When fashion meets the skies!

Hostesses first graced our planes with their presence in the late 1940’s. Since that day fashions have come and gone in Turkish Airlines’ cabins, bringing everything from military-style uniforms to shocking pink mini-skirts, and now tulip motifs in shades of turquoise.

W hen the first passenger airlines were founded in the 1920’s, safety was their central concern. The uniforms of the personnel they employed had above all to be practical, durable and capable of inspiring passenger confidence. United Airlines’ hostesses wore military-style green berets and capes and sensible low-heeled nurses’ shoes, and some airlines even today dress their hostesses, whom we’ve come to equate with chic, in nursing uniforms. Perhaps because military aviation preceded the civil aviation business, details such as simple, straight lines, epaulettes and brass buttons have characterized pilots’ uniforms in particular from the day one.
Starting out in 1933 as the State Airline with five planes and a seating capacity of 23, Turkish Airlines, too, upheld the tradition of the serious-looking, military-style uniform.

When hostesses were first introduced bringing Turkish hospitality on board the planes, the importance of presentable cabin personnel was soon realized. It was a time when the silhouette of the elegant woman, born of the deprivation years following World War II, was at the forefront of world fashion. Turkish Airlines hostesses, who first took to the skies in 1947, therefore greeted their passengers with a degree of chic that make jaws drop even today. The history of hostessing in Turkey commenced with three women employed as ‘cabin attendants’ on the DC-3’s that were purchased thirteen years after the airline was founded. Working as wireless operators in addition to serving passengers, these hostesses wore white cotton blouses under a blue suit and cap as they circulated through the cabin dispensing the traditional Turkish lemon cologne. Hostessing was abolished in 1950 and revived in 1952. Hostesses continued to do their jobs in white blouses and sky-blue suits and caps right up to the 1960’s.
Worn from 1947 to 1962, these blue-grey, fitted uniforms which accentuated the contours of the body also included a grey scarf worn at the neck. Their stylish appearance was further complemented by navy blue shoes and a navy handbag and gloves that were worn for greeting passengers. Airline insignia on the cap and collar played up the same elegant lines. Our hostesses presented this image, both stylish and reliable, for many years.

Following the elegant female silhouette of the fifties, fashion began to change in the sixties. The preoccupation with freedom that peaked with the student movement in 1968 brought young people into the fashion world for the first time as skirts got shorter and even serious institutions, from businesses to airlines, previously ruled by a sedate brand of chic, fell under the influence of the ‘flower children’ hues of lavender pink. Turkish Airlines was not long in following suit.

In line with the trend set by Mary Quant of London, Turkish Airlines hostesses’ skirts suddenly got shorter in 1968 and, in a extraordinarily bold move, went from sky blue to shocking pink. Those uniforms, which our middle-aged passengers still remember today, were not very practical, but they did fit in perfectly with the spirit of the times by delighting customers with a youthful splash of color.
Flower children fashions came crashing to an end with the oil crisis at the start of the 1970’s. But the spirit of freedom had penetrated fashion once and for all. Mini, maxi, midi - it was ‘anything goes’ as far as skirt lengths were concerned - and while some preferred a sumptuous look, others went for more youthful and sporty togs. Turkish Airlines’ uniforms changed too in 1973 when the blouses worn with the two-piece beige and tile-red suits were polka-dotted, reflecting the influence of Op Art. The hostesses of the day also wore brown workers'-style caps as fashion turned to the earth colors that signalled a more down-to-earth approach than that of the previous period.

The 1980’s meanwhile was characterized by a return to luxury and chic in fashion. Youthful panache fell out of favor as young people set out not to save the world but to save their own lives with brilliant careers in business. Designer clothes were all the rage, and famous designers began fashioning clothes even for the world’s airlines.
Turkish Airlines in 1989 adopted a red and blue hostess uniform in the form of a suit with either a red jacket and blue skirt or vice-versa. Following these uniforms, which combined the ostentation of red with the dignity of blue, the stark lines of the decade of the nineties began to leave their mark on Turkish Airlines as well. Since 1993 fashions have been more sedate, with hostess uniforms in tones of navy blue and turquoise. Two creations designed in 1999 bearing the Altınyıldız signature reflected minimalist chic in the form of a suit consisting of either a skirt or pants with two different jackets, one double-breasted, the other a collarless track jacket. The double-breasted jacket was navy blue and had eight buttons, while the track jacket had three. In mix-match- style, the jackets could be worn with either skirt or pants and with or without an optional vest. Linen shirts, either short or long-sleeved, completed the uniform, which included a pure silk scarf as accessory.

Since the year 2000, Turkish Airlines uniforms have begun to change more frequently in step with the times. Starting in 2001 hostesses for two years wore uniforms designed by Vakko, and stewards uniforms designed by Mithat, both big names in the Istanbul fashion industry. In solid navy blue, the hostess uniforms were livened up with a vest with midnight blue lining while embroidery and piping added originality.
A side slit rather than a slit up the back reflected the fashion of the day, and single-button jackets with midnight blue vests created a classic image which was complemented by scarves and neckties of contemporary design in Turkish Airlines’ signature shades of turquoise and indigo. This was also the year that stewards, despite complaints by personnel, were prohibited from wearing short-sleeved shirts due to hygiene concerns.

The new uniforms designed by Cemil İpekçi in 2005 unleashed a controversy. Following the global trend, Turkish Airlines for the the first time was working not with a firm but with a designer. Blue, turquoise and navy blue were the dominant tones used in the uniforms, and tulip motifs appeared on everything from the uniforms and their buttons and the stewards’ neckties to the fuselages of the airplanes themselves. Designed to be worn year-round, these uniforms were cool in summer and warm in winter thanks to the Coolmax fabric developed by Turkey’s biggest wool producer, Yünsa. Skirts were longer than before and pants continued to be worn as well. But flight personnel found the light-colored uniforms impractical, complaining that they frequently looked dirty and unkempt. As it was preparing for its 75th anniversary, Turkish Airlines therefore revived an old tradition asking Vakko to design and produce its new uniforms for the third time.

Having launched his first Turkish Airlines uniforms with the slogan ‘Fashion in the Skies!', Vakko is following the same formula this time.  Firm officials reveal that a collection has been created consisting of a navy blue suit and white shirt with turquoise and blue scarves and ties for flight personnel, and that the Turkish Airlines emblem will be used on the buttons. Working in close cooperation with flight personnel this time, the firm is taking pains to use fabrics that won’t wrinkle or show the dirt and will therefore remain fresh and chic under all conditions. They emphasize that the scarves and ties will exhibit the flair for which Vakko is famous.
But regardless of color, design and cut, we have no doubt that Turkish Airlines, on its 75th anniversary as always, is once again going to combine world fashion with Turkish hospitality