Flight attendant uniforms, as worn at Virgin Airlines America

Current flight attendant uniforms, as worn at Virgin Airlines America

Flight attendant uniforms have become a symbol of those who live to serve in the friendly skies, and the airlines they work for. But I have to say, the uniforms have come a long way since the early days.

Learning about the role of a flight attendant means learning about the women and men who serve, and part of the appeal of this position has long been their uniforms.

Click on any photo below to begin the photo slideshow.

Flight Attendant Uniforms: A Brief History

The beginning of the uniforms vaunted history can be found at Boeing in the 1930s. At this point, airline flight attendants were nurses that were on staff to comfort passengers that were nervous about the prospect of flying.

Reflecting their serious position and the responsibility that they held, the uniforms were fairly gray and plain. There was a gray double breasted jacket and a long gray skirt, making the attendants’ uniforms resemble the uniforms nurses wore at the hospital.

During these years, the flight attendants at Boeing/United Airlines also wore armbands designating their company on their left arms in addition to their flight attendant uniforms.

It wasn’t until the sixties and the seventies when the flight attendant uniforms started to take a stylish turn. It was in this era where the competing airlines started to dress their flight attendants in a more modern, more trendy fashion.

By the 1960s, the iconic airline flight attendant was a woman who worked for United Airlines, and she was invariably dressed in a classy light blue wool suit worn over a white short sleeve blouse. There was no collar and the lapels folded into sharp points, giving the flight attendant a lovely, crisp look. Depending on the season, white or navy pumps could be worn on the feet, and of course, nude stockings were an essential.

The 1970s saw the inception of fashionable flight attendant uniforms

During the 1970s, a flight attendant’s uniform took on a distinctly modern slant, moving away from the military-inspired uniforms of the years before. Instead of suits, the attendants now wore dresses that had a distinctly mod-inspired designs. These dresses cut off above the knee, and were typically double or tripled colored, with contrasting stripes coming down from the collar. This look was a part of many airlines’ advertising campaigns, and the result was the creation of the flight attendant as an adventurous woman who was ready for anything!

It was around this time that the position of male flight attendants became more common. Before the 1970’s, virtually all flight attendants were women. The only exceptions were on United Airlines’ routes that hailed from Hawaii which did have a few male attendants.

Introducing male Flight Attendant Uniforms

When male flight attendants became more common, a uniform was designed for them which were fitted from off the rack designers. This uniform was typically a single breasted jacket in gray paired with matching slacks. A tie was also part of the dress code, though it was up to the attendant whether the tie would be in solid black or white polka dots on a black tie.

Both men and women had always needed to have coats to go with their flight attendant uniforms.

In the case of the female flight attendants, the jackets were typically designed to match the uniforms. Some notable examples include jackets with a distinct military-style sharpness to them, and more modern coats that included capes and a lot of swish to the hem. Compare this to the men’s jackets, which were often simply trench coats from one of several different designers in tan or black.

If you’re considering a career as a flight attendant, you can be thankful that the uniforms worn today are designed with style and sophistication in mind, and more than just simply to give the impression of safety and security for passengers – though you can be sure this point has not been overlooked!

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