Nowadays, flying has become a mundane thing for many people. We don't think that sitting on a chair up in the sky in a huge aircraft and drinking pina colada while looking at white majestic clouds is something special. But it really is and we're making a big mistake by not cherishing it.
Back in the day when flying was a big thing and becoming a flight attendant seemed prestigious and glamorous, airplane travel was something that only wealthy people could afford. For flight attendants, it was a special era with many experiments and offbeat uniform ideas. Bubble Helmet of Pucci, Olympic Airways Pierre Cardin coats, charming outfits of Pacific Southwest Airlines flight attendants are just some examples of this era's creative fashion twist.
As time went by, fashion tastes changed and flying became a more common thing. The look of flight attendants became less chic and represented the tastes of a respective decade. For the joy of all, the new millennium refreshed the look of flight attendants and they became as stylish as they were in the golden era of flying, often even exceeding the beauty of vintage uniforms.
Looking at the suits of Hainan Airlines flight attendants, which look more like a catwalk fashion sample, or at the charming suits of Singapore Airlines with an ethnic twist, it is easy to agree that we're living in the times of high fashion.
So let's take a look at the uniforms to form both past and present and enjoy the style of the best flight attendant uniforms of all times.
20 Vintage: Pacific Southwest Airlines, the 1960s
In the past, flight attendants were known as stewardesses and stewards and Pacific Southwest Airlines had a very special approach to hiring them. They invited only the most beautiful women in the industry and launched the most powerful promotional campaigns. As a result, there were many photos of attractive stewardesses taken.
Ramona Tower was PSA's first stewardess. It's a funny fact that her first uniform was taken from the local store and she was wearing it until the passenger boarded the plane wearing the same outfit.
The first mini skirt was introduced by Pacific Southwest Airlines in 1965, but for the regret of male passengers, the uniforms were exchanged with more modest ones by the late seventies.
19 Vintage: Delta Airlines, 1970-1973
Delta Airlines uniforms rocked in the seventies and they are still rocking now. You see the fashionable look of Delta Airlines flight attendants in the past on the picture above and you can also see how their uniforms designed by Zac Posen look now.
Speaking about the vintage Delta Airlines uniforms, they were designed from headscarf to platform loafer with the highest attention to every detail. It's remarkable that they haven't cooperated with a famous designer to work on these uniforms like for instance, Braniff International Airways did (we'll look into that later) and nevertheless, they were able to come up with a chic design that endured the test of time.
18 Vintage: Alitalia, 1968
Italy doesn't have many natural resources, but it definitely has a unique sense of style which it has been selling to the world for decades. Needless to say, the world is ready to buy it because of how classy it is. This sense of style is being spread on every tiny aspect of life, starting with door knobs and ending with flight attendant uniforms.
On the photo above, you can see the beautiful Italian fashion designer Mila Schön wearing the green Alitalia uniform, she has designed herself.
We will have a chance to look at how Aitalia uniforms look today, later in the article.
17 Vintage: Braniff International Airways, 1965
I just wrote about Italians selling their sense of style to the world, and that's exactly what happened with Braniff International Airways in 1965. They have hired an Italian designer Emilio Pucci to create the uniforms for both ground crew and flight crew.
Pucci has approached the design of uniforms with all his creativity. "Space age" themes including the space helmet was used for hostesses. The clear plastic bubble helmet became very popular, but it was designed not just for the sake of glorifying fashion. These helmets were to be worn between the terminal and the plane in order to save the look of the hairstyles. For this reason, they were called the "RainDomes". Unfortunately, this novelty lasted only for one month because they cracked easily and it was difficult to store them on the plane. On the bright side, we still remember the "bubble helmet" even after 50 years.
16 Vintage: Lufthansa, 1960's
Lufthansa is the largest airline both in Germany and in Europe. Speaking with the language of numbers, they have carried the most passengers during 2017 compared to other airlines from Europe. Lufthansa flies to 211 destinations in 74 countries. With a reputation like this, it would be strange if they paid little attention to their uniform design.
Looks like in the sixties, they decided to apply the same approach as Pacific Southwest Airlines, which I mentioned in the beginning, by hiring the most beautiful women.
At the beginning of 2018, the company has celebrated its 100th anniversary by presenting new logo, identity, and livery. Their uniforms, though, looked better in the past.
15 Vintage: Austrian Airlines, 1974 – 1980
Austrian airlines were a separate company, but in 2009 it was purchased by the Lufthansa Group and became its subsidiary.
Starting from the 1950s and through the following six decades Austrian Airlines uniforms seen a lot of transformations, but one thing that always remained untouched is the red color. You can spot all the transformations of the Austrian Airlines uniforms here.
The new uniform was introduced in 2015 and in contrast with "too standard look" of current Lufthansa's uniforms, Austrian uniforms still look good.
I hope that Lufthansa will come up with something more creative in the future, but who knows. Maybe it's a necessary expression of Germany's conservative spirit.
14 Vintage: Air France, 1968
Another country that's strongly associated with a good taste in fashion in France and it's no wonder that they have spread their taste on flight attendant's uniforms. These uniforms were designed in 1968 by Cristobal Balenciaga. This man was called "The kind of haute couture" in the world of design and he has trained many influential designers like André Courrèges, Hubert De Givenchy, and Oscar de la Renta to name a few.
After designing these stylish uniforms for Air France flight attendants, he very soon announced that he's retiring from the fashion world. I think we should be thankful to him for such a beautiful swan song.
13 Vintage: United Airlines, 1968
These uniforms were designed by Jean Louis, the first top named designer, who received a three million dollar contract for it. At that time, it was the largest uniform contract ever awarded. That's what Jean Louis says about the uniforms:
“There’s no reason in the world why stewardesses have to look like tank commanders.”
With help of his creative vision, he has created funky uniforms which perfectly suited the golden age of rock music. About 4,500 flight attendants received new uniforms and this story caused a lot of buzz in the press.
On the picture above, you can see the United Airlines stewardesses forming the Roman numerals XL (40), which signifies flight attendant profession's 40th anniversary.
12 Vintage: Transair Canada, 1960s
Transair is no longer a functioning company because it was purchased by Pacific Western Airlines in 1979. However, Pacific Western Airlines also no longer functions because in 1987, after their merger with Canadian Pacific Airlines, Canadian Airlines was formed. The story doesn't end here, because in 2001 Canadian Airlines were taken over by Air Canada.
Nevertheless, during the time of Transair operation they were able to produce the uniforms which are good enough to be included in this list. These stylish yellow-dark suits with nice hats look like a solid piece of fashion. Pretty much like almost every stewardess' suit from that era.
11 Vintage: Swiss Air, 1971
Before we start looking at the best flight attendant uniforms from modern times, let's direct our attention to Swiss Air uniforms from 1971. Although they may not look as creative as other vintage flight attendant's uniforms, if you take a closer look you will see that they are elegant and fashionable.
Slimly cut dresses, red scarf, white gloves and mid-size skirts make up a great combination. To tell the truth, these uniforms from the past look fresher than the ones that Swiss Air flight attendants are using now.
It's interesting that in many cases vintage uniforms look better than the modern ones. On the other hand, there are modern uniforms which were impossible to design in the past and we're just about to start looking at them.
10 Modern: Air Emirates
The first to present the modern flight attendants' uniforms are the Air Emirates. This company boasts to have one of the most luxurious and sophisticated airplanes in the world. In this case, having beautifully dressed flight attendants is a must.
These instantly recognizable uniforms were designed by Simon Jersey. The red hats with cream scarves are the elements by which you can easily distinguish this uniform from any other.
Another remarkable fact is that cabin crew members have a rather strict seven-step make-up routine. They can apply only several approved shades of red lipstick and they can put their hair in braids, twist or French roll. That's a serious approach!
9 Modern: Hainan Airlines
Is it a fashion show or what?! Looking at the Hainan Airlines flight attendants uniforms I find it difficult to find the right words to praise the talent of a person who has put that much attention, style, and love into these uniforms. The design presented by Laurence Xu combines traditional Chinese style with Western aesthetics. These uniforms debuted at Paris Couture Week Fall/Winter 2017 and it's difficult to imagine that flight attendant uniforms can get any better than that.
I believe the full photoshoot of Hainan Airlines crew in new uniforms will simply leave you speechless. Now you understand why people are saying that the golden age of flying is making a big comeback?
8 Modern: Alitalia
You probably remember the green uniform designed by Mila Schön in 1968. Now take a look modern Aitalia uniforms and see why no one can beat Italians when we talk about style.
These impressive uniforms were designed by an independent designer - Ettore Bilotta. With this new design, he tried to renew the concept and dress flight attendants in the "aristocratic naturalness".
Too bad that the new uniforms recently presented at Milan Men's Fashion Week don't look that great. Rolling out the new uniforms is also seen as a strange move because the company is struggling and Ettore Bilotta's uniforms were introduced only two years ago.
7 Modern: AirAsia
AirAsia is a Malaysian low-cost airline that succeeds in many ways, one of which is uniform design. Their adherence to red color is the same as Austrian Airlines', however, it seems that AirAsia has gone beyond the conservative mindset by rolling these slim cut uniforms not so long ago.
It is interesting that there were several cases when these uniforms were labeled as inappropriate. Well, these people probably don't remember how Pacific Southwest Airlines uniforms looked in the sixties.
Anyway, there was no official reaction to these complaints, so it will be interesting to see what will happen next.
6 Modern: Etihad Airways
Like Hainan Airlines flight attendant uniforms weren't enough! As you can see Etihad Airways have also taken the uniform design to a completely different level. It's one of the companies that pave the new age of sophisticated and glamorous flying.
These uniforms were created by Ettore Bilotta, Italian Haute Couturier whom you already know for designing Alitalia uniforms in 2016. You can see certain similarities between Hainan Airlines and Etihad Airways uniforms - both of them mix old (old world haute couture from the 1960s) and new (modern elegance) in such a balanced and intelligent way that absolutely new marvelous style is born.
I wonder what they will come up with in the 2050s.
5 Modern: Singapore Airlines
And now something completely different. The 'Singapore Girl' style that you see on the picture remains the same for 50 years and it has already become a distinctive feature and a trademark of the Singapore Airlines. Same patterns, hues, and lines are used in Singapore Airlines for half a century. Only the colors of dresses differ, but the outfit style remains the same.
'Singapore Girl' mixes traditional style with high-class modern elegance and that makes it unique and worthy of the highest praise. Seriously why rolling out the new uniform every decade if you have a uniform that withstood the test of time?
4 Modern: American Airlines
The American Airlines uniforms are a pleasure to watch but a pain to wear. There was a beautiful video, showing how cool the new uniforms are in 2016, but flights attendants started to complain soon after they tried the new outfits. You'll be surprised to find out how bad it was: swelling in various degrees of seriousness, breathing problems and 3,000 cases of skin irritation were reported. Right now the company is actively working on the new uniforms to solve the problem.
It's one of those cases when beautiful doesn't mean safe or practical. I hope American Airlines flight attendants will get a beautiful and comfortable replacement very soon.
3 Modern: Qantas Airlines
For Qantas, stellar uniforms where the symbol of service excellence since their first airplane hit the runway in 1938. This time, the company hired Martin Grant who has created a great selection of uniforms which reflect a relaxed, slick and comfortable attitude. The new collection features ruby red, Qantas red, French Navy, and fuchsia pallet and looks flattering on all body shapes. Another interesting addition of the new collection is a hat for female cabin crew. Grant comments:
“I tend to look toward simplicity: nothing too complicated or tricky.”
These uniforms look simple, yet timeless and stylish. I guess that's a sign of a genius.
2 Modern: Virgin Atlantic
Although these uniforms were presented four years ago, this level of stylishness will be difficult to beat. Knowing the vibrant personality of Richard Branson, who owns Virgin Atlantic, it would be strange to think that they can have standard uniforms. But looking at Vivienne Westwood's flight attendant uniform it becomes obvious that both the company and the designer have outdone themselves.
22 uniforms where designed and the cool thing is that they were created with the environment in mind, as many of the items were produced with the usage of recycled materials.
Virgin Atlantic has to try hard to beat that style!
1 Modern: Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways has received the highest rating from Skytrax (the company which evaluates the quality of airplane services worldwide) and that says a lot! Their uniforms were always designed by Olino, which supplies items for 20,000 Qatar Airways uniform dressers. They have designed uniforms not just for cabin crew but also for ground services stuff and flight operations stuff.
Qatar Airways also has a "grooming officer" who makes sure that the crew members look perfect and are ready to serve the passengers. That reminds us of the strict grooming rules at the Air Emirates, but that's the price you pay for excellence.
Looking at all those wonderful uniforms I wonder if they can get any better and what the future of the flight attendant uniforms will be. Only time will tell.