Galley Gossip: A letter to the producers of Project Runway regarding flight attendant uniforms

Dear Project Runway Producers,

Have I got a challenge for you! With the premiere of the new television show Pan Am airing September 25th on ABC, there’s been a lot of talk about airlines in the news lately. One can’t help but compare stewardesses of yesterday to flight attendants today, and yet the job rarely resembles what it once was so many years ago. Long gone are the days of glamour when stewardesses had strict age, weight and height requirements, and only averaged 18 months on the job. Nowadays flight attendants are allowed to be married, grow old, and gain weight – just like the rest of society!

Image is important to an airline. This is why most airlines have established very strict grooming standards flight attendants must abide by. I’ve been told passengers have more confidence in an airline when its employees look good. That makes sense considering when I look good, I feel good, and that in turn has a positive affect on passengers. But in America we come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors, opposed to our foreign counterparts who are hired because they are a specific size, shape and color. This is why it’s more difficult for US carriers to design a uniform that looks good on everyone.

Since 9/11 airlines have had to reduce expenses to stay in business. I’ve been working as a flight attendant for sixteen years, so I’ve experienced first hand just how much travel has changed in the last decade. Food was the first thing to go, followed by magazines, pillows and blankets. Even a few colleagues and a couple of airlines disappeared. This might explain why our polyester uniforms are no longer quite as impressive as they once were when air travel was considered a luxury and only the wealthy could afford to fly. Needless to say our uniforms have to be cheap enough to outfit tens of thousands of employees.

What most people don’t realize is that flight attendants today work ten times harder than ever before. A 12-14 hour work day followed by an 8 hour layover is not uncommon. Nor is working three back to back trips in a row. This adds up to a lot of wear and tear on a uniform in a short period of time. That being said, durability should play a major factor in our uniform design. Comfort would also be nice. Remember being able to move, stretch, bend and work in a cabin that alternates between hot and cold is very important.

The pencil thin, girdle wearing stewardesses of yesterday have evolved. Even so we, too, would love nothing more than to walk through the airport terminal with the same pride they felt by wearing a distinguished uniform that is fashionable, but also age appropriate and practical to work in. Why not take on this challenge for those of us who work the not so friendly skies and design stylish coordinating uniform pieces that are affordable and comfortable and will look good on your daughter, son, wife, brother, mother or father. Not an easy task, I know. This could be your biggest challenge yet. Think you can do it? Millions of flight attendants would be forever grateful if you could at least give it a try.


Heather Poole

Photo courtesy of JFithian

Nine groovy retro flight attendant uniforms

Good looks never go out of style, but (thankfully, in some instances) “air hostess” uniforms do. The Los Angeles Times travel section has published this great photo gallery of swinging stews from the “Style in the Aisle” exhibit at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

The exhibit, which runs through May 30th, features flight attendant uniforms from the 1930’s through the ’70’s. Couture designers of the day, including Emilio Pucci, helped put fashion forward in the airline industry. Because no one should ever have to serve pretzels without the sartorial security of Go-go boots and a cape.

[Photo credit: The Museum of Flight Collection]

Galley Gossip: IndiGo flight attendants forced to cut their hair – or wear a wig

Meet the flight attendants from IndiGo Airlines. They’re young, chic, and might be wearing a wig. Well that is if they refuse to cut their hair. According to Anindita Ghose in the article A Curious Case of Stewardess Hair, the airline’s new uniform includes a grey tunic with an indigo corsage and a hat to be worn with a uniform bob. The new look was launched on August 15th.

IndiGo Airlines is a private domestic low cost carrier based in Gurgayon Haryana, India. It’s main base is Delhi’s Indira Gandhi’s International Airport. In 2008 the airline won the title “Best Domestic Low Cost Carrier.” I wonder if the airline is trying to reclaim that title by having their flight attendants sport what the airline reports is a more sophisticated and international look? According to the stylist for IndiGo airlines in an interesting article, long hair or hair buns do not go with IndiGo’s new image, a look the airline believes makes their flight attendants appear younger and smarter and, in my opinion, quite French and very vavavavoom! But in a vintage way.No doubt about it the IndiGo girls look great! But the new short do apparently has them preoccupied with their hair. Passengers have noticed them either constantly messing with the lock that curls midcheeck or adjusting the wig to keep it in place. All I can say is I’m glad the airline I work for doesn’t make us wear the exact same hairstyle, or worse, wear someone else’s hair! Imagine serving hot coffee and PLOP! There’s a wig in a lap and a flight attendant sprinting into the galley to hide. It’s only a matter of time, ya know. Let’s just hope no one gets burned in the process. As for the spill left behind, passengers can just mop it up with that sharp looking wig! But don’t ring the call light to ask the flight attendant to dispose of it as she’ll be passing through the aisle shortly with a pick-up cart – that is as soon as she figures out what to do with her hair! Priorities, people.

While it was initially mandatory for the flight attendants of IndiGo Airlines to wear the bob after the airline launched its new image, they now also have the option of wearing their own hair in a “French roll or tie bun.” This after they put on what was reported as “a brave front in the face of severe scrutiny by curious passengers” known to love long hair. Thankfully things have changed. If it were me, I’d go with the French twist. It’s just as sexy and a lot more practical.

Photo courtesy of

Japanese sex clubs: Where flight attendant uniforms mean service

Where is a flight attendant uniform synonymous with high-touch service? Well, you may encounter JAL duds in a Japanese sex club. Your hostess may not keep it on long, but you’ll be happy to know that your safety is her first priority, whether you’re dressed or not. When JAL fell into bankruptcy, the risk that flight attendant uniforms would fall into the wrong hands skyrocketed.

It seems that people will pay big bucks to get serviced by a “flight attendant,” as long as it doesn’t happen on a plane. Thus, the uniforms can fetch thousands of dollars, a sale made easier by employees falling victim to mass layoffs. Flight attendant uniforms popping up on the Yahoo! Japan auction site were on the block for more than $3,000.

Of course, there’s more to this problem than the illusion of freaky FAs filling fetish fantasies for sex club patrons. The airline also says that there’s a security risk, as uniforms can make it easier to access restricted areas in airports. JAL also suggests that here’s brand risk, with an airline spokeswoman indicating, “We also do not want people misrepresenting the company or damaging our image in any way.”

I guess the impact on the airline’s image depends on the talent wearing the uniform …

United plans for new image overhaul

After coming in last among large airlines in customer satisfaction surveys for two out of the last three years, United Airlines has been overhauling its operations in an effort to increase on-time performance and win back customers. Now the airline is working on the physical appearance of its planes and crew.

Every single one of the airplanes in United’s fleet will be getting a make-over. The grey with black and red stripes interiors (knows within the company as the “tequila sunrise” scheme) will be replaced with blue leather. The 1980’s-era overhead bins will be updated as well. The airline also announced that fashion designer Cynthia Rowley will be creating more stylish, updated crew uniforms.

With a reputation for poor customer service, delays, cancellations, broken guitars, safety violations, and lost luggage, can United really overhaul its image with a few aesthetic updates? Probably not, but airline officials hopes they can continue to address the issues that have led to its poor satisfaction survey rankings and eventually turn things around. Apparently, they just want the airline to look good while they do it.