Cabin crew are often seem as glamorous people thanks to their adventure filled lifestyle and often which uniforms. This perception of flight attendants started in the 1960s thanks to recruitment advertising which lured women into the fast-paced job. To maintain this aesthetic, cabin crew had to adhere to strict uniform rules, some which are still in place today. However, there are a few differences between now and then, including some bizarre requirements that went far beyond your standard uniform policy.
An ex-flight attendant, who started her career in the late 1960s, has revealed that female cabin crew were once forced to wear extremely uncomfortable underwear in order to fit the uniform guidelines.
Patricia Ireland began flying for airline Pan Am in her younger years and says at the time cabin crew were forced to wear girdles in order to sculpt their body into the ideal shape for the uniform.
She discussed her experience in an article for Vanity Fair in 2014.
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“I thought there was no better prescription for varicose veins than to go in a pressurised cabin with the equivalent of rubber bands around your thighs,” she said of the tight underwear the women had to squeeze into.
Ireland now realises at the time she didn’t think twice about the odd policy.
“My concept of what women could do in the workplace was really very limited. . . . I look back now with awe at the blinders I had on, but it seemed to me at the time just the price of admission to the workplace in a job that was very exciting,” she admits.
However, this requirement was all part of a larger picture that airlines were trying to depict to the public at the time.
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As air travel grew in popularity, airlines needed more people to join the rankings, and to lure them in they promised a life of glamour.
“Stewardesses were told how to stand, how to walk, how to style their hair, how to make themselves up,” the article states.
“Their “look” was as polished as the marble in a corporate lobby, and quality control was no joke.”
While the bizarre underwear requirements are a distant memory, todays cabin crew must still abide by ensemble regulations in order to ensure continuity and brand identity.
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Not only do must cabin crew abide by outfit regulations, they must also consider the colour of their hair, any visible piercings, tattoos and makeup.
For example, British Airways states: “Our uniform standards require a simple, elegant look.
“A single ear piercing is allowed no more than 10mm in diameter, only one set of round shaped ear-rings must be worn.
“No other visible body piercings including tongue, tongue retainer and nose studs are allowed.”
Ronen Luzon, an app developer who works with airlines to ensure all crew uniforms have the right measurements, explains just how much effort goes in to perfecting their look.
He said: “Airliners are under tremendous pressure to continuously adapt their uniforms in order to better the employee experience. A
“At the same time, these airlines have thousands of employees stationed all across the globe, which makes it extremely difficult when you throw one specific uniform into the mix.
“Whether it be the flight attendant or the pilot, sizing is the number one issue for in-flight staff.
“These are the people who represent their airlines in the frontline, and the uniforms they wear need to deliver on practical and operational demands, all while ensuring comfort in the size and fit.”