Styling up: Refashioning American aviation



5 May 2017


USSC Boardroom, Institute Building, City Rd, University of Sydney


Academic seminar



American aviation has often been conceptualised as highly masculine. Yet from the early twentieth century, aviatrixes performed death defying feats in goggles, helmets and leather flying suits, whilst by mid-century, young and single Pan Am air stewardesses routinely donned snappy uniforms to travel transnational routes as the corporate ‘face of the airline’.

Please join keynote speaker Madelyn Shaw, Curator of Textiles at the Smithsonian Institution, Prudence Black from the University of Sydney, and the Centre’s Research Associate and Lecturer Anna Lebovic for an exploration of the paradoxical ways in which dress and appearance have promoted, naturalised and also undermined women’s place in the friendly skies.


  • Madelyn Shaw
    Madelyn Shaw
    Curator of Textiles, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

    Madelyn Shaw is the Curator of Textiles at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C.

  • Dr Prudence Black
    Dr Prudence Black
    Research Associate, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, The University of Sydney

    Dr Prudence Black is a Research Associate in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. Her award-winning book The Flight Attendant’s Shoe about the design history of the Qantas flight attendant uniforms was published by NewSouth Books, 2011. In 2012 she was granted a Discovery Early Career Research Award by the Australian Research Council to undertake research about the history of air hostessing in Australia. As well as her academic work, she undertakes consultancies relating to corporate branding heritage and is regularly asked to talk on local and national radio regarding matters to do with fashion, design, uniforms and aviation. Her book Smile, Particularly in Bad Weather: The Era of the Australian Airline Hostess will be released next month with UWAPress.

  • Dr Anna Lebovic
    Dr Anna Lebovic
    Research Associate and Lecturer, United States Studies Centre

    Dr Anna Lebovic is a research associate and lecturer at the United States Studies Centre. Her research is highly interdisciplinary, combining US cultural history, gender and women’s history, media studies, and fashion history. Anna received a PhD in US history from the University of Sydney, and currently teaches undergraduate and postgraduate subjects at the United States Studies Centre.