Travel Companions

Mary Wells stepped back from an active role in the ad business in 1990, but her stylish influence lingers.

Pop culture is again celebrating the glamour that the airline industry once enjoyed and that Wells, more than anyone, helped to instill in 1965, when she began dressing Braniff stewardesses in sexy, modern garb designed by Emilio Pucci. This summer finds the re-release of Coffee, Tea or Me?, the 1967 chronicle of the uninhibited, bottle-blonde lifestyles of air hostesses in that era. And while the film View From the Top flopped, Gwyneth Paltrow drew raves for her ’70s flight-attendant wardrobe. Now Delta’s new discount carrier, Song, has asked Kate and Andy Spade to restore some of that flair. The Spades are trading off their reputation for “classic with a twist” striped pocketbooks and developing a set of charcoal gray, green and white clothing, luggage, shoes and sunglasses. “Mary Wells did provide some inspiration for us,” says Joanne Smith, vp of marketing and customers for Song. “It’s been a long time since the airline industry has been deemed glamorous. The industry’s been trapped in a low-cost, no-frills mentality. What if we could turn your head with a uniform like the one Pucci designed for Braniff?”

Song’s target customers, leisure travelers, are largely female, and the airline is betting a fashion-forward image will command their attention. Less obvious is the impact it will have on service. But Smith promises: “The bonus is how these wonderful uniforms will boost the motivation of our attendants.”