Style In The Skies

By Anna Carey

Saturday August 29 2009

Flight attendants have worn many different ensembles over the decades. Initially, the uniforms had, like those of the pilots, a slightly military air. “Most of the girls still think that the early 60s uniforms — navy-blue suits which fitted quite nicely, and a white shirt, a hat and gloves — were the smartest of the lot,” says Libbie Escolme-Schmidt. “After that, we went into mini-skirts. Everybody else was running around in mini-skirts in the 60s, so BA had to do something. And anyway — and I was a guilty party to this — we were all hitching up our skirts anyway!”

As the decade progressed, airline bosses went ever further in their attempts to sell the stewardesses as sexy air babes. This culminated in the introduction of floral mini-dresses made of paper (pictured far right) which, one former stewardess remembers, “American men used to try to cut [shorter] with their own scissors”.

Uniforms are a bit less outrageous these days. Former Aer Lingus air hostess Michelle Doherty was fond of her Louise Kennedy-designed Aer Lingus outfit. In fact, it sounds like she quite misses it.

“Working at Phantom, I spend every morning going ‘Oh God, what am I going to wear?’ Whereas with a uniform you don’t have to worry,” she says.

“You have your shirt, skirt, jacket, scarf and a little routine, and you could always put your hands on it. You didn’t have to think. It was glamorous and it looked nice. And it looked good seeing everyone dressed the same.”

Escolme-Schmidt thinks the post-60s attire never matched the style of the early years, however.

“After they lowered the hems again in the 70s, many of the uniforms weren’t as attractive as those early, partially military uniforms.”

– Anna Carey

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2 Responses to Style In The Skies

  1. Biba Mclellan says:

    ‘National Stewardesses’ were an important feature of the flight attendants of the 60s and 70s – we were all sent to Dormy House in Sunningdale for a two month stay while we trained to be stewardesses. The girls came from India, Pakistan, Hong Kong and South America. Each of the nationalities wore a uniform version of their national dress. the routes were limited but I think we made an important contribution to the BOAC image. Perhaps this could form part of the memorabilia that is now BOAC.

  2. Danny Gallacher says:

    I remember these days so well. While training to be a flight steward at LHR (Joe Lawrence academy 1961) I also had a part time evening job as waiter in Dormy House where I met many National Stewardess in training from all around the globe and often wonder where they are today.We were all so young then. Very happy and exciting days. The uniforms then were very tailored and did look spectacular giving the ladies a look of confidence.Yes, very attractive ,feminine and much better than ones of today.
    Happy Days !

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