One of the things that we could indeed look forward to was to see how our lovely air hostesses were outfitted. Be it the latest styles from the couturiers and designers in Europe to costumes that reflected the local dress of the national flag carrier. The aisle of the airplane was a virtual catwalk, with daring designs pushing the drinks trolley with aplomb. Nowadays uniforms are bland, generic styles that might be built for comfort and ease but do they really create a lasting impression? Of course there are a few exceptions to the rule, one being Singapore Airlines, whose uniform has not changed since its inception.
If there was one thing that added to the prestige and image of an airline, was the fact that a leading fashion designer had designed their uniforms. Emilio Pucci for Braniff is a prime example. The designs were eye catching reminders of the corporate image of the airline that constantly reminded us we were flying Braniff.
Pucci was also busy on the other side of the world, down in Australia, designing uniforms for Qantas. Totally different than the Braniff line, the print used reflected the native flora of Australia, with even a bikini being made for idle sunning by the pool in an exotic location.
Pierre Balmain was busy in Asia designing the Singapore Airlines Uniform. In 1968, the former Malaysian Singapore Airlines called upon Balmain to design uniforms for their cabin crew, with just a minor tweak to the collar in 1974 they have been in continuous service ever since. Balmain based his design on the traditional Malay sarong-kebaya. Part of their continual allure is down to Balmain insisting that the uniforms were fully tailored (rather than off the peg), and to this day Singapore Airlines’ in-house tailors have a minimum of two fittings with each crew member and provide her with 4 new uniforms each year.
Another notable design by Balmain was for Trans World in the 1950’s.
Hardy Amies in the sixties designed a wonderful uniform for BEA which was full of understatement and un-mistakingly British. Amies was also commissioned by Pakistan International to outfit their cabin crew in the early 70’s and came up with a uniform (even though a bit dowdy) that worked within the brief he was given.