In the golden age of jetting, Pan Am stewardesses were admired for their beauty and their equally glamorous career.
Now, nearly fifty years later, ABC’s new Sunday night show “Pan Am” is taking off! With stars like Christina Ricci donning the infamous blue suits, hats, and white gloves, the idyllic era of polished style and career girl chic is getting another glossy moment.
In real life, it was no easy task to land the coveted job with Pan Am. Only one in one hundred applicants were chosen to join the elite team and Ms. Ricci herself wouldn’t have made the cut due to the height restriction. In addition to speaking a foreign language, you had to be over 21, over 5’3” (Ricci is 5'1"), have short bobbed hair, be slim (for example, between 116 an 128 lbs. if you were 5’5”), and most importantly, be unmarried. No doubt that last detail will spice up the new television shows plotlines.
The result of all the strict guidelines made the Pan Am name synonymous with an image of an almost fantastical bevy of proud, perfectly coiffed flight attendants strutting their way across the world.
While we ladies can thank our lucky stars that now we can have careers free from the rigourous appearance standards, there is something to be said for looking polished with your clothes, hair and makeup if you want to get ahead.
The thought of wearing a girdle every day and having to weigh in like the late airline’s stewardesses seems ridiculous to we modern gals, but science supports the old adage: “Dress for success.” How you look, from head to toe, can make a huge impact on your career today.
Amy Blackstone, a sociologist at the University of Maine, reminds us that, “Research shows that ‘more attractive’ people are likely to receive favorable treatment in the workplace.”
That doesn't mean we expect you to run out and drop crazy amounts of money on a whole new wardrobe and weekly hair appointments (a common occurence in the '60s). Really all it takes is a few extra seconds in the morning to swipe on red lipstick.
From ancient times to the ‘60s to today, one trick of the trade has transcended time and taste—makeup. According to research by Dr. Richard Russell, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Gettysburg College, when a woman gives contrast to her face by darkening her eyes and lips with makeup, she instantly becomes more attractive to both men and women no matter their sexual orientation.
But beauty isnt just skin deep. A little makeup can give you that "I've got my act together" swagger. One study found that makeup helps women feel in control and gives us a confidence we can feel and others can see. Those flight attendants of yesteryear held their heads high because they knew they were looking good.
And the assumption that placing a lot of value on your appearance makes you a vain bimbo simply isn’t true. According to the same study, women who most frequently used makeup “were somewhat more profeminist and egalitarian, suggesting a counter stereotypic relationship.”
Catherine Hakim, a professor of sociology at the London School of Economics and the author of “Erotic Capital: The Power Of Attraction In The Boardroom And The Bedroom,” has made it her mission to convince women that they don’t have to feel guilty or pathetic for appreciating their sex appeal and using it to their advantage at the office. After all, the research shows men have no compunction using theirs to get ahead.
In a recent interview in Slate, she argued, “Having erotic capital isn't something you sort of turn on and turn off like turning on a tap or faucet, in the same way that intelligence isn't something you either switch on or switch off. It's there as part of the sort of person you are: in your style, in the way you talk to people, in the way you dress every day, in the hairstyle you wear every day. And it's really a change of perspective that I'm recommending, that women should know that all of this has value.”
Former Pan Am stewardess Marilyn Cozzi can attest to the power of a well-groomed woman. She began her 8-year-long career as a Pan Am flight attendant back in 1965. In addition to going through the usual safety and job training, then 22-year-old Marilyn was also given company issued clothing, even down to her undergarments and DuBarry makeup, which she was taught to use in preening lessons that lasted nearly a week. “One day was nothing but putting the makeup on,” Cozzi remembers. “You were required to look perfect.”
At her current job, she is hardly bound by the same dress code restrictions, but those lessons are something she still carries with her to work today. She still refreshes her makeup during the day; she still uses a bold color palate; she still blots her lipstick. “Our appearance reflects our whole attitude,” Cozzi says. Good grooming, especially wearing makeup she argues, is “important because it shows how you value your job and the people that you’re working with.”
In turn, as the studies have shown, your colleagues value you for your attractiveness. And when you feel like you look your best, that is exactly how you are perceived. It’s a win-win situation that has been getting a bad rap as trends in American fashion slip into more casual, comfortable wear.
But between the research findings and a show like “Pan Am” on the air (and lest we forget the red lips and coiffed hair of "Mad Men"), people might just be inspired to turn things around.
Well, if not the general population, at least you, our fair reader, can use this knowledge to your own career advantage.
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