Flying High

Airline Style Through the Years

Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet looks at the evolution of airline style, from stewardesses to passengers, through the years.

Laurence King Publishing

Laurence King Publishing

When airplanes were first introduced as a means of transportation, they became runways in the sky, with celebrities and members of the upper class dressing glamorously for travel. “A fashion pageant parades from the airport concourse through the air bridge and on to the aircraft; for passengers and crew alike, glamour and flying have always been synonymous,” Keith Lovegrove writes in a new book, Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet. "Hollywood scriptwriters and blockbuster bestselling authors frequently use the skies as an arena for staging glamorous histrionics. The airline industry is a catwalk for the image-makers and the image-takers." Today, while flying has become more accessible to the general public, fashion still remains an integral part of the experience. With designers collaborating with airlines—such as Vivienne Westood creating uniforms for Virgin Atlantic, or the iconic Pierre Balmain ensemble for Singapore Airlines—flight attendants' style has remained an integral part of an airline's image. Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet, released this week, looks at the evolution of airline style, including "uniforms that began as military and modest in style [that] progressed to sex-sells hot pants." A look at the evolution of airline style, from stewardesses to passengers, through the years.

Laurence King Publishing

The New York Midnight Follies arrive at Croydon Airport, near London, in 1930 wearing a variety of ankle-length winter coats, fur stoles, and pillbox hats.  

Laurence King Publishing

Christian Dior and his models, who fix their makeup in compact mirrors, are pictured flying on Air France from Paris to Edinburgh to show the designer's collection in 1955. 

Laurence King Publishing

A Delta Airlines stewardess is photographed in the 1930s in her uniform, which consists of a tailored blazer, a white button-down shirt, and a pleated skirt.

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Two women are photographed retiring to their powder room to freshen up on board a Pan American Boeing Clipper in 1949.

Laurence King Publishing

Two women dress for dinner in simple, feminine dresses and jewels on board a BOAC Bristol Britannia in 1956. 

Laurence King Publishing

Pan American Airlines stewardess Betty Lou Ruble shines in her uniform, a structured blazer and a pencil skirt, outside the Dorcester hotel in London in 1955. Ruble was awarded the prize for stewardess who has traveled the longest distance in a week serving drinks, with a pedometer strapped to her leg to record the amount of miles traveled.

Laurence King Publishing

American Airlines stewardess Janet Jackson is photographed in her belted minidress uniform with simple ballet flats in 1965.

Laurence King Publishing

In 1971 National Airlines introduced a new uniform—consisting of fur, animal prints, and leather—which evolved from a variety of suggestions from the airline's stewardesses.

Laurence King Publishing

In 1970 a stewardess is seen preparing drinks in the upper-deck cocktail lounge of a Boeing 747 in a striped turtleneck and black slacks. 

Laurence King Publishing

In 1985 Roland Klein designed the British Airways uniforms, which included a striped polyester two-piece set, a blue leather belt, and a midnight blue blazer.