A peek into Delta's fashion

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					75 Years of delta and still climbing . . .

               Case                          A peek into Delta’s fashion
                                             closet by mary alice kellogg


                                                                            shoes photo by steve pelosi; other photos courtesy of delta
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1969–70 summer uniform, including the “Huntsman”

                                                                                                                                             magine having to wear the same outfit to work every day, while             A stroll down inflight fashion mem-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ory lane (that is, the uniform archives at
                                                                                                                                             having to look stylish, polished and professional. Hence the chal-     the Delta Air Transport Heritage Mu-
                                                                                                                                             lenge that designers notable and obscure have faced since 1940,        seum at Delta headquarters in Atlanta)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    reveals that the eternal question “What
                                                                                                                                             when Delta flight attendants, then called stewardesses, were first     do I wear?” has been answered with
          Mid-1950s­ mid-’60s
                                                                                                                                             required to wear uniforms. Fashion is fickle, especially tricky        surprisingly enduring classics through
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    the decades. Notable exceptions like
          patent leather shoes                                                                                                               when what you wear must not only reflect the style of the day, but     the drab Confederate gray uniforms of
                                                                                                                                             also present an image, literally, to the whole world. A uniform        1956, leisure suits in the 1970s and the
                                                                                                                                             must be practical, durable, able to stand up to a lot of hard work,    “Unfortunate Rayon Destination
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Peach Print Period” (more on that
                                                                                                                                          comfortable to wear, yet fashionable. Stain-resistant doesn’t hurt, ei-   later) aside, through the years Delta
                                                                                                                                          ther. From a jacket, dress or suit to serving smocks, handbags and        flight attendants were dressed from
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    head to toe in stylish fashions, many of
                                                                                                                                          shoes, the flight attendant uniform must be a collection of versatile     which could hold their own on today’s
                                                                                                                                          pieces that work as hard as the people who wear them.                     catwalks.

74   Sky June 2004                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sky June 2004   75
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          75 Years of delta and still climbing . . .

                                                                                             But the uniform was far from pedestrian:
                                                                                             a simple, elegant ensemble influenced                                                      Through the years Delta
                                                                                             by Coco Chanel. For the first time, a
                                                                                             dress (in honey beige) and jacket re-                                                      flight attendants were
                                                                                             placed the two-piece suit, highlighted by
                                                                                             a “jet flame” coral ascot, topped by a full-                                               dressed from head to toe
                                                                                             length tan leather coat and finished
                                                                                             off with snappy, pointed-toed, 3-inch sti-
                                                                                             letto pumps and a handbag that today
                                                                                                                                                                                        in stylish­fashions, many
                                                                                             would be the envy of Prada. Unfortu-
                                                                                             nately, as chic as this was, the gabardine       1968–70
                                                                                                                                                                                        of which could hold their
                                                                                             fabric for the outfit had no stretch—
                                                                                             when the arms reached up, so did the
                                                                                                                                              winter uniform
                                                                                                                                                                                        own on today’s catwalks.
                                                                                             whole dress—and flight attendants com-
                                                                                             plained about its impracticality. The          brant ’60s, Delta’s uniforms hit a color-    pillbox—in the early ’60s. But the 1969          tion could be worn today to applause.
                                                                                             leather coat weighed as much as a              ful high note in synch with the times.       summer hat was a doozy unto itself. The          The colors were black and red, with a
                                                                                             stuffed suitcase, too.                         The new summer uniforms in 1969 had          “Huntsman” looked like a beige mush-             flattering A-line dress and matching dou-
                                                                                                                                            shorter hemlines, chain-link belts, low-     room on steroids, with a high rounded            ble-breasted jacket with brass buttons. A
                                                                                                                                            stacked heels and jackets to wear over       helmet shape that could fit over the tall-       knockout red wool greatcoat looks as if it

                                                                                               t is important to note that from             the sunshine yellow, aquanox blue or         est of bouffants or beehives. It featured a      walked right off the Paris runway and
                                                                                               1940 through the early 1960s, flight at-     grenelle green short-sleeved double-knit     jazzy little brim and, on the very top, a        found its way into Jackie O’s closet. Even
                                                                                               tendants were required to do their de-       dresses. Even the vinyl serving smocks       tube of beige fabric resembling the stem         the black-and-gold leopard-print vinyl
                                                                                               manding jobs in 3-inch high heels.           were Ravi Shankar groovy,                    of an apple. Not even the sagest of Delta        serving smock screamed chic. And oh,
                                                                                               The heels ranged from chunkier ones          in reversible eye-crossing paisley: tur-     fashion historians can explain this pecu-        the accessories! For the first time, atten-
                                                                                               in the early days to stilettos à la Manolo   quoise pattern on one side, mustard          liar feature, so it must, like the final rest-   dants could wear boots or pumps, both
                                                               1940–42 winter and            Blahnik, but it wasn’t until the Swingin’      on the other.                                ing place of Jimmy Hoffa, remain a               in black faux-crocodile calfskin (the
                                                               (left) summer uniforms
                                                                                             Sixties, when hemlines went up, that               Then there was “The Hat.” Hats           mystery.                                         boots look like Manolo knockoffs—be-
                                                                                             heels were lowered . . . to a sigh of relief   were an important finishing touch, the           At the same time, a star collection          fore Manolo). The chain-link belt with
          A case in point is that very first uni-   winter uniforms to celebrate the new     from those who had to spend all day in         icing on the uniform if you will, from       was born. As Sky’s fashionista, I must           alternating red and black plastic geomet-
      form, a fabulously fitted and cut navy        Jet Age. Reflecting the times, Head      them.                                          the early structured classic overseas        confess that I covet the entire 1968–70          ric discs added dash, a red-and-black-
      blazer and gored skirt, with a high-neck-     noted that “Women should dress for           We now arrive at a fashion era fondly      model (think Gwyneth Paltrow in View         winter uniform. The perfect meshing              striped beret that poofed out at the crown
      line white blouse, crisp white gloves, a      the role they play in life, be it as a   known as “The Polyester Years.” Not that       From the Top) to a cocked model in the       of timing, style, comfort and color, just        went the pillbox one better, and the
      jaunty “overseas” hat that perched on         housewife, secretary or stewardess.”     that’s a bad thing. At the end of the vi-      1950s to the “Delberet”—a modified           about every piece in this classic collec-        black purse perfectly copied the timeless
      the side of the head, and navy pumps.                                                                                                                                                                                               Hermès Kelly bag. “When we have
      That outfit could be worn to a business                                                                                                                                                                                             events that include fashion shows,”
      meeting in 2004 . . . as could the sum-                                                                                                                                                                                             says Delta Heritage Museum curator
      mer 1940 uniform of tailored beige col-                                                                                                                                                                                             and archivist Marie Force, “this is the
      larless jacket, rust-colored blouse, gored                                                                                                                                                                                          outfit that everybody wants to wear.” Me,
      skirt and spectator pumps. (The color                                                                                                                                                                                               too.
      scheme matched the interior of the DC-
      3, a nice touch.) Delta responded to the

      fashion trends of the war years with basic                                                                                                                                                                                                              hile the uniforms
      black, navy blue and tan, and of the                                                                                                                                                                                                                    that followed this
      1950s with an off-white Eisenhower bo-                                                                                                                                                                                                                  blockbuster look
      lero jacket over a slightly flared navy                                                                                                                                                                                                                 might not have made
      skirt, an off-white blouse with hand-                                                                                                                                                                                                                   as strong a fashion
      stitching and other details that were pos-                                                                                                                                                                                          statement, the 1970 collection was
      itively couturelike.                                                                                                                                                                                                                nonetheless groundbreaking on several
          Hollywood came aboard in 1959,                                                                                                                                                                                                  fronts, heralding the first pantsuit (with
      when Delta hired Oscar-winning cos-                                                                                                                                                                                                 bell-bottoms), the first time hats were op-
      tume designer Edith Head, fashion               1943–53                                                      1954–65­­                1957–59                                                       1973–75                         tional, the first mix-and-match pieces,
      chief of Paramount Studios, to create           summer uniform                                               summer uniform           winter uniform                                                year-round uniform              and the first uniform worn year-round

76   Sky June 2004                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Sky June 2004   77
                                  75 Years of delta and still climbing . . .

                                                                                       knee, and there was another first in the                                                            Thinking?” inflight fashion sweepstakes:
                                                                                       choice of a turtleneck or a bodysuit with                                                           the Pepto-Bismol pink, midcalf, elastic-
                                                                                       crotch-snap closure to go under the red-                                                            waist, static-cling polyester dress sprinkled
                                                                                       and-navy suit pieces. Paisley, unfortu-                                                             liberally with off-white Delta widget logos.
         air transport                                                                 nately, was still alive and well in a red                                                           Words fail us, save to say that this was the

                                                                                       serving smock, trousers were hip-huggers,                                                           fashion equivalent of disco music.
                                                                                       bell-bottoms were out, and there was no                                                                 Happily, in 1983 Delta soared with

                                                                                       hat offered in the line.                                                                            a completely different fashion outlook,
                                                                                            With hearts and minds in the right                                                             which, with tweaks, it has retained to this
                                                                                       place but—with the benefit of hindsight—                                                            day. It was back to elegant navy and gray,
                                                                                       fashion sense not, things then began to go                                                          with touches of burgundy, and for the first
        woulD like to                                                                  a bit . . . astray. The 1975 collection, a mix                                                      time, a maternity jumper was part of the
           tHank its                                                                   of camel, peach and royal blue, included
                                                                                       an unprecedented number of pieces (in-
                                                                                                                                                                                           uniform. Crisp, professional, yet practical,
                                                                                                                                                                                           the looks range from elegant to casual,

         partners                                                                      cluding leisure suits) and possibilities—so
                                                                                       many possibilities that often it was difficult
                                                                                                                                                                                           with plenty of consistent mix-and-match
                                                                                                                                                                                           choices for male and female attendants.
                      for tHeir                                                        to tell whether the attendants worked for                                                               In 2006, Delta will begin a new era
                                                                                       the same airline. One unforgettable piece                                                           with a complete redesign of all uniforms.
       generous                                                                        in the collection was the au courant wrap            In 1983 Delta soared with                      While it will also pay homage to the so-

                                                                                       dress. (Remember Qiana, the slippery,                a completely different                         phisticated inflight styles of the past, there
         support of tHe                                                                shiny, test tube–created fabric du jour?)            fashion­outlook, which,                        will be some buzz-worthy surprises in the

                                                                                       The clingy uniform presented a constant                                                             new fashion-forward look. And why not?
                                                                                                                                            with tweaks, it has
                                                                                       battle for neckline modesty, even with                                                              When it comes to Delta’s fashion future,
                                                                                       matching neck scarf. Also in the collection          retained to this day.                          the sky’s the limit. a
                                                                                       were a T-shirt, blouse and serving smock
                                                                                       printed with the names of Delta destina-             had it easy, in mud-brown or beige suits.)     Sky’s contributing editor and fashionista
         anniversary.                                                                  tions (in different typefaces and in horizon-
                                                                                       tal lines—call the Fashion Police!); the
                                                                                                                                            But wait—there’s more! We present the
                                                                                                                                            gold medal in the “What Were They
                                                                                                                                                                                           Mary Alice Kellogg is waiting for the re-
                                                                                                                                                                                           turn of the pillbox hat (veil optional).
                                                                                       pattern has gone down in Delta history as a
                                                                                       prime contender in the “What Were They
                                                                                       Thinking?” category.
                 presenting                1970–73 year-round uniform
                                                                                            The late 1970s and early ’80s were
                                                                                       questionable years for fashion in general. (I
                                                                                                                                              As delightful as it is to look back, we’re        What will the new Delta uniforms be

                  sponsors                                                             must confess that I recently viewed photos
                                                                                                                                              happier still to gaze into the fashion fu-
                                                                                                                                              ture. Enter headline designer­Richard­Ty-
                                                                                                                                                                                             like? Here’s a hint: Tyler wants to “bring
                                                                                                                                                                                             back the­elegance­of­flying, with a so-
                                  instead of a summer/winter split. While              of my own fashion triumphs during the                  ler, known for his exquisite tailoring,        phisticated European feel to the cloth-

                   Boeing         the orange, navy and white color scheme
                                  wasn’t the most fab, the styling reflected a
                                                                                       same period and had to repair to my faint-
                                                                                       ing couch.) Alas, Delta was no exception.
                                                                                                                                              attention to detail,
                                                                                                                                              and red-carpet dress-                          Richard Tyler
                                                                                                                                                                                                              ing.” In that regard, he
                                                                                                                                                                                                              says he’s lucky to be liv-
          pratt & whitney         growing interest in space exploration, with          Proving that a little fashion rain must fall
                                                                                                                                              ing of such celebs
                                                                                                                                              as Julia Roberts and
                                                                                                                                                                                                              ing in an era when
                                                                                                                                                                                                              scratchy, melt-near-the-
                                  dresses and belts sporting “Star Trek” over-         even on the most stylish of airlines, excit-           Pierce Brosnan. By                                              radiator polyester and
                                  tones. The yellow smock with huge front              ing new colors were unveiled: rose, pink,                                                                              no-stretch gabardine are
                                                                                                                                              2006, all Delta uni-
                                  zipper had a futuristic air, and on a more           mud brown and beige. Who could forget                  forms will be com-                                              things of the past. “Wools
                   partners       mundane level, attendants were allowed to            the pieces that came along with the
                                                                                                                                              pletely redesigned
                                                                                                                                              with the Tyler touch.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              are no longer heavy now,
                                                                                                                                                                                                              they have stretch to
                                  tie their scarves any way they wanted, an-           scheme (although many a flight attendant               “I’m taking the same                                            them,” Tyler says. “There
          Coca Cola               other first.
                                      The term “stewardess” was retired
                                                                                       has tried)? Heavy burgundy or brown/ pink
                                                                                       print velvet vests; ruffle-neck blouses with
                                                                                                                                              approach as I do with
                                                                                                                                              couture clients,” he
                                                                                                                                                                                                              are so many mills making
                                                                                                                                                                                                              fantastic fabrics that can
         rolls royce              when the first two male flight attendants            velvet string ties; pink-striped sweater vests;        says, “designing
                                                                                                                                              great, beautifully cut
                                                                                                                                                                                                              stand up to the rigors of
                                                                                                                                                                                                              the job, versatile fabrics
        Home Depot                graduated in the class of
                                  1973. The men earned
                                                                                                            a pink/brown gathered
                                                                                                            smock with full skirt that,
                                                                                                                                              clothes that are flat-                                          with give and comfort.”

pace Communications
                                                                                   DID YOU KNOW?                                              tering to the body in
                                  their wings and wore navy                        Average addi-            when donned, made the             all sizes, thinking of                                             While colors and de-
                                                                                   tional weight of                                           the individual—only                                             tails are being decided as
                                  suits with red-white-and-                                                 wearer—to put it nicely—
                                                                                   a Delta Shuttle                                            on a much larger                                                we speak, we do have one
                                  blue-striped ties. The new                       flight from Boston       look a bit bulky; and be-                                                        last fashion tidbit: There­may­be­hats.
                                                                                                                                              scale—and taking into account who they
                                  women’s uniforms re-                             to New York dur-         low-the-knee A-line and           are and what they do. I want attendants        And if there are, we practically guarantee
                                  flected the times: Skirts        ing the winter months because            pleated skirts that flattered     to look sexy and great, but to keep that       they will be stem-free and won’t look like
                                                                   of extra clothes on passengers
                                  were 3 inches above the                                                   . . . well, no one. (The guys     classic look as well.”                         mushrooms on steroids.—M.A.K.
                                                                    and in luggage:

 78   Sky June 2004

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