Our Top Ten Favourite Uniforms

Ever since we started compiling our yearly Style In The Aisles Top Ten Favourite Uniforms in 2014, we have seen some incredible Cabin Crew couture from around the world. 

A small selection of the stunning uniforms we’ve included over the years.

We’ve had top designers and in-house creations, from low-cost carriers to international legacy airlines. We’ve also seen several companies disappear from the skies, such as Thomas Cook and Flybe and with it, their stylish uniforms disappear from the aisles and airports. 

Some 70 looks have been featured and we’ll soon be putting together a gallery of each and every uniform we have featured so stay tuned.

With the COVID groundings and uniforms being the last thing on airlines minds as they attempt to cut costs, we didn’t compile a list last year. 

So now, as the aviation industry slowly recovers, we thought it would be the perfect time to take a look at our favourite uniforms that have been featured. 

Singapore Airlines

Firstly, we must begin with the iconic Singapore Airlines’ Singapore Girl’ uniform. 

Singapore Airlines uber stylish uniforms have remained largely unchanged for over 50 years.

Not only is the look elegant, stylish, traditional and instantly recognisable, it has also remained barely unchanged since being rolled out 50 years ago this year! It remains a prominent element of the airline’s marketing to this day. 

The original, a take on the traditional South Asian cultural dress, the ‘Sarong Kebaya’ done in traditional Indonesian batik print, was designed by French couture designer Pierre Balmain in 1968. The look was eventually rolled out in 1972 after Malaysia-Singapore Airlines ceased and Singapore Airlines emerged.

There are four different colours for the sarong kebaya, each representing the role and rank of the crew member that wears it. The most recognisable is the blue, which remains the trademark Singapore Airlines look worn by Flight Attendants. In comparison, green is for leading Stewards and Flight Attendants, red for Chief Stewards and Flight Attendants and purple for the flight’s Inflight Manager.

While the boy’s look may not be as instantly recognisable as the girl’s, it remains super-stylish. SIA refreshed their apparel in June 2008, and all now wear the same distinctive navy blue suit and have four tie colours to distinguish their ranks. Blue stripes are for Flight Attendants, up to purple stripes for In-flight Supervisors. 

Each look is tailor-made to fit the specific crew member wearing it. The outfit even has built-in safety features, in keeping with Balmain’s vision. The slit of the skirt allows the crew to hold the two corners of the fabric and tie them above the knee, making the skirt shorter and more practical.

In 1993 Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London unveiled a wax figure of the ‘Singapore Girl.’ This was an iconic moment as it was the first figure to represent a commercial undertaking. 

An advert for the Madame Tussauds Waxwork.

The iconic uniform has not been without its criticisms after many called the ‘Singapore Girl’ marketing concept sexist. However, for a uniform that has stood the test of time for five decades, the airline has no plans to change the concept or their traditional uniforms any time soon.

Click on the gallery below for a closer look at the uniforms.

Air France

From one iconic look to another, we take a look at the très chic crews of Air France. I mean an airline based in one of the world’s fashion capitals, Paris, it’s only fitting that the airline dresses its staff appropriately. 

Air France’s iconic look.

Believe it or not, the uniform was introduced 17 years ago in 2005. The Air France we know today was created after several other airlines merged into the parent. This left crews with a mismatch of uniforms, from Nina Ricci, Carven and Louis Féraud. Management wanted to create a look ‘that personified this coming together of worlds and cultures.’

French Haute couturier Christian Lacroix created the new look, joining the long line of world renowned designers. Speaking at the time, he said: “You could recognise an Air France crew in a crowd of a thousand people in any airport in the world. Not just from its colours, but also the “indescribable blend of flair and style.”

First-class or L’Espace Premier passengers are even gifted PJs signed by the man himself.

The stunning pieces, especially for female crew, hark back to the glamorous jet-set era of the 1950s and ’60s. There are over 100 pieces to choose from, including leather gloves and a fabulous scarf, all in the airline’s classic blue and red colour scheme, used for almost 80 years. 

Top of the selection has to be the gorgeous fitted dress. Offered in either pale or navy blue, adorning the front is an oversized red bow that really sets off the piece, a dress which would not look out-of-place in Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe or on a stylish French Mademoiselle, wandering the streets of Paris.

In 2016, Air France created an innovative and original uniform recycling operation for its crew’s old uniforms. This saw a company-wide collection of old pieces between January and March. The donated clothes were then sent to a recycling plant to be processed and used as raw materials to become cement graduals. 8.56 tons of clothing were collected, recycled and transformed into 1.28 tons of cement.

Click on the gallery below for a closer look at the uniforms.

Vueling

From a haute couture designer to an airline’s in-house design team, we stay in Europe and head to Spain with Barcelona based low-cost carrier Vueling.

Vueling’s super smart look was rolled out in 2015.

The airline rolled out new uniforms in Summer 2015, eleven years after the carrier’s launch, to reflect ‘innovative spirit and constant evolution. Over 75% of the airline’s staff were involved in the new look. They submitted hundreds of sketches, various design suggestions, expressed their individual style opinions, responded to surveys and worked alongside professionals to create the final designs.

The bright new uniforms, which took a year to complete, were designed to project a more modern image, emphasising professionalism, experience, friendliness and elegance. A spokesperson for the airline said the new outfits “feature an elegant, different and resolutely modern design.”

Changes include differentiating Cabin Crew roles – with grey scarves with clean, double-band stripes or neckties worn by pursers in contrast to the yellow worn by other crew. Gloves were added to be worn for all in-flight services. 

The female crew are given a choice of one-piece dresses or blouses with skirts or trousers and a fabulous newly designed contemporary dove-grey wrap overcoat with contrasting edges.

Men wear a dark grey suit with a crisp white shirt and epaulettes. A smart dark grey overcoat is contrasted with the dove-grey lining and flip over collar. 

Click on the gallery below for a closer look at the uniforms.

JetBlue

Sticking with the low-cost carriers, we hop across the pond to New York-based JetBlue. The airline had taken to the skies in 2000 and quickly grew to become the seventh-largest in the US.

Today the airline competes with the legacy airlines, offering its ‘Mint’ business class cabin (the launch of which coincided with the new uniform roll-out) and has even dipped its toe into the transatlantic market.

JetBlue’s uniform.

In 2014 JetBlue teamed up with legendary designers Michael Schwarz and Stan Herman, who created apparel for McDonald’s, FedEx, Avis, and multiple hotels and casinos. Stan Herman also did JetBlue’s original uniforms twelve years ago. 

The designers worked closely with employees before finalising the design. “I’ve never had that much input from employees before,” Herman said. Even the pockets were modified after speaking with technicians. 

The uniform features a sleek and straightforward dark blue silhouette, trimmed with bright orange. Modern elements are combined with some retro touches.

For the ladies, “We looked at it as not just a uniform, but as fashion: shorter, sleeker, tighter,” said Schwarz. The figure-hugging wrap dresses are accented with pops of orange and are easy-care, meaning crew can simply wash and drip dry, perfect for days away from home.

The men’s uniforms has a subtle but eye-catching grid of orange dots on the back, with the addition of a jacket for ‘style, not formality’. “We took a modern approach to what a jacket could do,” said Herman.

“I know I’m prejudiced, but I love it, I love it, I love it. JetBlue marches to its own beat and we’re very proud that we’ve done its first and new uniforms, which are very different from other airlines. Uniforms used to have three to five years of shelf life. But today they’re so variable,” explained Herman. Schwarz said that designing the new JetBlue uniform was a challenge simply because the old ones were so well-liked. 

Ever the industry leader, the airline decided to use the leftover pieces of their old uniform and ‘up-cycle’ them into the ‘JetBlue Uniform Bag Collection.’ This was a line of five items, including a toiletry case and backpack, allowing savvy travellers and aviation geeks to own a piece of the airline’s history.

Click on the gallery below for a closer look at the uniforms.

Qantas

It was 2013 when Qantas announced that they would be redesigning their crew uniforms. The world waited with bated breath to see if the Aussie flag-carrier would be enlisting the help of another top designer such as Pucci and Yves Saint Laurent like they had in the past. We were not disappointed. 

Over the years Qantas has used top designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Pucci to design its crew uniforms.

Created by Australian born designer Martin Grant, who has also created looks for Lady Gaga, the new threads, inspired by the Qantas logo, are full of striking colours, including French Navy and the Qantas red, ruby red and fuchsia palette.

Grant became the tenth Australian designer the airline has worked with to create a new uniform since 1938.

Qantas unveiled the new look to the world at the 2016 Sydney Fashion Week. Speaking at the time, Grant said: “I’ve been living in Paris for 20-odd years, and I guess you can say I’m a bit nostalgic about Australia. Qantas is a quintessentially Australian brand—something I identify with—and I felt privileged to take part. Plus, I’ve always loved flight crew uniforms. I think we all associate travel with fantasy and glamour.”

The capsule design of the uniform means that crew have 35 items to choose from. The signature piece is the bold stripe dress, designed to flatter all body shapes and make the airline’s crew stand out, either onboard or on the ground.

Also returning is the traditional Flight Attendant hat, in a very stylish Trilby design, plus a stunning red lined trench coat.

And Grant was all about ensuring the crew got what they wanted out of their new uniform: “I flew Qantas six to eight times in one year going back and forth to Australia for this project. It became part of the research. I watched the crew work and got feedback in the galleys. One of the overriding things for the girls was that they wanted glamour back in air travel. They ask for hats and gloves—which was great for me. And for meal services, I reintroduced the waistcoat based on the crew’s feedback. It’s a practical item that you put on over what you’re wearing, but it’s not just an apron—because aprons make you feel like you should be cooking a barbecue in the backyard.”

“Comfort was another main requirement. A lot of the guys wanted a lighter waistband. And for trans-seasonal versatility, I used Australian wool, since it’s the most breathable fabric around. Also, they wanted items that are easy to care. The dress, for instance, can be washed and drip-dried.”

However, fast forward to 2022, and Qantas has recently come under fire by the Australian Services Union (ASU) for its ‘outdated’ uniform policies.

Click on the gallery below for a closer look at the uniforms.

Etihad Airways

What better way to celebrate the introduction of a new flagship aircraft, on an airline’s flagship route, than with the unveiling of an uber-stylish new uniform. Well, that’s precisely what Etihad Airways did on December 27, 2014 when it introduced the Airbus A380 onto its Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow route. 

Etihad’s new look was created by Ettore Bilotta who has also designed uniforms for Turkish Airlines and Alitalia.

Designed by Ettore Bilotta, who had also created the airline’s apparel in 2003, the new look was created using Etihad’s brand palette ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi,’ which was also used to design their striking new livery. The look was based on a mix of classic sixties haute couture airline uniforms mixed with elements of contemporary fashion. 

Designed in Bilotta’s Milan Atelier, all items are made from 100% Italian wool, and approximately 30% of each outfit is handmade. All pieces are made-to-measure at Etihad’s ‘Style & Image Boutique.’

A smart chocolate-brown skirt suit (a trouser option was designed for the female crew, but the female staff are only allowed to wear skirts) is accessorised with fitted long brown diamond texture gloves, a belt, and a slimline handbag beautiful scarf, featuring intricate geometric patterns and fretwork. A stylish new double cut and aerodynamic hat harks back to the jet-set era. Cabin Managers wear a bright Magenta hat, compared to the brown of other crew.

A smart and elegantly fitted grey three-piece suit is accessorised for male Flight Attendants with new items such as belts, leather gloves, and a golden orange necktie. All staff also have a lightweight, versatile and foldable trench coat, suitable for all types of weather.

Click on the gallery below for a closer look at the uniforms.

Loganair

From one of the biggest airlines in the world to one of the smallest, what Loganair lacks in global presence it certainly makes up for in its Cabin Crew fashion. 

Loganair’s traditional Scottish look.

Scotland’s national airline can trace its history back to 1962. However, for 23 years, it operated under franchise agreements with British Airways and later Flybe. All that changed on September 1, 2017 when Loganair went it alone. A bold new look marked this massive milestone in the carrier’s history for its aircraft and staff.

Creating a distinctive image for its Cabin Crew, Ground Staff and Engineers, Loganair teamed up with Paisley based Matrix Uniforms to produce smart work-wear for its 300+ employees. 

The look includes a distinct tartan look for its 90-strong Cabin Crew, tartan ties for Pilots and a range of red and black outfits, including weatherproof garments for over 200 Ground Staff and Engineers.

The unique ‘Loganair Tartan,’ which also makes up the airline’s stunning livery, has become entry number 11,744 on the official Scottish Register of Tartans.

Even the new headrests on all of their aircraft feature the tartan and are partly made of stunning Harris Tweed. 

Speaking at the time, Loganair’s Managing Director Jonathan Hinkles said: “I’m delighted that our exclusive tartan uniforms and aircraft livery will be taking to the skies from September 1. The team have worked incredibly hard to make this happen, and the results – whether it be our aircraft livery or uniforms – will make a tremendous impression for our customers but also around over 30 airports in the UK and Europe. The bold image means that we’ll immediately be recognised as Scotland’s Airline wherever we fly, whether we’re landing in Manchester, Bergen or the Outer Hebrides”.

Click on the gallery below for a closer look at the uniforms.

Hainan Airlines

Hainan Airlines uniforms must be one of the most stylish in the skies. The official unveiling of the new look landed on the fashion runway during designer Laurence Xu’s Haute Couture show, held at the InterContinental Paris Le Grand Ballroom on July 4, 2017 at Paris Couture Week in July 2017.

Hainan Airlines ‘Rosy Clouds’ uniform.

Named ‘Rosy Clouds,’ the uniform was inspired by Xu Zhimo’s classic 1928 poem ‘Taking Leave of Cambridge Once Again’. “Quietly I am leaving, Just as quietly as I came; Gently waving my sleeve, I am not taking away a single cloud.”

The uber-glam range combines classic Asian aesthetics with modern Western silhouettes. The airline states: “The artistic design of these uniforms also serves to express the concepts of peacefulness among the cloudy heavens while further symbolising HNA’s golden-winged birds flying among those clouds.”

Designer Xu said the looks were inspired by the ‘Cheongsam,’ a traditional Chinese dress women usually wear on more formal occasions. Indeed, the female crew uniforms feature lots of traditional Chinese imagery.

On the lower hem of the colourful form-fitting dress, a pattern of alternating sea and mountains contrasts with the collar’s auspicious clouds and sky. This draws a comparison between a Hainan aircraft that has just taken off and ‘the roc’, a mythical Chinese bird, expressing strength as it lifts into flight. 

The 3/4 length sleeves denote simplicity and just the right amount of modesty, symbolic of the Cabin Crews high competency levels. An apron is designed like a tulip-shaped dress, emphasising – in equal measure – elegance, femininity, aesthetics and practicality.

The male uniform is slightly more western in structure, choosing between a double-breasted overcoat or a sleek, mandarin collared jacket.

“The co-operation between Hainan Airlines and Laurence Xu is industry-leading,” Xu Fei, Brand Director of Hainan Airlines, said; “We are not only creating a new uniform but also showing the internationalised image of our airline.”

The stylish new looks were developed over two years. During this time, the airline and designer frequently talked, going through more than 1000 design blueprints and trying out more than 100 samples of garments and accessories. It was rolled out across the airline’s network on June 6, 2018.

This was Hainan’s fifth uniform creation since its formation in 1993. The last redesign, in 2010, saw the crew sporting a more corporate and conservative look.

Click on the gallery below for a closer look at the uniforms.

British Airways

From iconic paper dresses to ‘space-age’ apparel, British Airways (BA) and predecessors British European Airways (BEA) and British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) have had some iconic looks over the years. Check out our history of ‘British Airways Uniform Through The Years’ for a full look at the airlines entire crew wardrobe.

BA’s current look has been around for almost 20 years, but its timeless look has stood the test of time. 

In 2004 the airline joined forces with ex-Chanel and Givenchy designer Julian MacDonald. After styling some of the world’s leading stars, including Liz Hurley and Kylie Minogue, his task was to spruce up the previous incarnation, designed by Paul Costello and worn since 1992.

“I wanted to create a uniform that puts the glamour back into flying. It couldn’t be any worse than the one they’ve had for years”, MacDonald told the media at the official launch of the new design. “The old uniform made the cabin crew look like someone’s old granny queuing for a bus because it was so unflattering.” OUCH! 

The stylish design reflects the traditional British heritage of the airline, with a classic pin-striped, wool-mix, tailored suit, plus added extras such as branded cufflinks for the boys and striking redlining. The look harks back to the pioneering days of aviation.

“Our uniform is one of the most powerful symbols of the British Airways brand, and it is important that our staff feel proud to wear it on the ground and in the air. The new uniform is successful at reinforcing our identity – professional, reassuring and proudly British – a quality brand that is recognisable around the world”, said Steve Harrison, BA area manager for Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

In 2007 a new Indian uniform, designed by Rohit Bal, was introduced, in which Bal incorporated the key elements of the Julien Macdonald suit. Nilufer Charner, British Airways’ International Cabin Crew manager, said of the designs, “Our uniform is one of the most powerful symbols of the British Airways brand, and it is important that our people feel proud to wear it. We wanted someone who could take our western uniform and interpret it into a design that reflects the cultures of India,” she said. “We know our customers value the regional services we provide them. The new uniform will complement these benefits to provide customers flying between India and the UK with a truly regional service.” 

The uniform was further updated when BA introduced its ‘mixed fleet’ operation. A stylish and traditional hat, created with top milliner Stephen Jones, was a welcome addition. This was complemented by additional accessories such as a leather handbag, matching belt and leather gloves, designed by British leather goods specialist Tanner Krolle and worn by the 17,000 female staff. 

In 2018 BA announced that London based designer Ozwald Boateng OBE would create a new look for the airline. Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic has delayed the roll-out indefinitely, despite initial plans for the new uniform to be unveiled in time for the airline’s centenary. 

In November 2021, the BA announced it would update its grooming and uniform rules ‘to reflect modern Britain.’ Some of the changes include a slew of gender-neutral and inclusive updates to essentially abolish gender-specific rules on hair, makeup and nail polish, as well as hats and shoes.

Click on the gallery below for a closer look at the uniforms.

Virgin Atlantic

And finally, one of my absolute favourite uniforms of all time, Virgin Atlantic. 

British designer John Rocha hadcreated the airline’s previous iconic uniform in 1999. Rocha kept the traditional ‘Virgin Red’ and introduced their classic purple and red neck scarf. Initially, the designer decided to do away with Virgin’s signature red heels. Thankfully, after many complaints by the crew, the iconic shoes returned in 2004 when Rocha was once again hired to vamp up the previous design, celebrating the carrier’s 20th anniversary.

Virgin Atlantic crew certainly stand out from the crowd.

But, in 2013, it was announced that Virgin would be teaming up with punk fashion powerhouse Vivienne Westwood to overhaul the crew and airport staff look completely. Both Westwood and Virgin have always been known to push the boundaries, and their collaboration for the new uniform was no exception.

All 22 uniform pieces were designed with the environment in mind, with many items produced using recycled materials, particularly a recycled polyester yarn made from used plastic bottles. The suit fabrics also have a nano finish which extends their life and enables the clothes to retain their colour and finish for longer. All items were also developed with Closed Loop Recycling. This new technology takes worn polyester clothing and turns it back into fibres that can be woven into new fabrics.

Westwood really put her stamp on the new pieces, mixing the ornate silhouettes she is famous for with traditional British heritage. 

But for me, as a male crew member and fashion junkie, it is the exquisite redesign of the men’s uniform that has won me over. The three-piece Saville Row inspired burgundy suit with innovative fake label detail on the jackets is simply stunning. 

For the girls, Westwood ditched the scarf and raised the collar. Hourglass designs feature in the new pieces, and the infamous red shoes have been redesigned with a non-slip sole for added comfort; well, Virgin girls walk on average seven miles per flight.

In March 2019, the airline relaxed its uniform policy as it removed its long-standing requirement that female cabin crew wear makeup while on duty, a “significant change” for the airline.

Click on the gallery below for a closer look at the uniforms.

So which uniform is your favourite? Who else would you like to see on the list? Let us know in the comments below.

© confessionsofatrolleydolly.com by Dan Air

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.