Flight attendants became marketing icons. Skirts got shorter, and attendants wore go-go boots, hot pants, fake eyelashes and bouffant hairstyles. When airlines flew similar aircraft on similar routes, at comparable prices, the menu and the flight attendant's uniform became a means of differentiation.
In the 1960's, Mary Wells, who worked for advertising company Wells, Rich, and Green had a vision for helping to brand Braniff Airlines. She worked under the assumption that the airlines were all perceived to be the same. She set out to break that mold and launched a campaign for Braniff called "The End of the Plain Plane." The campaign launched a new look for all things Braniff; the planes, the airport lounges, the food, and the 'hostess' uniforms.
The uniforms were critical for helping to establish the breakaway Braniff image. The infamous Emilio Pucci was hired to create a look that brought glamour back to air travel. Bright, bold colors and designs became the mark of friendly service and exciting travel for Braniff.
Pucci's first uniform for the company referenced his own jet-setting, cafe-society clientele and the glamorous, exclusive nature of air travel at the time with a luxurious sportswear wardrobe fashioned out of eye-poppingly bright coral red, hyacinth blue, melon, and grass-green silks and wools. The reversible swing coat even appears to have had hand-stitched lapels. Hostesses could make four outfit changes in a single flight!
In the late 1960's and early 1970's, the costume skewed more sexy than classy with miniskirts and matching tights in far-out psychedelic prints. Incredibly, in the late 1960's, the uniform included full-length fur coats for stewardesses on the Greenland and Iceland routes. The plastic bubble helmet, to protect hairdos on windy tarmacs, was an integral part of the Pucci-designed uniforms but was phased out after 1965 for being impractical.
Other prominent fashion houses that designed for the airlines in the 1960's and 1970's include: Dior for SAS, Balenciaga for Air France, Pierre Cardin for Pakistani Airlines, Pierre Balmain for Singapore Airlines, Hanae Mori for Japan Airlines, Mary Quant for Courtline Aviation, Bill Blass for American Airlines and Valentino and Ralph Lauren for TWA.
In more recent times (since 2003), several airlines have hired fashion designers to help them introduce their image through the airline uniform. Korean Air worked with Italian designer GianFranco Ferre, Kate Spade designed for Song, Christian Lacroix for Air France and Richard Tyler for Delta.
Now sit back, relax, and fasten your seat belts and enjoy a Branniff clip.