The Amazing Creature Called Woman - "Amelia"

This post is dedicated to my readers - my friends. You all have left incredibly kind messages over the last months in regards to my mother's fight with cancer, and all the twists & turns in my road. I have never met any of you, and yet, you overwhelm me with kindess and compassion, laughter and tears. The tears are tears of gratitude, for when I feel lonely or scared about what's next in this crazy life, I know that I am never really alone. Xxx dw

Let me introduce to you 'America's first celebrity fashion designer' - Aviator Amelia Earhart. This is where fashion mass marketing began some 70+ years ago.

Often thought of by the public as "Lindy in drag" (after famed aviator Charles Lindberg), Earhart was boyish, freckeled faced with her short hair, thin build; devoid of hips and breasts. She had no interest in feminine fashion but her manager/husband, publisher George Putnam, vowed to 'glam-up' this American female idol. Earhart sported a lovely smile, bright blue eyes, blonde wavy hair, and that willowy, model like physique. With the help of a make-up artist, well tailored clothes, and hair stylist, Earhart was transformed into the epitomy of androgynous chic.

After Earhart's solo flight across the Atlantic in May 20-21, 1931, Earhart and Putnam searched for ways to raise money for the aviatrix's next venture while promoting her image as a national heroine. The high-flying Mrs. and husband decided to focus on fashion. At that time, American designers were not world-wide celebrities like their high-fashioned Paris counterparts. Even the highest-end U.S. fashions bared the manufactors label only. After convincing the U.S. Rubber Company to back them, Amelia Earhart Fashions debuted in 1934.

Her line of clothes were offered in special Amelia Earhart shops in a single department store per city (in New York, Macy's and in Chicago, Marshall Field's). The label, sewn into each garment, featured the aviatrix's signature in black with a thin red line streaking through it to a little red plane soaring in the right corner. Earhart told one newspaper that she nearly always incorporated in the styles "something characteristic of aviation, a parachute cord or tie or belt, a ball-bearing belt buckle, wing bolts and nuts for buttons. Despite a blizzard of publicity, Earhart fashion failed to catch on with the public, and the line disappeared from America's stores even before the aviatrix vanished.

Jean Paul Gaultier conjured up this non-traditional woman as his muse for his Fall 2009 line for Hermes. At the Hermes show in Paris last March, models wore aviator hats and goggles with the clothes, as the roar of prop-plane engines set up beyond the catwalk filled the air.

Sadly enough Gaultier told the Associated Press, "I was inspired by a woman, I forgot her name, an American pilot with very short, wavy hair who was wearing an aviator jacket, which I love, and a little scarf that was so Hermes."

Was she the best woman pilot of her era? It's been written that some said no, there were better. There is no doubt, however, that the world will always remember Amelia Earhart for her courage, vision, and groundbreaking achievements, both in aviation and for women.

In a letter to her husband, written in case a dangerous flight proved to be her last, this brave spirit was evident. "Please know I am quite aware of the hazards," she said. "I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."

“As far as I know I’ve only got one obsession—a small and probably typically feminine horror of growing old".

Starting at the age of 22, Earhart began 'shaving' off a year of her age, not stopping there.

Earhart's biographer Susan Butler wrote that Amelia often flew wearing men's underpants. Apparently supperior to a womans for a 'quick pee'.

"Now and then women should do for themselves what men have already done -- occasionally what men have not done -- thereby establishing themselves as persons, and perhaps encouraging other women toward greater independence of thought and action. Some such consideration was a contributing reason for my wanting to do what I so much wanted to do".

George Putnam reportedly had to propose six times to Earhart before she accepted; even then, she referred to the union as a “partnership” with “dual control.”

Amelia Earhart was an accomplished and articulate writer who served as aviation editor for Cosmopolitan magazine from 1928 to 1930.

Amelia was the 16th woman to receive a pilot's license from the FAI (License No. 6017).

The United States government spent $4 million looking for Earhart, which made it the most costly and intensive air and sea search in history at that time.

Earhart met Orville Wright at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in 1937, the same year she disappeared.
Earhart developed a friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt, who wanted to learn how to fly. Earhart had planned to teach her, for which the First Lady even got her student permit.

She called herself “a hobo of the air,” and described her early flights as “vagabonding.”

Amelia, at nineteen, attended a ritzy boarding school in Philadelphia. Many of her classmates were content to be “finished,” but Amelia kept a scrapbook of clippings about self-starting women: a fire lookout, a police commissioner, an engineer.

Edwin (Amelia's father) encouraged Amelia’s exploits, and a sense of their complicity as two profligate rolling stones stirs beneath the clichés of her prose. He had often given her the kinds of present that a man buys his son: a baseball bat, a football, a .22-calibre rifle, which she wanted for shooting rats.

"As a sex, women seem to regard matrimony as a highly honorable retreat from business failure ... They think they are after freedom, but what I'm afraid they want is lack of responsibility ... Mr. Putnam thinks idleness is the greatest curse of married women."

"My ambition is to have this wonderful gift produce practical results for the future of commercial flying and for the women who may want to fly tomorrow's planes."
Some twenty-five years after Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, a strange psychic postscript occurred on the Island of Saipan. Researcher, Eugene Sims began employment on Guam, from which Saipan could be reached by air in thirty minutes. As a part of his business activities, he began making weekly trips to Saipan.

Sims soon made friends with numerous families on the island, frequently discussing the disappearance of Amelia Earhart with the older members. He soon noticed that few people were comfortable openly discussing the aviatrix’ disappearance.

On one visit, Sims brought his wife with him and as part of a tour of the island, the two were shown Garapan Prison. They were taken to a cell that they were told once held Amelia Earhart. Sims took copious photos of the jail.

A few days later, when Sims got the photos back from the processor, he was stunned to see, in one photo of Earhart’s cell a ghostly white figure standing in the metal doorframe.

"Flying may not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price".

"There are two kinds of stones, as everyone knows, one of which rolls."

After all, times are changing and women need the critical stimulus of competition outside the home. A girl must nowaways believe completely in herself as an individual. She must realize at the outset that a woman must do the same job better than a man to get as much credit for it. She must be aware of the various discriminations, both legal and traditional, against women in the business world.
Yes Amelia, you were my kind of "gal".
{go forth & live responsibly}
quoting Amelia, "The most effective way to do it, is to do it".
Thank you once again for all your well appreciated comments & support. I promise to get caught up on replies and comments on all your fabulous blogs a.s.a.p. One day at a time, right?


Ms. B @ Millie Deel said...

Fascinating post and so many lovely photos!!!

Brabourne Farm said...

Amelia's counterpart in Australia was Nancy Bird Walton. I love this quote. "My God, It's a woman" the words uttered by a grazier in 1935 when he realised that he was being rescued from rising flood waters by a woman pilot. These wonderful women have certainly made the world a better place! Lovely post - thank you. Leigh

Jane said...

Lovely post, beautifully presented and ordered and what an amazing, ahead of her time, didn't give a damn about what anyone else thought wonderful woman. I am a great believer in the one step in front of the other (the just do it) school of living life. And I rather like the sound of Mr Putnam with his views on idle married women. My thoughts exactly. xoxo

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

What a brilliant post, Deb. I always learn so much when I come to your blog. Of course I know the basics about Amelia, but I didn't know about the clothes line. What a remarkable woman, who was pioneering and brave and put women on the map.
Sending you lots of love and am thinking of you. XXXX

Haute World said...

A truly inspiring post! Thanks for sharing. Amelia was truly a remarkable woman. I actually had no idea she had her own clothing line. The Hermes collection is beautiful, though I find it odd that Gaultier would not even know who inspired the look. I hope you're doing well under the circumstances... take care!

Magdalena said...

Deb, I loved every minute of reading this post. I learned more about Amelia today than I have from books that I read on her in the past. ( oh and shame on Monsieur Gaultier...I do love him though) My friends and I were talking a few days ago about having careers, no matter how big or small and the importance of having a life outside of just being wives. We can't understand women who think they are fabulous based solely on their husbands success and accomplishments, a woman must create her own happiness and fabulousness. Amelia is one inspiring lady to help us all strive for fulfilling lives.
Please take care and know you are in all our thoughts and prayers

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. Great job. Lots of interesting info I was never aware of before.

Take care. xxx


The Townhouselady said...

What an incredible post! I was so fascinated by Amelia and her story as a child. Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

Christy said...

Wow I am a huge fan of hers- and I didn't realize she went to a school here in Philly, nor had I heard about those ghost sightings on Guam. Now I want to read more.

Gorgeous photos, lovely post.

Hope you're doing well - or as well as can be expected. Order yourself something decadent online and then you'll have yourself a lovely package in the mail, which always brings a smile to my face. I just ordered myself popcorn balls from the popcorn factory, and the latest John Irving novel....you should do something similar for yourself!!! Take care! xoxo

Mimi said...

Very interesting read...She was truly a beautiful woman, a pioneer and such an inspiration. Thanks for always writing posts that make you think...and appreciate what life is about.

Fifi Flowers said...

SHe's still very fashionable!!!

Outside The Lines said...

What a fantastic post! So interesting!

Averill said...

What a wonderful post, Deb! I hadn't realized that Amelia had her own clothing line...fascinating!

And I find her quotes re married women very inspiring. I do think for many (but of course not all) women the dream of retiring to house and home is an escape from failure in the "real world" (in fact, whenever I've had a particularly bad day at the office, I am often tempted by the idea myself). But we all must soldier on, right?

JennyMac said...

truly interesting historical perspective on a legend who was way ahead of her time. LOVE the post. Thanks for sharing.

Renée Finberg said...

you are not alone.
you know who your followers are....
and yes, the love is there.

my fave line from her letter was;
" i want to do it, because i want to do it."

that kinda' says it all for me.

xx & a big hug

Marsi @ The Cottage Cheese said...

Oh my dear, I'm so sorry about your mother's illness. I'm wishing you both strength through this. Sending virtual hugs...

Like all of your posts, this is so beautiful! Amelia was one amazing and strong woman. Her life is fascinating, and I've always thought that she photographed so beautifully. Perhaps she did just want to disappear from the spotlight and live the remainder of her life anonymously. I suppose we'll never know.

Francine Gardner said...

Renee;my thoughts and heart are with you.I just came from spending two weeks with my mom staying with her in her hospital room, feeling the fear of that terrible word...cancer. being with your mother and loving her is all you can give her, i saw so many lonely patients...
As for Amelia, I always aspired to live a daring life as she did. i wrote my dissertation on her when no one in france had heard of her name. I became the youngest pilot (at 16) in France, but then reason took over and my dreams of adventure became a bit more pragmatic.I got lost once and had to land in a secret military base as I ran out of fuel....that alone was quite an adventure...

DesignTies said...

Absolutely fantastic post -- so informative and inspiring and fun :-) Of course, it's sad that Amelia disappeared, but talk about an amazing inspiration to women!! She really was ahead of her time, wasn't she?? GIRL POWER!!!!


Keith said...

Great post. I enjoyed seeing the photos of Amelia and also of the different clothes. Very cool. Cheers!

Brilliant Asylum said...

I love this. I wish YOU had written the screenplay to the movie, because this side of the story is much more interesting than what the filmmakers gave us. Very inspiring post.

Kitty said...

DT: Amelia was so fabulous! I have always admired her, yet I had no idea she had a foray into fashion - even more fabulous! Thanks for your comprehensive post. I wasn't aware your mother has been sick. I'm sending you and your family peace, love and comfort. Love, kitty.

Couture Carrie said...

Exquisite post! Love how you interspersed the history with runway photos...
The dedication at the beginning it so sweet, and the quote at the end is perfection!


pve design said...

Firstly, my thoughts go out to you in regard to your Mother. My Mother is a Cancer Survivor, she smoked when it was "elegant" and she was raised to be strong like Amelia. My daughter is named "Amelia" just because we all loved the name and the strength Ms.Amelia E. gave it!
Keep strong for your mom. We are thinking of you -

Eri said...

Hi there,

I just came across your blog and much enjoyed it.
Great post!
See you soon.


SpryOnTheWall said...

What an amazing post (though I'm horrified that JPG didn't remember who she was, how can you not remember her?)! Love the story about the figure in the photo, her disappearance probably will never be solved, one of the great mysteries of the 20th century.

Thank you for the kind words, things are going okay. Had a sick baby last weekend and we are still trying to get "settled" into the condo. I'm hoping the house sells soon, I'm over this crap! Think about you lots. Hugs!

Kellie Collis said...

I remember her from Night at the Museum 2!

Parisbreakfasts said...

Wonderful post! And wonderfully inspiring!
I must bookmark this for many re-reads!!

BonBon Rose Girls Kristin said...

She was a national treasure an such a fabulous muse!

Maria Jensen said...

Such a great post about both fashion and history at once! Love your blog ;)

Thanks for you worm comments by the way : )


Southern Aspirations said...

I found your blog via Art de Vivre- am so sorry to hear about your mother and truly hope you can find hope and comfort during this time.

Separately, I thought this post was phenomenal and I'm looking forward to the movie. I think Swank will do her proud. I cannot believe the Gaultier comment though!!?

annechovie said...

Your thoroughness in research and the level of effort it took to write this is amazing, Deb. You and your sweet mom are in my thoughts and prayers! xo

Oliveaux said...

Such a beautiful post Deb. Thank you so much for your kind comment. You and your Mum are in my prayers - know you are not alone. xx

Haven and Home said...

Great post, I will be praying for your Mom.



Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hey Deb
Well seeing Amelia is my profile image I'd have to say I love the woman.. haha

She is definitely up there with ppl who inspires us to achieve our best in life.

Hope things are going ok.. Thinking of you and wishing there was more I could do..

Take care xx Julie

Francine Gardner said...

Deb: My thoughts are with you as you go through your hard ordeal.

Just so you know, I nominated you for a Kreativ Blogger award.

Love, FG.

Fabulous Finds Gal said...

What an amazing post with such wonderful writing and photographs. I am so grateful you took the time to share.

Fabulous Finds Gal

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