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Are you old enough to remember when airline travel was an event?  I came of age just before the jet age became the standard for domestic travel and the public began to fly regularly as air travel became less exotic. In the mid 1950’s,  flight attendants had to be single, attractive, under 32 and under 135 pounds.  Flying was a glamorous experience for passengers, particularly if you were like me, at 13 years of age, about to fly from cold and dreary New England to sunny Florida for Christmas vacation.

I was excited.  So excited  that after school one day, without consultation, I marched myself into one of the less than exciting local department stores in Holyoke Massachusetts to find myself the right outfit to match the occasion.  The pickings were slim.  At 13, I was very slender.  I settled on a linen pin striped fitted suit with a pencil thin skirt, paired with a snug jacket with a peplum waist. I think the saleswoman was slightly baffled by my interest in a woman’s suit.  Undeterred, I gave her my mother’s name, address and proudly walked out of the store suit in hand


Excitedly, I brought it home to show my Mom.  Her face fell. I came back to earth.   She looked horrified.  It wasn’t the reception I’d anticipated for my new suit. She quickly told me it was too “old” for me.  Of course, I objected, replying it fit me perfectly and I REALLY wanted to wear it.  The struggle went on for a few days, but I ultimately had more energy to fight it than she did.  I won.

A photo exists somewhere of me leaning against the metal stairs leading up to the Eastern Airlines DC-7, wearing the suit and a big grin.

The day of the flight I wore a garter belt to hold up my nylon stockings that slid into my kitten heeled shoes.  I pinned an artificial fabric red carnation to my lapel.  I never felt more glamorous or grown up. I have no memory of wearing that suit again and my guess is as soon as she could get into my closet without me around, by mother gave it away.  I never asked for its whereabouts because the urgency to wear it had passed.


Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.

One Comment

  • dbsite33 says:

    The soundtrack would be “New Suit” by the Wild Magnolias (a Mardi Gras song). How well I remember flying to CA from Boston in ’56 or ’57, a six hour flight which was an eternity for a 6 or 7 year old! The most hair raising part was landing at the end of the return flight at night. It all started rather nicely with twinkling lights getting ever closer until they seemed to be getting too close. The pilot had either misjudged something or another plane was given precedence, but we suddenly went into a steep bank and turned away at the last minute while flames shot out of the engines right outside our windows as the pilot “stepped on the gas.” This happened twice before we finally landed, more than a little shaken. I think I wore a Sunday suit and tie. During the long flight, I and my siblings were given yarn balls that had little toys that appeared as you unwound them. Supposed to keep us entertained for hours, but needless to say, didn’t…