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United Air Lines, 1939 – United started coordinating their flight attendant uniforms with the company's colors in this 1939 look by in-house designer Zay Smith. These outfits were used for the airline's Douglas DC-3 service.
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Trans World Airlines, 1944 – This 1944 look by Hollywood fashion designer Howard Greer employed TWA lettering on the shoulder. The logo could be covered with a triangular jacket flap when the attendant wanted to smoke or have a cocktail while off-duty.
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Pan Am, 1959 – This 1959 piece by Hollywood designer Don Loper for Pan Am celebrates the Jet Age with sharp, angular detailing.
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Braniff International Airways, 1965 – In a 1965 look designed by Emilio Pucci, a Braniff International Airways hostess displays her space bubble helmet. No, these were not very practical.
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Braniff International Airways, 1965 – Never one to be afraid of color, Pucci designed Braniff outfits with bold patterns and theatricality.
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Braniff International Airways, 1966 – Goodbye, traditional suits. Hello, swinging '60s. Emilio Pucci designed this Braniff 1966 Supersonic Derby outfit that was sure to make the woman wearing it stand out.
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United Airlines, 1968 – This United Airlines uniform designed by Hollywood costumer Jean Louis was made in double-knit wool and in a tighter fit. These 1968 dresses came in two colors: Hawaiian Sunset and Maliblue.
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Air France, 1969 – This 1969 winter suit for Air France flight attendants was designed by Cristobal Balenciaga. He closed his fashion house shortly after finishing this collection.
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Japan Airlines, 1970 – Designed by Hanae Mori, this 1970 Japan Airlines uniform pays homage to two of Japan's national symbols. The hat features a crane motif while the belt invokes the rising sun.
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Pan Am, 1971 – Inspired by an English-style riding habit, this 1971 Pan Am outfit aimed to be both functional and fashionable with a uniform that could be worn in all seasons.
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Trans World Airlines, 1971 – This 1971 polyester knit dress for TWA was designed by Valentino -- just in case you missed the branding on the scarf.
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United Airlines, 1976 – This polyester three-piece suit from 1976 had a Western flavor and a blouse checkered with the United Airlines logo.
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Qantas Airways, 1986 – The era of shoulder pads and power suits is celebrated by Yves Saint Laurent in this 1986 jacket-dress combo with kangaroo print for Qantas Airways.
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Union de Transport Aeriens, 1987 – This uniform created by the House of Dior is all about the polyester midi-skirt and the power dressing of the 1980s. It was worn by Union de Transport Aeriens attendants in 1987.
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Eastern Airlines, 1990 – Eastern Airlines (no longer in service) celebrated traditionalism in this 1990 design featuring a retro hat invoking the golden age of air travel.
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Air France, 2005 – Christian Lacroix's atelier designed over 100 pieces for Air France from 2000 onwards, including this wool-blend dress with Japanese-style tie-belt.
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Aeromexico, 2008 – This 2008 Aeromexico uniform by Macario Jimenez resurrects the polyester suit, which can be worn in both skirt and pant versions.
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Virgin Atlantic, 2014 – Dame Vivienne Westwood brought her aesthetic to Virgin Atlantic in 2014 with this scarlet tailored suit with bold gold buttons, complete with wing insignia.
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First female flight attendant started work in San Francisco in 1930
Designers from Christian Dior to Vivienne Westwood have created uniforms
San Francisco International Airport hosts new 70-piece exhibition
(CNN)From runway chic to psychedelic space cadet, flight attendants have worn a staggering variety of outfits in nearly nine decades in the air.
Uniforms were mandatory from the get-go, with the first flight attendants in the 1930s wearing reassuringly nurse-like kit to inspire confidence in plane passengers.
No, this space helmet didn't supply her with oxygen.
Since then, uniforms over the years have woven together aviation history and vintage fashion, with female attendants regularly being at the forefront of popular imagination.
Some uniforms were impractical, but memorable -- such as one airline that had its hostesses wear bright, candy-colored coats with bubble space helmets.
The problem was, they took up a lot of space in the overhead bins.
Other uniforms have a sharp, ageless style that wouldn't look out of place on the runway today.
San Francisco was the logical place to host the show, because the world's first female flight attendant, Ellen Church, was hired in the city in 1930.
Church was a pilot and registered nurse. Boeing Air Transport (now defunct) wouldn't hire her as a pilot, but she did manage to persuade them that nurses could reassure passengers and attend to their needs if health issues occurred in flight.
"The uniforms have many demands on them," says John Hill, assistant director at SFO Museum, who curated the exhibit.
"It needs to have function, project an authority and identity while coupling it with fashion trends. It has to be current, appealing and eye-catching.
"It's a tremendous challenge and there are some brilliant successes."
Here are some of the pieces on show at the SFO Museum, worn by the women who followed in Ellen Church's footsteps. Most of the pieces are from U.S. airlines.
A United Airlines reproduction of a woolen uniform worn from 1930 to 1932.
Boeing Air Transport -- later United Airlines -- was the first airline to have female flight attendants (the first male attendant was Heinrich Kubis, who began serving on German airships in 1912).
The uniform came in dark green wool with a heavy cape and cap. It might look like a cross between Florence Nightingale and Peter Pan -- but perhaps that's fitting to the attendant's role as a nurse figure gifted with the power of flight.
Attendants wore block-heel Oxford brogues for stability, and with planes having to make landings to refuel, those capes helped keep them warm during pit stops.
This look was created for United Airlines by in-house designer Zay Smith.
As more flight attendants were hired by more airlines, their uniforms evolved.
In 1939, United Airlines departed from masculine, serious suits to a more sunny, cheerful look.
The uniform matched the color of the airline with a clean short-sleeve dress in white crepe and a navy wool jacket with puffed shoulders.
The above outfits were used for the airline's Douglas DC-3 service.
This look by Hollywood fashion designer Howard Greer featured TWA lettering on the shoulder.
With World War II efforts under way, austerity affected the garment industry.
With less fabric available, outfits became more streamlined.
Designers opted for slimmer silhouettes, and the attire became decidedly more military in style.
1959: Don Loper
This piece by Hollywood designer Don Loper celebrates the Jet Age with sharp, angular features.
As flight became more accessible for more people, the uniforms began to take on a more cheerful tone.
To celebrate flight, the Pan Am attendant uniform mimicked the shape of the jet.
This suit in Tunis blue has flares on the cuff, an angular cut and a fin motif, all in homage to the Jet Age.
1965: Emilio Pucci
Emilio Pucci captures the '60s in full swing.
As the free-wheeling 1960s rolled in, some airlines began doing away with the traditional suits.
In a bold move, now-defunct Braniff International Airways hired Italian designer Emilio Pucci to reimagine its stewardess outfits. In came bold prints, pastels and bursts of color that jolted the airline industry.
Attendants wore bright green, striped calfskin boots, mini dresses, smocks, palazzo pants and nylon jerseys.
They were "non-uniform uniforms" but reflective of Braniff Airways' brand identity.
One of the most outlandish looks was a space bubble helmet that hostesses wore over their heads as passengers boarded the flight.
The helmets were not worn during flight, and they were inconvenient to store. But the Florentine designer was tipping his hat to the space age.