Soaring in Style: Author's Note on Amelia Earhart

Illustrated image of Amelia Earhart with text "Soaring in Style: Author's Note on Amelia Earhart"

Soaring in Style: Author's Note on Amelia Earhart

February 11, 2022

 

A first in flight. A first in fashion. Amelia Earhart was fearless.

One of the world’s most celebrated aviators, Amelia Earhart is an icon for her achievements in the sky. But you may not know that Amelia was also an incredibly creative and talented fashion designer. Her designs encouraged women to move freely and be just as active as men which was a highly unconventional idea at the time.

Amelia created fashion for real women—in many shapes and sizes, for those who were on the go and couldn’t sit still. Amelia encouraged women to reject the confines of social norms and pursue their interests.

What moved author Jennifer Lane Wilson to write Soaring in Style, sharing this lesser-known story of Amelia Earhart, America’s first celebrity fashion designer? Read Jennifer’s Author’s Note below to learn about her inspiration and how Amelia Earhart was truly ahead of her time.

Sadly, Jennifer passed away before the publication of this book. Her family will be donating all author proceeds to Breast Cancer Research Foundation to support further breast cancer research.

 

Author’s Note from Soaring in Style: How Amelia Earhart Became a Fashion Icon

By Jennifer Lane Wilson

 

“Flying is so much more than just a quick way to traverse space.
It’s freedom and color and form and style.” —Amelia Earhart

 

Color photograph of Jennifer Lane Wilson, author of Soaring in Style: How Amelia Earhart Became a Fashion Icon

As a lifelong Kansan, I grew up hearing about Amelia Earhart. Born in 1897 in Atchison, Kansas, she became one of the world’s most famous aviators. Today, it’s hard for us to imagine how daring it was for a woman to wear trousers. But Amelia was ahead of her time. She used clothes to defy the expectations and restrictions women—especially women in a male profession—faced in the early twentieth century.

Amelia’s fashion collection was an outlet for her creativity. She chose colors, fabrics, and many other details in her collection. Like most modern celebrity fashion designers, she had help from other people, including a seamstress. Her husband, George Putnam, marketed the brand, which sold in thirty cities.

Amelia Earhart Fashions created many innovations that we take for granted today, including:

  • shirts long enough to stay tucked in (even if a woman wanted to stretch, bend, or stand on her head!)
  • apparel that was comfortable and washable, yet fashionable
  • clothes sold as separates rather than a set, so a woman could buy a shirt and a skirt in two different sizes or colors

Although her designs were met with excitement, Amelia Earhart Fashions lasted only one season. In the early 1930s, the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression, so most women couldn’t splurge on new clothing. And although the brand helped fund her flying adventures, Amelia felt it took too much time away from actually flying. She declared, “I came to the place where it was either designing or aviation, and I chose aviation.”

Even without her own clothing line, Amelia never stopped being a fashion icon. In 1934, the Fashion Designers of America named her one of the ten best-dressed women in America. Amelia even served as an editor for a fashion magazine.

The Kansas state motto is Ad astra per aspera—To the stars through difficulties. Amelia exemplified the grace and grit needed to aim for the stars. She showed that a woman could be a skilled pilot and a passionate advocate for women’s rights, while at the same time being a fashion trendsetter and entrepreneur.

On her final flight in 1937, Amelia attempted to circle the earth. Sadly, she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. Her plane has never been found. But to this day, Amelia Earhart remains an American hero and an icon of American style.

Book cover image of Soaring in Style: How Amelia Earhart Became a Fashion Icon by Jennifer Lane Wilson, illustrated by Lissy Marlin

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