Poor flight attendants. Once an elite cadre of glamorous pros catering almost exclusively to well-heeled passengers, they now have to face the grumblings of overcrowded masses while wearing unflattering polyester suits. Virgin Atlantic wants to restore some lost dignity, however, with redesigned uniforms by the British fashion icon Vivienne Westwood.
The partnership with Richard Branson’s airline updates the wardrobe of in-flight and ground employees, bringing elegance and tailored touches to uniforms that had grown boxy and generic. But don’t expect the punk-infused haute couture that has become Westwood’s signature; the new uniforms play it relatively safe. Instead of referencing space-age travel, Westwood channeled the feminine silhouettes of 1940s French fashion.
For female flight attendants, Westwood created a jacket inspired by an early-1990s design featuring a nipped-in waist and an oversize high collar in Virgin’s signature red. A matching pencil skirt includes the most daring detail: darted seams that emphasize the bum. A red double-breasted overcoat, a handbag, and hourglass heels (offered in three heights) complete the vintage-looking ensemble. Pants do not seem to be an option.
One can argue that Westwood brought sexiness back into stewardess attire, but is that something that should be applauded? Gianfranco Ferre for Korean Air and Christian Lacroix for Air France both managed to inject modern sophistication into airline uniforms without remaking flight attendants into temptresses.
Men get a more dignified makeover: a three-piece suit in a deep burgundy Oxford weave wool. The standard trouser is an au courant slim cut, though regular fit is also available. Lads also get a classic Oxford shoe in matte black leather with a polished toe. Here, the red is an accent color, showing up only in the jacquard fabric tie.
Many items in the new uniforms will be made from sustainable materials, including a polyester yarn made from recycled plastic bottles. The new threads, which will be worn by more than 7,500 staff, will officially take flight on Sept. 1.