Not all of my costumes are for conventions

Know your strengths and make use of them to improve other skills.

I interned at the Museum of Flight this past spring while enrolled in the Museum Studies certificate through the University of Washington. Practicum projects were required of all students. My goal was to learn more about types of public programming for museum visitors. I selected the Museum of Flight after learning they had a Living History program that performed characters or scenes from aviation history. I had a small background in living history from my time at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, but what really attracted me was the opportunity to work on costumes.

After a great deal of research into early passenger aviation, I created a script and costume for one of the first eight airline stewardesses.

Ellen Church, a nurse with a love of aviation, was hired by Boeing to hire and train the first team of stewardesses in 1930. (Museum of Flight/Seattle-Post Intelligencer)

I am immensely fascinated with these women, all nurses (though Boeing/United Airlines did not advertise that at the time) who became the first women on any airline crew in 1930. They were met with resistance within the American airline industry and by the male pilots and co-pilots they worked with daily. Very quickly passengers expressed their preference for the flights where “the women took care” of them and within a few years the stewardess profession took off.

In the early years these women were responsible for fueling the plane, carrying luggage, moving the planes into the hangers, in addition to the more traditional in-cabin services we associate with flight attendants.

Let me tell you, this was a perfect project for a Costume Geek who is also a History Geek. I worked with the museum registrar to study a replica of this original uniform and then used those specifications to create a costume that the living history program could keep on hand.

I have donated the costume to the museum’s Living History program. I tried to make the costume adjustable for a range of body sizes in case other performers want to portray one of the Original 8 Stewardesses. The skirt has an elastic waistband and is looser than my standard skirt block. The jacket has a bit of extra room in the torso, but the shoulders are a little tight after my adjustments to the sleeves and armholes.

I’ll probably go visit my character again soon.

2 thoughts on “Not all of my costumes are for conventions

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