The Glam of Pan Am (and Retro Travel)

Saturday, October 29, 2011
Oh, man. I feel badly about the crickets chirping on this blog lately, especially after UMRK Radio gave me a few nice plugs last Sunday, but it shaped up to be another very busy week. I had wanted to get a Halloween related post up this weekend, but instead I want to share a bit of love for ABC's series Pan Am, especially as I'm now hearing the show is in danger of being canned after only a few weeks. 

A picture of real Pan Am girls and pilot
Unlike NBC's unfortunate The Playboy Club, which was already canceled, Pan Am has at least (in my opinion) has some redeeming qualities that make it worthy of saving for a second season. Where The Playboy Club seems to have taken place entirely in the club itself, the writers of Pan Am are wise enough to take the characters out of the plane and put the action on the ground in international locations. 

As everyone knows by now, Pan Am follows the lives of four (because all fab things come in fours) flight stewardesses--sisters Kate and Laura (played respectively by Kelli Garner and Margot Robbi), spunky Maggie (played by Christina Ricci), and a French girl named Collette (Karine Vanasse.) Laura is a runaway bride who decided to follow in her sister's career footsteps. Kate is doubling as a secret agent, taking on tasks which each new city she visits, which helps keeps the show interesting. Along the way there's the usual scenarios where the gals have to deal with frisky male passengers and sexual harassment, but they also know how to use their appeal to get the perks (such as when Maggie talked up a journalist to try to help get her access into a party where President Kennedy was attending.) 

During the pilot episode, it was implied that in order to be a Pan Am stewardess in the 60s, you had to be under the age of 30 and single. I have no idea if those requirements are indeed true to the real rules, but the stewardesses are shown being weighed in regularly and I wouldn't be surprised if keeping your weight down was an actual requirement.

One criticism I have with the show is that it's very girly, and needs more storylines that might appeal to men...and it also wouldn't hurt to show more men! The two main pilots are definitely the minor characters during the course of each hour and at least one of them also seems ridiculously young to be flying a commercial airplane.

If you approach the program not expecting it to ever live up to Mad Men (and let's face it, what show could?) then it's not bad. It reminds me a bit of two other ABC series that I enjoyed that took place in a past decade, Homefront and China Beach. And of course, it's loaded with 1960s fashion and eye candy. 

Now for some fun stuff...Pan Am inspired my Halloween costume this year, with a twist: I recreated the logo to say PAM AM instead of PAN AM! The closest looking costume I could find was this shiny blue jacket and hat...there was a matching skirt that measured only 11 inches long; way too short for an office environment! I added the gloves and go-go boots to make it a Pan Am-meets-Austin Powers type stewardess costume. My coworker was dressed as Steve Jobs...I guess my outfit was enough to bring him back to life!

I do love looking at stewardess uniforms from the 60s and have to admit they're so much snazzier than the bland clothing you see on airlines today. The Museum of Flight apparently loved them so much too that earlier this year they dedicated an exhibit to flight attendant fashion called Style in the Aisle. Go-go boots and miniskirts were definitely common components! 
An Oleg Cassini-designed uniform for Air West, late 60s
Southwest Airlines, 1971
American Airlines, early 70s--love the navy blue dress
Boozing up on Dela Airlines, 1970s
Pacific Southwest Airlines uniform, 1973--there actually was a costume very close to this one, but just as short!

Lastly, if you want some tunes to groove you into a Pan Am mood, I highly recommend a compilation of air travel inspired music from the 60s and 70s on the Ultra Swank Retro Adventures blog called Love at First Flight. It includes a bonus track which chronicles the history of the real Pan Am. Happy flying the friendly skies!


  1. The Pan Am uniforms in the Tv series remind a lot of the official Expo 67 hostesses uniforms. Check the second girl from the left.

  2. To be honest I got a little bored with the show after a couple episodes, but I do love the backstory behind these groovy career gals--and Pam you look great in your 'Pam Am' getup!

    Very original & I am diggin' those boots. :)

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  4. Pam, I like your spin on the Pan Am costume. Very cool. You and your friend looked great for Halloween.

    I am still very much watching the show, reviewing each episode on my blog Martin's View . It has potential if it could just find an audience.

  5. Pam,

    The Pan Am outfit you have on majorly floats my boat...:)

    I like the show but I agree they need to come up with story lines that will appeal to men more; I think they figure us guys will watch mainly for the eye candy. From what I have seen on the net, reviews have been good but the ratings are going down every week. It is apparently a very expensive show to produce so they probably won't wait long to pull the trigger...:(

  6. Haven't seen the show yet...gotta check it out.. Love all those vintage outfits though!

  7. Thanks, guys! That part of the office was kind of dark and the picture didn't come out the greatest. I'm hoping to reuse the boots at some point for a future costume.

  8. Suhweet costume Pam. Very smart! I certainly hope Pan Am is not cancelled. I DO dig the show (even though it is a bit mushy at times) LOL


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