Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932 and one of the most fearless pilots who sadly disappeared attempting an around-the-world flight in 1937. Battling the world stage with Charles Lindbergh for flight records and celebrity, Earhart was secure the likes of publicist George Putnam. A great manager and husband (who’d just finished penning Lindbergh’s famous auto biography), Putnam was really good at marketing the aviatrix.
Some authors who have written about Earhart say it was Putnam who pushed her too hard to be accomplished and even pushed her to death. Regardless, both Putnam and Earhart succeeded in keeping her name in the spotlight from a number of angles including a fashion line.
The Henry Ford writes: “The fashion line was likely Amelia’s husband’s idea—the seed perhaps planted when the couple hosted renowned fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli for a Sunday lunch in February 1933. During the visit, Amelia chatted with Schiaparelli about functional clothing for “active living.” Since 1928, George Putnam had cashed in on Amelia’s name through product endorsements that included Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines, Peter’s Original Chocolate Bar, Hudson automobiles, and a Kodak movie camera. Earhart was already admired for her sense of style. As a teenager, Amelia had made some of her own clothes. And, in 1929, Earhart had designed a practical flying suit for women aviators. Fashion, then, seemed a natural fit.”
Many of the pieces in her line gave women of the day an opportunity to transform everyday house clothes into adventure-seeking fantasy wardrobes, costumes where they too were able to reach new heights. Debuted at Macy’s in 1933, the line was a fashion flop (it was poorly timed in the midst of the the Great Depression after all), but goes to show what one woman will do to fund her flying which was ultimately, her biggest passion.
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