Friday, April 28, 2017


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 #FashionInFlight at the International Terminal at the San Francisco airport

As a "members only" signifier, uniforms empower, include and identify. Wearers embody a brand and become an extension of its values. Airlines have long clad their crew in stylish ensembles that highlight superiority through distinguished elements of design. Before flying out of San Francisco's SFO airport earlier this week, I take the opportunity to stroll through Fashion In Flight: A History of Airline Uniform Design at the SFO Museum. Keep reading to for a closer look...

Pan American World Airways stewardess uniform by Frank Smith for Evan-Piconet (1971)

Ellen Church, the world's first female flight attendant, started work in 1930 as the head stewardess for Boeing Air Transport (BAT). She and 7 "sky girls" donned matching skirt suits and capes to attend to passengers and complete medical and other manual duties. Since then, airline attendant attire has become less institutional, shifting from a static "one look fits all" to allow a measure of self-expression through mix-and-match. Fashion in Flight includes over 30 ensembles from top designers, showcasing the evolution of uniforms from 1960 to the present. Standouts include a red Virgin Atlantic Airways anglo-inspired uniform by Vivienne Westwood and the multi-colored Quantas ensemble by Yves Saint Laurent.

 Virgin Atlantic Airways flight attendant uniform (2014) by Vivienne Westwood [photo source]

"Fashion in Flight reveals the design history and evolution of the airline uniform, its iconic status in popular culture, and its dynamic relationship to the world of fashion....The unique design challenge, opportunities and successes in meeting these demands are reflected in the masterful and memorable uniforms on exhibition"
-SFO Museum
 Photo of United Airlines flight attendants in uniforms by Jean Louis (1970s)

The exhibit continues at the Aviation Museum and Library until September 10th. Stop in if you happen to be passing by!

Green stewardess ensembles

Red stewardess uniforms

 Qantas Airways flight attendant uniform (1986) by Yves Saint Laurent [photo source]

SFO Museum installation view

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