Fashion In Flight: A History of Airline Uniform Design at SFO Museum, San Francisco Airport


We spend a lot of time wishing we were on the Golden Coast of California, but today especially so. The SFO Museum has launched an exhibition of airline uniforms at their base in San Francisco airport.

From Valentino to Vivienne Westwood, the display is a who’s who of fashion design. The existence and significance of airline uniforms is well documented. From Cliff Muskiet’s incredible collection (read our interview here) to numerous exhibitions globally, cabin crew uniform holds a unique position in the history of womenswear. They convey the glamour of the vocation across the ages and they project the airline’s brand through colour, shape and motif; they document changes across design as a whole.

This exhibition presents over seventy pieces from the last eighty-five years. It traces the development of uniform design, from the utility wear pre-Second World War to the commissioning of haute couturiers in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, through to the designs of fashion designers now.

The majority of pieces are already held by the SFO Museum (oh, to raid their archives!), exhibited alongside donations from airlines and staff. Here are our favourites:

A History of Airline Uniform Design

Transcontinental & Western Air hostess uniform by Howard Greer, 1944

One of the oldest items in the exhibition is this stunning light blue garberdine outfit designed by Hollywood royalty Howard Greer. It was worn by Transcontinental stewardesses in the 1940s onwards. Its ingenious triangular lapel allowed the TWA embroidered logo to be covered, to allow air hostesses to smoke or enjoy a cocktail without fear of damaging the airline’s reputation.

Trans World Airlines hostess uniform by Oleg Cassini, 1955

Trans World Airlines hostess uniform by Oleg Cassini, 1955

For the same airline, a decade later, Oleg Cassini designed this lightweight green wool number. Cassini was famed as First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy’s official designer.

Braniff International Airways hostess uniform by Emilio Pucci, 1966

Braniff International Airways hostess uniform by Emilio Pucci, 1966

We’ve covered the Braniff babes before, and Pucci’s hostess designs shocked the entire airline industry. The vivid colour palette and heady geometric patterns signalled a new era in hostess fashion, with a collection of skirts, dresses, tunics, trousers and culottes.

Air France stewardess uniform by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1969

Air France stewardess uniform by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1969

Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga created this super sartorial semi-fitted look in 1969 for Air France. The utility pockets on the breast and sleeves were reminiscent of war-era designs, but a modern cut provided a better, more comfortable fit for hostesses.

Pan American World Airways stewardess uniform by Don Loper, 1959

Pan American World Airways stewardess uniform by Don Loper, 1959

Ah, Pan Am – perhaps the most iconic airline uniform in the world. Designed by Beverley Hills designer Don Loper, the famous Pan Am jacket and skirt set a precedent for glamorous airline design. The aerodynamic cut of the suit reflected the dawn of the jet age, with angular pockets and lapels and the quintessential fin on the hat completed the look.

Trans World Airlines flight attendant uniform by Valentino, 1971

Trans World Airlines flight attendant uniform by Valentino, 1971

Trans World Airlines commissioned the legendary Valentino to create their uniforms in 1971. His passion for colour is evident in this design; the bright plum tones and decadent gold buttons (carrying a ‘V’ logo) were a revolutionary shift towards a more couture approach to cabin dressing.

Qantas Airways flight attendant uniform by Yves Saint Laurent , 1986

Qantas Airways flight attendant uniform by Yves Saint Laurent , 1986

Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic kangaroo print was produced for Qantas in 1986. Worn until 1991, this ensemble screams 1980s, with angular padded shoulders, contrasting cuffs, wide lapels and button-up poly-cotton skirt – all wouldn’t look out of place in the designers Rive Gauche collections of the same decade.

Aeroméxico flight attendant uniform by Macario Jiménez, 2008

Aeroméxico flight attendant uniform by Macario Jiménez, 2008

Finally, an underrated gem in the collection is Macario Jiménez’s Aeroméxico design, worn between 2008 and 2011. The lapel-less, tailored jacket with red piping detail and waist belt is super sexy. It’s accompanied by a jazzy Pucci-esque scarf.

For more information about the exhibition, visit the museum’s website.

All images courtesy SFO Museum

SS16: All Aboard Chanel Airlines!

SS16_Paris_Chanel_YouTube_013image: Chanel/YouTube

When Field Grey saw Chanel‘s SS16 collection we could hardly believe our luck. Could there be a presentation more up our street, to rival an arena transformed into an airport lounge designed and produced by Karl Lagerfeld? We think not. Karl’s summer 2012 couture collection springs to mind – set, as it was, an on a custom Chanel aeroplane, but a fully fledged airport terminal is something else.

SS16_Paris_Chanel_YouTube_008image: Chanel/YouTube

SS16_Paris_Chanel_YouTube_003image: Chanel/YouTube

The stark white terminal would rival the most glamorous airports in the world. The vast Grand Palais (after being imagined as a casino for AW15 couture) came complete with check-in desks, Chanel custom trollies, huge departure screens, dishy pilots, terminal seating and even runway gates (No.5, of course).

SS16_Paris_Chanel_YouTube_014image: Chanel/YouTube

SS16_Paris_Chanel_YouTube_007image: Chanel/YouTube

There were plenty of airline and airport details in the clothes, too. Many of the models wheeled along custom Chanel luggage nonchalantly, more with a brisk air of fashion traveller than that of an air hostess.

SS16_Paris_Chanel_001image: Vogue

Next came Karl’s idea of what a Chanel traveller would look like, catering for the younger market with reverse snapback caps and strings of pearls; while the iconic tweed two-pieces were given a futuristic, metallic twist. Broad, angular lapels reminded us of classic, mid-century cabin crew uniforms.

SS16_Paris_Chanel_003image: Vogue

Field Grey clocked some nods to archive airline uniforms, too. Intricate geometric patterns were reminiscent of airline uniforms in the 1980s and 1990s, like Paul Costelloe’s British Airways uniforms from 1992 onwards.

SS16_Paris_Chanel_005image: Vogue

Other discerning Chanel travellers might like plain tweeds with matching boater hats:

SS16_Paris_Chanel_022image: Vogue

Not to miss a single detail, Karl also produced extraordinary silk kaftans with electronic departure board themes:

SS16_Paris_Chanel_028image: Vogue

And then there were more patterns that sought inspiration from cabin crew uniforms from decades past: garish patterns transformed into fashionable mix and match pieces:

SS16_Paris_Chanel_030image: Vogue

The finale featured an energetic Cara Delevingne and mini pilot as the models confirmed their flight details at check-in desks and disappeared through gate No.5.

SS16_Paris_Chanel_YouTube_015image: Chanel/YouTube

SS16_Paris_Chanel_YouTube_017image: Chanel/YouTube

Watch the full show here:

Exhibition Review: MUDE Lisbon: TAP Portugal: Identity and Design of the National Airline 1945-2015


A new exhibition at the Museu do Design e da Moda in Lisbon, Portugal’s premier art and design museum, focusses on the history and design of the country’s national airline, TAP Portugal. This year the nation’s flag carrier celebrates its seventieth birthday.


The airline was founded in 1945, beginning operations a year later. The exhibition celebrates the airline from its inception to the present day, focussing particularly on the design of the airline’s identity, uniform, cabin interiors and even cutlery. The five distinct corporate identities that the company has adopted are explored, focussing on the ideological, political and economic contexts in which they were designed. This approach is adopted over numerous other areas of the brand; of course Field Grey were particularly excited about the broad range of stewardess uniforms featured in the show.










Original tiling from TAP locations, sculptures and tapestries are also on display. The exhibition provides a wonderful insight into the impact and dissemination of Portuguese culture across the world over the last 70 years.

The exhibition runs until 1 November; for more information visit the website.

Exhibition images by Hanna Sahlén for Field Grey; all other images courtesy Museu do Design e da Moda.

Project Runway – Titan Airways’ New Uniform

© Richard Martin

We at Field Grey are very proud to announce the official launch of Titan Airways’ brand spanking new Field Grey-designed cabin crew uniform.

We worked very closely with the lovely folk at Titan in order to design and develop a uniform that was not only functional and fabulous, but that really reflected the airline’s impressively high standards of service.

Both male and female cabin crew sport sharp tailoring that features delicate, thoughtful references to the Titan brand. Fitted female jackets are finished with patterned purple buttons whilst male blazers feature  purple buttonholes which match their silk ties. Beautiful tailored dresses were designed and made especially for the Titan crew as an alternative to a skirt and shirt ensemble. Skirts were fitted with a special shirt-gripper around the waist, ensuring that the crew can be happy in the knowledge that their uniform is working with them when they’re opening overhead lockers – and not against them!

We had the cabin crew’s luxurious mulberry-coloured leather gloves specially made in a traditional British glove factory and had smart handbags manufactured in the same purple hue.

What we thought was a really special touch, and one that the staff at Titan totally deserve, was the creation of a bespoke print that was designed in-house at Field Grey exclusively for Titan. This Titan print contrasts deep purple hues against soft lilac, and features on the silk print scarves of the female cabin crew.

The staff look wonderful in their new uniform, see for yourself at

We’re on cloud nine.

Virgin America go Bananas

Those lucky lads and lasses at Virgin America sure are in for a lovely treat. Last week San Francisco-based label Banana Republic unveiled their new uniforms for the Virgin America crew and we at Field Grey reckon that airline staff around the globe are going to be more than just a little bit jealous.


Banana Republic’s range of no-frills Virgin America uniforms is inspired, rather than obsessed, by the world of aviation. The result is a clean, modern collection tied together by the colours of Virgin America, which becomes ever more apparent when the crew model their new threads in the Virgin America lounge – see picture for proof that the colours match. Female flight attendants are gifted with luxurious leather jackets and cheeky red trench coats – simultaneously smart, practical and sexy – and the outfits are designed to be customisable through reversible belts and optional neckties. We love the ‘professional traveller’ feel of the new uniform and although a tiny part of us mourns the traditional embroidery and heavy decoration of a good ol’ fashioned pilot’s uniform, BR’s understated pilot is a brave move into modernity (he’s the guy in the middle by the way).


As well as looking super chic, Field Grey is pleased to report that the uniform has been designed with day-to-day activities of the cabin crew firmly in mind. Shirts have a little extra length so that they stay tucked in when flight attendants reach up to store items in the overhead locker, and skirts and trousers also feature a little rubberised grip to properly secure them in place – meaning minimal risk of your delicious in-flight meal being served with a side of tummy.

With a cracking new uniform that is both fashionable and functional, we bet Virgin America’s crew are on cloud nine. ­­(Sorry).

And if you’re thinking about filling in a flight attendant application form just to get in on the action then never fear – Banana Republic are launching a travel themed autumn collection in-flight and in selected US stores on August 7th 2012.

If you really can’t get enough of these new uniforms you may well want to travel back in time via YouTube to March 2012 when Virgin America hosted a fashion show debuting Banana Republic’s ‘Mad Man’ collection – at 35,000ft, on an actual flying Virgin America plane, with actual passengers (and a few lucky bloggers). Come fly with BR? We would.

Say Hello To Pan Am

Following on from the success of Mad Men, BBC2 has recently launched ‘Pan Am’, a brand new television drama based on the lives of iconic airline’s pilots and cabin crew. Set in 1960s New York, with an ex-Pan Am stewardess as executive producer and a pilot episode costing $10 million it is sure to make fascinating viewing.

Established in 1927 in Key West, Pan Am was a small airline with a focus on quality, style and reliability. From this simple formula sprouted an astonishing worldwide success. With the airline’s celebrity peaking in the swinging sixties, Pan Am was undoubtedly benefiting from the rise of the ‘jet era’ – but it went beyond that. Pan Am’s shrewd use of design proliferated their glamorous reputation using the very best of mid century modern design. The airline collaborated with recognised fashion designer Edith Head to produce their uniforms and first class passengers were even given a ‘Pan Am bag’, an item that rose to cult status due to the abundance of celebrities and rock stars flying Pan Am. The pilots wings were even filled with gold!

The Pan Am brand denotes a style and sex appeal that is no longer associated with flying. This is perhaps best portrayed in the familiar scene in Catch Me If You Can, in which eight glamorous girls in Pan Am uniforms signify Leonardo Dicaprio’s ‘successful’ new life (pictured below).
The popularity of budget airlines and the infamous ‘cattle class’ is now the norm. With the glamour of flying Pan Am seemingly unattainable to many in current climates, ‘Pan Am’ gives a delicious insight into the most desirable departures in aviation history.

Images @, Everything, Dreamworks
, Financial Times

Christina Ricci stars in new drama 'Pan Am'

Pan Am's uniform, designed by 60s fashion designer Edith Head

Edith Head's Pan Am uniform in the early 1970s

Leonardo DiCaprio posing as a Pan Am pilot in cult film 'Catch Me if You Can'

A gold-filled Pan Am wing badge, by Balfour