An Evolution of Style
Beyond the glamour of traveling to exotic locations and meeting new people, flight attendant uniforms also defined their alluring status. Every airline had a signature uniform to identify itself among its competition, and many had both a summer and a winter version. However, their polished and elegant attire was often more visually appealing than practical or comfortable.
Although cultural and regional differences had a significant impact on the design of uniforms, the ideals associated with certain time periods also gave an accurate picture of the progression of flight attendant uniforms.
Reflecting the military history of the first aviators, many of the early stewardess uniforms had militaristic elements such as brass buttons, faux military insignia and simple, straight lines.
Stewardesses were supposed to be submissive to the flight captain and many pilots had their sky girls salute to them when they came aboard. Despite their formal outfits, they still were supposed to be sweet and engaging and always served their passengers with a smile.
Following World War II through the early 1960s, uniforms became more feminine as airlines realized the marketing potential of their young, beautiful flight attendants. At first tight girdles, high heels, pill box hats and white gloves were the norm.
This eventually gave way to simpler dresses, many of which were very sensual in design and had elaborate accessories.
From the mid 1960s into the 1970s, flight attendant uniforms became trendy. In particular, Braniff Airlines enlisted designers such as Emilio Pucci to create their stewardess' dresses.
In 1968, the infamous bubble head space helmet was designed to keep flight attendants' hair styles from getting ruined on the windy tarmac.