NEW YORK — Before they became staples of the runway, bomber jackets, flight suits and protective aviator sunglasses were born in the cockpit of an early — and cold — airplane.
They were necessary in drafty flying machines with metal doors that were a struggle just to keep closed. But as aviation pioneers such as Amelia Earhart brought their style around the world, they sparked fashion trends that have been with us ever since.
The leather bomber jacket shown in the new Earhart biopic “Amelia” starring Hilary Swank marries function and style in a way that finicky fashion has embraced through the years, said Franco DiCarlo, executive vice president of Belstaff USA, the brand that collaborated with the filmmakers on key wardrobe pieces.
When the styles landed in the 1920s and ’30s, it was uncharted territory, allowing for a woman like Earhart to help craft the image and vocabulary of a flier’s style, said “Amelia” costume designer Kasia Walicka Maimone.
“The whole history of aviation was really being invented and part of that was inventing the new language,” she said.
At first pilots borrowed silhouettes from horseback riders, race-car drivers and motorcyclists, later adapting jodhpurs, goggles and the zip-front leather jackets.
Early on, Earhart wore these things, too, but she had a lifelong interest in fashion so many of the more stylish, more feminine adaptations came from her. At one point, she had her own clothing line, a second career to support her flying.
“I did love her evening gowns as much as I loved the flightwear, Maimone said. “I loved that it was one closet for the same person.”
Slim jumpsuits, like the sleek brown-leather catsuit Earhart wore, are back in designer collections for 2010.
Other designer reflections of the movie include the vintage bomber silhouette in a cropped length and slim sleeve. It looks great with boyfriend jeans and heels or a maxi dress, said Belstaff’s DiCarlo.