Since Aer Lingus took to the skies, a total of ten different uniform designs have graced their aircraft aisles, created from a host of leading Irish fashion names including Irene Gilbert, Neillí Mulcahy, Digby Morton, Ib Jorgensen, Paul Costello and Louise Kennedy.
The Irish flag carriers first flight from Dublin’s Baldonnel Airfield (now called Casements Aerodrome) to Bristol’s Whitchurch Airport took place on May 27, 1936 in a De Havilland 84 Dragon biplane, named Iolar (which means Eagle in Gaelic) and flown by Captain Eric Armstrong.
But it wasn’t until 1945 that Aer Lingus’ first crews, or air hostesses as they were then known, were given an official uniform, created by acclaimed designer Sybil Connolly of Pimms.
The toffee-coloured military-style suit, a calf-length skirt, long blazer and hat debuted on the airlines routes to London and Liverpool. The look was very in-keeping with the conservative, post-war era, intended to project authority, competency and proficiency.
In 1948 the first iteration of Aer Lingus’ iconic green uniform was introduced with a two-piece green tweed suit, a skirt and jacket with a cream blouse, also designed by Sybil Connolly.
The airline introduced Irish couturier Irene Gilbert design in 1958, an elegant green and orange fleck tweed suit with lemon coloured blouse and gloves to match. Thurles born Gilbert was Ireland’s first designer to achieve international renown – creating outfits for amongst others, Princess Grace of Monaco.
A new look was unveiled in 1963, created by Neillí Mulcahy – an innovative and leading Irish designer and one of the founders of the ‘Irish Haute Couture Group’. A three-piece St Patrick’s Blue and fern green check made from worsted yarn and McNutt tweed from Donegal made up the uniform, accompanied by the airlines first handbag which was navy and matched the gloves.
By 1966 Irene Gilbert was back to inject a touch of glamour as uniforms around the world were becoming as stylish as they were practical. The new design heralded the return to an ivy-green suit in a lightweight tweed and matching top-coat in a heavier tweed, plus a shower-proof coat and lemon blouse. It also featured the mini-skirt style of the time with a Jackie Kennedy style pillbox hat and navy gloves.
The uniform was re-drawn again in 1977, with a green pinafore dress and some very loud green stockings designed by Digby Morton and a stylish peaked cap created by Frank Saunders. Sadly this iconic look and my personal favourite did not last long.
The following designs introduced in 1975 and 1986 were both created by Ib Jorgensen. A scarf was included for the first time and both uniforms also featured a hat – a flat cap in 1975 and a stylish navy beret in 1986.
Danish born designer Ib Jorgensen trained at the Grafton Academy in Dublin and began his career at the house of Nicholas O’Dwyer, where he became a skilled cutter and tailor. It was at the house of O’Dwyer that he became accustomed to working with the Aer Lingus uniform.
The 1975 look was updated briefly in 1984 with the introduction of a new summer outfit. The design came after crew made demands for lighter, cooler garments for the summer months. The new items were available in porcelain blue or soft jade, and could be worn either with or without a belt. The dress included a yoked collar and wide puffed sleeves to the elbow.
Pieces were made of viscos and polyester and were fully crease-proof, making it practical and durable and was the first uniform specifically designed for summer wear. The old uniform of skirt, blouse and top continued as the airlines winter outfit. There was no new uniform introduced for the airlines male crew who continued to wear their winter pale green suit. The uniform was manufactured by Robert Janan Limited in Bray, and Dolman Fashions in Dublin.
The 1986 design was formally launched at that years Dublin Horse show. The classically coordinated and comfortable apparel was manufactured and supplied by firms in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Wicklow, and Donegal.
The new ‘mini wardrobe’ featured a classic blazer suit in peacock green-blue tweed from Magee of Donegal to be worn with a sleeveless wool slip over, a pleated skirt and cardigan in coordinating colours, three blouses, an overcoat and velvet beret.
In 1988 the boys finally got a fashion update when a new male uniform was introduced for all front-line staff, with the exception of pilots. There were some minor differences with ground staff having stripes on their sleeves, while cabin crew had stripes only on their epaulettes. Aer Lingus’ then Chief Hostess-Europe, Liz Howard explained the decision to introduce the new uniform for front-line male staff,
“This gave us a stronger sense of identity and also of course it made it easier for passengers to recognise our passenger service staff.”
Dublin born designer and artist Paul Costello was next in line to create a new look for the Irish carrier. Designing a summer and winter version introduced in 1989 and 1990 respectively, the outfits paired a straight navy jacket and a green and blue striped skirt.
In 1998, after just opening two flagship designer stores in Dublin and London, Irish fashion power-house Louise Kennedy was tasked with creating a new uniform for Aer Lingus.
The outfit saw the introduction of the now iconic ‘teal green’ and has graced the skies for over twenty years, making history as the airlines longest running uniform.
Needless to say it was time that the airline had a new update and in 2018 Aer Lingus announced they would once again team up with Kennedy to create a new look for all front-line staff.
The update signalled the introduction of trousers for female crew for the first time in the airlines history and a dress for only the second time. Crew could also go a bit lighter on the make-up as part of updated grooming standards.
Green remains the signature colour, now in a shade called ‘Kenmare Green’ for the classic and contemporary look which consists of 25 pieces, giving crew and ground staff a greater variety of styles to choose. This includes for the male crew a new jacket and coat in a smart navy colour, replacing the old flannel jackets and grey trousers, with easy care blue shirts and clip on ties.
For female crew, jackets with three quarter length sleeves, skirts, navy tops and cardigans, and a navy hooded showerproof coat have all been introduced. Accessories include a chain handle navy tote, navy leather shoes with patent toes, ballerina flats for on board and a necktie with shamrock motifs.
Speaking about the new apparel, Kennedy said: “We were honoured to be chosen to design the new Aer Lingus uniform. The brief from the airline was very clear and we were confident we could deliver a modern and stylish capsule collection which would endure for several years”.
The new uniform is a much needed and stylish update to the iconic previous look and Kennedy has done a great job in once again refreshing the airlines image, while adding a touch of jet-set glamour.
Which uniform from all the looks was your favourite?
For more flight attendant fashion head over to our ‘Style in the Aisles’ pages.
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