A matter of hemlines and air hostesses
The other day when I came across this article which said that air hostesses of Air Deccan will have to start wearing short skirts, so that their uniforms would be similar to the girls in Kingfisher Airlines, the new owners, I could not help wondering whether they would willingly step into shorter skirts, knowing how conservative our country is!
Indian Airlines hostesses wear saris. Dr.Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher’s owner, has certainly broken with tradition. Not that short skirts are perforce an international trend. For example, KLM, Japan Airlines, Turkish Airlines and even Australian Airlines have hostesses with knee-length skirts (these links will lead you to a picture of the uniforms). Thai and Malaysia Airlines sport ankle-length uniforms.
What I found very interesting is that hemlines in most airlines have ridden up and down over the years, almost as if in tandem with people’s sentiments?
Turkish airlines hostesses had hemlines which reached mid-thigh in the nineties, but now their hostesses wear longer skirts.
KLM hostesses on the other hand graduated from a long skirt in the sixties, to a short one in the early seventies to a knee-length one from the mid-seventies onwards.
Cathay Pacific seems to have had a lot of second and third thoughts about the uniforms of their flight attendants! From below the knee in the forties, ankle length in the early fifties, knee-length in the sixties, the uniform changed to a short skirt in the early seventies! But by 1974, the airlines made another change and had their girls wear knee length skirts. Now the girls are back in their minis!
No pants please, we are girls!
What is clear however is that few airlines have short-skirted air hostesses. But what intrigued me even further was that there are hardly any airlines which dress up their air hostesses in pants. Canadian Airlines did use pants for its hostesses in the nineties but the uniform has changed now. Actually, even TWA hostesses, who now wear short skirts, wore pants from 1971-78. About Air France, I am not clear whether the girls wear pants nowadays, but they did wear them as part of their winter uniform in 2005.
Considering that the job of an air-hostess requires freedom of movement, and in emergencies even real action, I wonder why more airlines don’t use pants as an uniform. Men certainly seem to be dressed more comfortably. Or maybe skirts and dresses are comfortable, I have no idea because I don’t wear them! But I am sure that a tight skirt is not comfortable. Some airlines tend to dress their air-hostesses in clothes that inhibit movement and that includes sarees and sarongs. I always thought uniforms are supposed to be functional not fashionable, but I guess where air-hostesses are concerned, fashion seems to be paramount! This blog post has an opinion on this:
In the in-flight environment, the trapped and sometimes angry or scared crowds need to be reassured and guided by visible authority figures. I don’t want to look up through my oxygen mask for help at a team kitted out by Urban Outfitters…other professions seem to manage a balance between environmental practicality and maintaining their authority and professionalism: lifeguards for example, or the fire services.
I wonder if airlines feel that people choose their airline on the basis on how fashionable the hostesses are – I doubt it highly. Or perhaps it is a factor? If I don’t think so, it could be because for me good service is more important while flying than a hot dude. It would be interesting to find out what guys think about this.
Interestingly, airlines try very hard not to give the impression that their girls are ‘sexy’ or ‘provocative.’ The incident of an US airline attendant who “was suspended over postings on her blog” is a case in point. She worked for Delta Airlines and was suspended for ‘inappropriate’ images on her blog even though she had not mentioned the name of the airline she worked for.
Ofcourse, what is provocative or not varies from culture to culture. In India a skirt may be termed ‘sexy’ because the public is not used to seeing women dressed in skirts, but this is not so in western countries. Women there traditionally wear dresses. And in India women wear sarees…and in my opinion, sarees and sarongs restrict movement too.
The uniform of a flight attendant is also related to whether the airline is plying on the domestic or international sector, but I have not analysed this in any great detail.
However, it would indeed be a pity if air-hostesses become victims, either of fashion or of tradition.
(All photos have been linked to the originals)