“Valdor have you seen Pan Am the tv series?” asked Tim last week. It’s a good question because since writing this post, Pan Am has put air hostesses – and their uniforms – right under the media spotlight like never before.
The series features the trademark sky-blue Pan Am uniforms worn by their stewardesses in the 1960s. The costume department made the replicas using an old uniform which was studied and 20 craftsmen worked on producing each outfit. The technique was the same formerly used by Pan Am itself.
Underneath the traditional uniform, girdles were mandatory to improve posture. Some of the cast members found them “extremely restricting” during filming.
In the first episode Laura, played by Margot Robbie, undergoes a weight check and her supervisor also makes sure that she is wearing a girdle by pulling on the waist band and letting it snap painfully back into place (some sources have claimed that she is slapped by the supervisor.)
Laura is the sister of another air hostess Kate who keeps a protective eye on her younger sibling. When Laura goes missing in episode 4, Kate asks the pilot Ted if he has seen her. Ted doesn’t know where she is but suggests that:
“If she needs a spanking, I’m your guy!”
In a heart-stopping moment, Kate turns round at the top of the stairs and looks down at Ted who hastily adds:
“I know…restricted aerospace!”
Kate’s reaction is ambiguous though. She could have been thinking that a spanking for her younger sister would be just what is needed! This theory is reinforced by the next scene which cuts to Laura who is partying the night away with fellow trolley-dolly Maggie played by Christina Ricci!
Maggie is a rebellious Bob Dylan loving beatnik who is not afraid to test the rules of her superiors and is a ‘bad’ influence on Laura. The pair have gone out exploring the Indonesian night life and end up at a venue where they drink beers, play dominoes, eat chicken curry and watch cockfights. Eventually, they end up dancing on the tables!
Back at the hotel, Kate admonishes her sister for being so irresponsible. Robbie and Kelli Garner are really believable sisters, and their arguments crackle with tension. Anyway, Laura storms off in her nightgown and finds Ted sitting watching television. There’s still trouble with the signal so Laura ends up perched in the window holding up the aerial for him – a punishment of sorts I suppose.
With hindsight, Ted might have thought he was a little hasty with his “restricted aerospace” comment and if he’d given Laura a good spanking he would have found more support from his peers than he expected. This is the 1960s after all not the 1980s!
Self-assured womanising pilot Ted offered to spank the naive air hostess Laura in episode 4 of Pan Am
In the same episode there is a scene where Laura is asleep on the bed – but she jumps out of it quickly when she spots a lizard clambering over her mosquito net and we are treated to extended views of Margot Robbie in her girdle. Girdle-snapping was a quite a common practice as this 1969 exchange of letters from the Ann Landers problem page reveals:
Dear Ann Landers: I’m a young woman who is in and out of elevators at least two dozen times a day. I deliver dental materials from the lab. A certain fellow in this building also rides the elevator a lot. I don’t think he is delivering anything. I think he just likes elevators. I have never spoken to this guy but I’ve come close to slapping him a couple times. His idea of fun is to snap a girl’s girdle when her arms are loaded and she can’t defend herself. I don’t want to make a scene but I’d like to put this creep in his place. Any suggestions? — Arlene
Dear Ann Landers: I was interested in the letter from Arlene, the gal who complained about a fresh punk who rode elevators a lot and got his jollies snapping girdles. He especially enjoyed zeroing in on young gals whose arms are loaded with packages or lab material. Why didn’t you suggest pantyhose, Ann? The guy will go out of his head from frustration. — Schenectady
Dear Schen: Pantyhose is no substitute for a girdle. And any girl who thinks otherwise should avail herself of a three-way rear view mirror — Ann
So to answer Tim’s question, yes I have been watching Pan Am and even if it’s not as good as Mad Men it deserves credit for getting a spanking reference into the script so early on. And the uniforms are fantastic!
Finally, before her role in Pan Am Margot Robbie was best known for playing Donna in Australian soap opera Neighbours where she regularly appeared in another very traditional kind of uniform.