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Flair in the Air

China Daily Asia | Updated: 2016-12-13 09:13

Flair in the Air

(From left to right) Qantas uniform by Yves Saint Laurent, 1986; United Airlines uniform by Stan Herman, 1976; Trans World Airlines uniform by Oleg Cassini, 1955; United Airlines uniform by Jean Louis, 1968. [Photo/Courtesy of SFO Museum]

From nurse-inspired looks to stylishly professional cabin crew outfits, attire in the sky has changed significantly over the years. Unlike other uniforms, which often share a similar palette, the looks for flight attendants vary quite a bit.

Wherever you look, you're bound to see all the colours of the rainbow. Take the bold orange outfits of Russian carrier Aeroflot; the sky-blue of Korean Airlines; the blazing-hot red of Virgin Atlantic, designed by Vivienne Westwood; the Singapore Girl's traditional sarong kebaya for Singapore Airlines by Pierre Balmain; the striking stripes of Australian national airline Qantas; the classic blue-and-red scheme of Air France; or the red cape option for Colombian national carrier Avianca Airlines.

Today you can spot each airline's flight attendants from afar, but the uniforms originally signified nurses on board. In 1930, 25-year-old pilot and registered nurse Ellen Church appealed to the executives of Boeing Air Transport to hire women in the skies, who could help take care of passengers and calm their fears. Church and seven other women were hired by the airline. Known as the "Original Eight", they dressed in dark blue suits with a cape and cap. Later, the "sky nurse" attire gave way to a lighter, more cheerful look, with a short-sleeved dress in white and a wool jacket in navy.

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