From femme fatale to security frontliner (Vault)

Vault takes a closer  look at the evolution of the women who once dominated the skies

VAULT - From femme fatale to security frontliner (June-July 2012)
VAULT – From femme fatale to security frontliner (June-July 2012)

The so-called Golden age of flying coincided with the packaging of female flight attendants as sex symbols. Then called stewardesses, they were meant to coax and predominantly male passengers at that time into flying the airline they represented.

This was evident as early as 1955, when United Airlines stewardess Barbara Cameron posed as Playboy magazine’s Miss December. She re-appeared in 1958 as “The Girl Next Door” and was named one of the magazine’s most popular “playmates.”

A 1965 article in the Des Moines Register said that male passengers expected stewardesses “to look like a Las Vegas showgirl, and are angry when she doesn’t.”

And in 1967, the bestseller Coffee, Tea or Me? The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Flight Stewardesses revealed the in-flight exploits of stewardesses and their “bad boy” passengers, and listed the celebrities with whom the girls allegedly had had romantic dalliances. The veracity of the accounts has since been challenged and the book is now listed as “adult fiction.”

The in-flight innuendo reached its peak in the 1970s, when National Airlines put out an ad showing a pixie-faced flight attendant with the copy, “I’m Cheryl. Fly me.” Other Mad Men-type gimmicks included Braniff’s “Air Strip,” where “air hostesses” peeled off layers of clothing during the flight; paper dresses for TWA stewardesses (soon junked when male passengers made a habit of burning cigarette holes in them for “fun”—yes, smoking on board was allowed back then); and Eastern Airlines’ little black book giveaway, which was meant to encourage male passengers to get the phone numbers of flight attendants.

VAULT Magazine, June 2012 issue, p. 59: Samples of some risque airline advertising materials (Courtesy of VAULT Magazine)
VAULT Magazine, June 2012 issue, p. 59: Samples of some risque airline advertising materials (Courtesy of VAULT Magazine)


This is an excerpt only. The full article is featured in the Travel Issue of Vault Magazine, (June-July 2012). Vault Magazine is available in the Philippines at all Fully Booked, Powerbooks, and National Bookstore branches. For more details, visit Vault‘s Facebook page HERE.

Author: Niña Terol

Niña Terol describes herself as a "communicator, connector, idea curator, and changemaker." A writer at heart whose 16-year career has spanned the public and private sectors, including roles in marketing, non-profit consulting, creative enterprise, publishing and media, politics, and corporate communications, she now heads corporate affairs for the Manila office of one of the world's largest and most trusted names in integrated marketing communications. Niña has written for a long list of magazines, dailies, and websites, including CNN Travel, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia,, and She has also written and edited a number of books published by such institutions as the World Bank-Manila Office, the Asian Development Bank, the National Youth Commission, and a few others. Also a public speaker and trainer at heart, Niña has spoken at prestigious events such as TEDxManila (2010), Pecha Kucha Manila (2010), Ignite Manila (2010), the Social Good Summjit (2012), and the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) Summit (2013). She has also taught live lectures and webinars, and been a panelist and thesis adviser, under the Certified Digital Marketer (CDM) program of the International Institute for Digital Marketing (IIDM). Niña graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications degree, minor in Hispanic Studies, from the Ateneo de Manila University, and obtained certificates in Internet Marketing and Professional Blogging (under scholarship) at the Asian Institute of Management and the European Journalism Institute (under scholarship) from Charles University, Prague, the Czech Republic and The Fund for American Studies, Washington D.C. When she's not working, writing, or speaking, Niña is running, practicing yoga, promoting sustainability and mindful living, trying out all sorts of dark chocolate, and planning her next plane ride. She blogs at and Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @ninaterol.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *