Of Another Fashion

An alternative archive of the not-quite-hidden but too often ignored fashion histories of U.S. women of color

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In 1966, after studying at the University of Hawaii for two years, my mom Sumiko Carroll (née Namihira) went back to Tokyo, intending to enroll in a Japanese university. However, soon after returning home, she read a 2-line ad in the Japan Times (an English language newspaper), seeking flight attendants for Northwest Orient Airlines. Mom says, “I didn’t think I would get the job. I went mostly because I wanted to see who else would show up, but when I got there with my resumé, I was the only one there!” What followed were 5 days of tests, a different subject for each day, including English and math. “On the last day was an interview for the three of us who passed. We were told to pack and prepare to fly to Minnesota in two weeks for training.

After working for Northwest Orient for a year, Mom was hired by Pan American World Airways. Pan Am intended to compete with Japan Airlines carrying an ever-increasing number of Japanese travelers. The hiring was done in Tokyo, although Mom was based in Honolulu. She says the Asian flight attendants of Northwest Airlines worked the Asian routes only but Pan Am opened up the world to them. Mom says when she read “Northwest is hiring stewardesses. Bring resume,” she was under the height requirement, over the weight limit, and so plain! That was back when they hired the most beautiful girls, just gorgeous, most of them looked like models. But I was fluent in both English and Japanese, and that’s why they hired me.” Personally, I think they also hired her because Mom had a reputation for working hard - her nickname was “Little Tiger.”

Mom is seated in the center. From left to right, the other women are Motoko Hanyū, Hisako Kobayashi, Kyoko Ōtake, and Miyako Kuroda.

Today, my mom is a member of World Wings International. She also contributed a photo and a memory written on a 3”x5” index card to the Airborne Dreams exhibit, and recently read Christine Yano’s book of the same name. 

Submitted by MK Carroll (Honolulu, HI).

Click here and here for more photos from Airborne Dreams.

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    The original Pan-Am stewardess, Asian edition
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    would rather be wearing Red Kap uniforms?
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    In 1966, after studying at the University of Hawaii for two years, my mom Sumiko Carroll (née Namihira) went to Tokyo,...
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    This is awesome.