What to Wear on an Airplane, 1957

Kern County Library via Calisphere

These women from Kern County, part of California’s agricultural heartland, are dressed up for a trip to Hawaii.  According to Calisphere, they were part of a delegation from the Kern County business women’s organization.  Look at their clothes!  Not only are they in suits and dresses, but their outfits include hats and gloves.  Even within this trio, however, there is a range of clothing styles. The woman on the far right is the most casually dressed in a shirtwaist dress without a hat. The one in the middle could easily be transplanted to a wedding reception with her fancy, put-together outfit.  Her suit and those of her other companion show the start of the sleeker lines of the 1960s.

Today you can see almost any kind of clothing on airplanes, from business suits to blue jeans to what appear to be pajamas.  I don’t think that the explanation is simply that clothing in general has gotten more casual, although of course it has.  We have also radically altered our sense of what constitutes a “special occasion.”  In 1957, going on an airplane trip was a huge event for most people, which deserved to be marked with special clothes. 

What constitutes a special event these days?  When and where do you wear your special clothes?  I save my best outfits for the theater and the rare wedding invitation, but the difference between casual and special in my wardrobe is not that wide.   

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3 Responses to What to Wear on an Airplane, 1957

  1. Nann says:

    Even the theater has succumbed to casual, at least for matinees. DH and I went to see Hamilton in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. I thought we were dressed casually, but there were a lot of t-shirts and cargo pants among the others in the audience…..But there is a line between casual and sloppy. Some people skew toward the latter.

  2. ceci says:

    I suspect that flying has also become more physically uncomfortable with shrinking seats, rows closer together, etc. The idea of flying for many hours in the underpinnings these ladies no doubt have on is pretty unappealing!

    And yes, especially in hot weather there seems to be a lot of beach wear at events around here that used to merit a bit of dressing up, or at least longer pants for the ladies. Funerals are a particularly inappropriate event for very casual clothes in my view.


  3. Black Tulip says:

    I always wear something appropriate if I go to a vintage event (mind you, I dress like that a lot of the time anyway), and almost every time I find myself talking to a similarly-dressed woman who tells me how nice it is to ‘have an excuse to dress up’. It is as if people fear they will be told off and/or ridiculed for making any sort of effort.

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