The flight attendant’s look is an essential part of the airlines’ image. Their uniforms now and then were developed to the smallest detail with make-up artists and fashion designers participating in the process.
Looking back at the golden age of aviation and nowadays, we decided to recall the top 10 most iconic cabin crew uniforms and how the fashion changed throughout the years.
The main role of the flight attendants uniform
The appearance of the cabin crew has a significant impact on the perception of the airline. The main purpose of the uniform is to evoke positive emotions in passengers, give them a sense of security and comfort.
In the 60s, the cabin crew uniform was supposed to not only ensure the passengers in their safety, but to encourage them to buy the ticket. The flight attendants’ clothing was used as another marketing tool. Back in the 70s, when Southwest Airlines (LUV) was in crisis, marketers suggested a radical solution: come up with a new uniform for flight attendants with short shorts and high boots. The idea worked: ticket sales skyrocketed.
Pan Am flight attendants blue uniforms became instantly recognizable
However, nowadays it is more about the image of the company and a practical comfort for the flight attendants. The clothing, which cabin crew wear has to be quite functional and comfortable, since their main responsibilities include not only passenger service, but also safety on board and emergency assistance.
Unifroms during the Golden Age of Aviation
In 1950, airline collaboration with designers began. Airlines started to look at their employees as the face of a company and therefore put a lot of effort into creating an attractive, stylish look. Airlines commissioned fashion designers to create flight attendants’ memorable looks. For instance, Trans World Airlines hired Jacqueline Kennedy’s designer Oleg Cassini who created a memorable uniform of lightweight green wool, consisting of a collarless jacket, belted skirt, and cotton blouse with embroidered lettering.
Beverly Hills designer Don Loper teamed up with Pan American Airways in 1959. Pan Am wool suit in Tunis blue continued the trend of designing uniforms that were equally functional and sophisticated. The uniform consisted of hourglass shape fitted jacket with triangular faux pocket flap, swept-back cuff, and partially peaked collar. Hat with forward fin completed the look.
In the 1960s, inflight fashion really took off with the help of fashion designer Emilio Pucci, who created Braniff Airways uniforms. The clothing stood out with its vibrant palette of orange, fuchsia, yellow and blue colours. Pucci also introduced a new construction design called “airstrip”, a multilayer uniform air hostesses could take off as the temperature in the cabin changed.
Barniff Airways uniforms stood out in colour and new type of functionality
While working on a uniform for Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) in the early 60s, the French designer Pierre Balmen rejected the idea of a strict European stewardess costume and relied on ethnic style. The result was a stunning uniform called “sarong kebaya” (sarong – long, ankle-reaching wrap skirt), decorated with traditional ornaments. Since then, the image of the Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) stewardess has become a fashion icon. It was even immortalized at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London.
Flight attendants’ uniforms in modern times
The 80s and 90s were marked by an increase in conservatism. The form of uniforms became more restrained, strict silhouettes became fashionable again. This attitude resembles the modern cabin crew fashion, which combines style and traditions of an airline’s country of origin.
British designer Julien MacDonald had been working on a uniform project for British Airways for more than three years. “It was not easy to create a uniform for 25 thousand employees, which would also satisfy the requirements of various work roles, climates, and cultures,” he admitted. As a result, in 2003, the airline’s employees put on strict, English stripy suits that should resemble the dawn of the passenger aviation era when flights were a luxury.
One of the most famous flight attendants’ looks is Emirates Airlines crew uniform. It includes a strict, beige color suit, a scarlet hat with a white scarf underneath. Also, a bag and shoes matching the maroon color and bright red lipstick. It is believed that the flight attendants of this airline have to follow some of the most stringent requirements. For example, the absence of the mentioned lipstick could reportedly lead to reprimand.
The modern uniform of Aeroflot stewardesses was developed by Petersburg designers Yulia Bunakova and Evgeny Khokhlov in 2009. The winter dark blue version and the summer red mandarin color with the signature gold patch of a bird on the sleeve uniform was recognized as the most stylish in Europe according to a Skyscanner survey.
The uniform of Korean Air flight attendants was one of the last projects of designer Gianfranco Ferre. The main detail is an airy scarf that emphasizes the graceful neck and Ferre’s signature element ‒ a white shirt. The mint and cream colors of the costume make the image even more gentle. “I wanted to make clothes light and practical. Uniforms are an important component of the company’s image, so this collection should have been elegant,” Ferre said.
On the eve of the 70th anniversary, Alitalia introduced a new version of its uniform ‒ the company’s signature green color was changed to red, while the compliance with the colors of the Italian flag remained unchanged. Elegant fit, stockings, and long gloves in retro style refer to the fashion of the 50-60s. According to designer Ettore Billotte, his goal was to embody “Italian passion and soul of Alitalia itself” in a suit.
Air France flight attendant uniform, a small dress with a bright bow-belt at the waist, was created by Christian Lacroix in 2005. It became the embodiment of French charm. These costumes were noted among the outstanding design decisions in the history of aircraft fashion. A complete change of staff image cost the airline 20 million euros!
Thai Airways policy requires flight attendants to change their uniforms during the flight. During a long flight, passengers enjoy the diversity that makes Thai Airways employees recognizable all over the world. The costumes consist of a long skirt and a fitted jacket of floral colors with pearl-like shimmer ‒ a kind of mixture of elements of traditional Thai and business style.
As part of an experiment in 2005, Taiwanese airline EVA Air chose an image of the beloved Japanese cat Hello Kitty as the main element in the style of several of its aircraft. The cat adorned not only the external livery of the aircraft, but also napkins, boarding passes, and, of course, the uniforms. Representatives of the company claim that because of a charming experiment, their profits have noticeably increased.
Tap Air Portugal
The flight attendants of Tap Air Portugal have a very noticeable uniform: red jackets, black skirts, light green shirts, and scarves. The Portuguese designers Manuel Alvis and Jose Manuel Gonçalves created the flight attendants uniform, which embodied the latest trends of national fashion, expressive style, and practicality.