Sexy stewardesses were exploited by airlines to sell more tickets. It’s Southwest that takes the commercial cake from the groovy 1970s. Playing by the old adage, “sex sells,” the airline produced one of the period’s most iconic marketing moments. Amenities and then cutting-edge cabin features were ignored completely in favor of the airline’s one true talking point of the era: hotpants.
The stewardess field was competitive, with very few openings. Most airlines wanted applicants to have some college education, and interviewers screened out women who didn’t fit the corporate standards of beauty. There were compulsory finishing schools where the basic requirements of passenger safety and comfort were taught alongside classes on posture, cosmetics, and physical fitness.
Once on the job, stewardesses suffered pre-flight weigh-ins and could be forced to wear girdles or other form-contorting underwear. There were on-brand makeup schemes and fines for smoking while in uniform. And no matter how perfectly coiffed and catwalk ready a stewardess was, no matter how professional and dedicated to her job, she could not be married. A stewardess could not be pregnant. A stewardess could not grow older than her early thirties.