Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) is the most famous aviator of all time. And it’s not just because she disappeared. She was ferociously brave and determined, continually doing things that people said it was simply impossible for a woman to do. She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, initially as a passenger (1928) and then as a solo pilot (1932). She was the first woman to make a solo non-stop flight across the United States (1932). She was the first person, male or female, to fly solo from Hawaii to California (1935). And she met her death trying to become the first pilot to circumnavigate the globe at the equator.
From a costuming standpoint, the most important thing to wear is an aviator hat and goggles. That’s the Amelia Earhart bat signal that everyone will recognize. As for the rest of the outfit, Amelia’s flying clothes evolved as fashions changed. Early in her career she tended to wear the trench coats, jodhpurs, and boots that were a holdover from World War I uniforms. Later in the Thirties she was more likely to wear bomber jackets and slacks. We’re going with the earlier look. The items we suggest, from left to right:
1. Faux leather coat. The cut and length of this coat is great. For a more retro look, replace the sash belt with one that buckles.
2. Jodhpurs in black or tan. Sadly, modern jodhpurs don’t have that delightful balloon effect around the thighs that was such a feature of the original version. A terrible loss. (If you insist on balloon thighs, you may have to go to an Indian supplier like Monarch, which sells custom-made traditional riding jodhpurs. They’re expensive.)
3. Lace-up riding boots in black, cognac, or grey. We love how much these look like Amelia’s boots.
4. Costume aviator hat. Note that this is just the hat; you have to get the goggles separately (next).
5. Costume aviator goggles.
6. White silk scarf. This is much nicer than the shiny polyester things being sold as costume aviator scarves, but it costs about the same.
Put all that together, and you’ll be the spitting image of Amelia as she appeared in the star-making photo that ran in the New York Times on June 10, 1928 (at right). If you want to carry the effect even further, wear a button-down shirt with a man’s tie. That seems to be what Amelia’s got going on in the picture. She also has on either a vest or a sweater, or maybe even a jacket underneath her coat. It was cold up in those little planes!
Extra credit: If you’re interested in bumping up the authenticity, check out US Wings. They have a great selection of aviator and military gear. For example, their Snoopy Caps & Goggles section includes real leather aviator hats, reproduction goggles, and even silk scarves. It’s expensive stuff, but it’s there if you want to step up from costume quality.