Back in the days when we had air flair
THERE was a time when a plane trip was synonymous with elegance, glamour and sophistication. People dressed up for it. The first air traveller in our street was an elegant fowl named Doreen. She was flying to England, or home, as sophisticates called it back then. Before she left, a neighbourhood gaggle gathered to bask in her reflected glamour.
‘‘ What are you wearing on the plane, Doreen?’’ asked an eager hairnet. ‘‘ Go on, Dor, model it for us,’’ urged an apron. While Doreen readied herself, aprons, hairnets, rollers and slippers closed in around the teapot.
‘‘ Lucky thing,’’ sighed a pair of slippers. ‘‘ I’d love to fly.’’
‘‘ New feathers would do me,’’ cackled a head of rollers.
There was a collective screech as Doreen, plumed in a pale blue linen coat and pill-box hat, with immaculate white shoes, gloves and handbag, stepped into the kitchen. She paused, preened, smiled, rocking from one pointy-toed, stilettoed foot to the other and then, to a chorus of squawks, sashayed across the lino. At the stove she turned, tossed her head and peeled back the coat to reveal a co-ordinated polished cotton sheath frock.
‘‘ Ta da,’’ she trilled, throwing her arms out, clouting a hairnet with the handbag, swiping an apron with the coat.
‘‘ Oh, Dor, it’s gorgeous,’’ cooed the apron ‘‘ Where did you get it?’’ ‘‘ Marlene Modes.’’ ‘‘ You’ll need a girdle with that tummy,’’ sniped the hairnet.
‘‘ Having your hair set?’’ inquired the rollers, scrutinising Doreen’s collapsing beehive. ‘‘ Tomorrow morning.’’ ‘‘ Pilot better watch out, eh girls?’’ clucked the slippers.
Next afternoon, the street was out to wave Doreen off. Covetous eyes accompanied a quartet of nicotine-coloured bags into the boot of the Holden: a streamlined suitcase with expandable catches, an elegant weekender, a sophisticated briefcase and a glamorous heart-shaped, quilted, gold-handled make-up case. Jealous silence followed Dor’s reconstructed beehive and regally waving glove as they disappeared from sight.
Whether it was the spell of Doreen’s ensemble, or her sophisticated charm, she did bewitch a pilot somewhere en route. She never returned. Occasionally, red and blue-edged envelopes would land in letterboxes, addressed in Doreen’s elegant hand, a deliciously foreign stamp in one corner, a mysterious paravion in the other. Then tales of her glamorous life at ‘‘ home’’ would speed along the teacups, from rollers to hairnet, from felt slippers to apron. And Avion enjoyed a high season as a name for neighbourhood newborns.
Glamorous sophisticates have all but disappeared from modern aircraft. The beehive is as rare as the hairnet and the roller. Hats and gloves have gone, like slippers and aprons. Even in business class, where some elegance survives, the frock and coat ensemble has vanished.
‘‘ What are you wearing on the plane?’’ is an archaic question. Travellers of the 21st century don’t dress to impress but for convenience, comfort and camouflage. Wise to airport X-rays and searches, they’ve abandonned stilettos for Velcro tab runners. They’ve given up girdles for elasticwaisted trackies. Survivors of meal-time turbulence have tossed off pastels for teriyaki tones.
Today’s ports, too, are a long way from Doreen’s tobacco-tinted classics. The streamlined suitcase is a sinister shrink-wrapped hulk or a soft, shapeless sack.
The computer bag has bumped the briefcase. The backpack has usurped the weekender. And the miserable plastic snap-lock bag has eclipsed the glamorous make-up case. And Avion, as a name, has definitely fallen from favour.