “Whether smiling quietly, laughing in exuberant joie de vivre or seriously looking into space, they appear completely unconscious of their nudity. It seems to me it is precisely this frankness—those large clear eyes candidly looking at me—that gives Haskins’ nudes and semi-nudes their bewitching quality.”
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