Never has there been a more anxiety-ridden topic than “What can I wear on a trans-Atlantic flight that won’t make me 100 percent uncomfortable?” While we as passengers have a bit of leeway when it comes to middle seat-approved outfits, there exists one group of people that have to endure the exact same outfit trip after trip. The coveted flight attendant uniform has been a topic of conversation since the 1940’s when in-flight service began to rise in order to accommodate the growing number of passengers that new planes were able to hold.
But just as fashions change throughout our daily lives, so did the style of stewardess uniforms. From the structured military style dress suits of yesteryear to the more casual—and boxier—outfits of the 90s and beyond. It’s safe to say cabin couture has come a long way. More recently, female crewmembers aboard British Airways flights won the option to wear pants after a two-year battle on the topic. For a number of other airlines, brand uniforms stretch much further than clothing—Singapore Air (SINGY) flight attendants are only given five approved hairstyles, one of which is a bun that must be between 6.5 and 7 centimeters wide. Other airlines look to well known designers to take their in-air fashion to the next level. Last year, Delta (DAL) brought on designer Zac Posen—who is widely known for his red carpet dresses—to create a look for both flight attendants and customer service employees.
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Flight attendant uniforms are all a part of the flying experience—a familiar face on hand to help with your every whim and request (and you’re especially lucky if you find yourself in the hands of one of the world’s best airlines for customer service). Scroll down to view how airline hostess style has evolved and become the ideal blend of fashion and function.
In the 1940s, flight attendant outfits were quite uniformed—every woman wore skirts that hit just below the knee along with matching hats and shoes.
The post-war uniform was still very much military inspired, with form fitting blazers, button up shirts, and even ties—as seen on these two BOAC flight attendants.
Hemlines shortened significantly in the 1960s along with the rise of the go-go boot and bold belt to accentuate a smaller waist, which translated into these Southwest Airlines (LUV) stewardess uniforms.
By the 1970s, fashion designers were the go-to for creating fun and innovative attire for the world’s leading flight attendants. Pictured are a group of well-dressed Court Line Aviation stewardesses in their new uniforms designed by Mary Quant, who heavily influenced the mod movement in the decade prior.
With the 1980s came the need for more accessible and comfortable clothing options. The vest became a popular choice for in-air service uniform, thanks to its versatility and style.
Uniforms became looser and less form-fitting in the 1990s, making the outfits less restricting and easier to manage (not to mention more breathable for long haul flights).
Goodbye vests, hello blazers! In the 2000s the flight attendant uniform took on a more masculine look, but kept things interesting with subtle details such as cuff stripes and collar intrigue.
Today, flight attendant uniforms are brought back to the styles of the past. Airlines favor a mix of vintage-inspired attire such as silk neck scarves and pillbox hats that were popular in the ’60s.
This piece originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.