This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA. You can browse the full series of 100 stories in numerical order, by theme or by decade.
It’s only when you fly on an airline with sloppy uniform standards (*cough* American Airlines) do you really appreciate its importance.
Apart from an expression of the airline’s image, it also has an important safety function in making members of airline staff instantly recognisable.
Designing an airline uniform is a huge logistical exercise. Uniforms must be designed for many different roles from pilots, cabin crew to ground staff. They must be capable of being worn in different climates and meet a whole host of practical and safety considerations.
Since the 1960s BA and its predecessor airlines have worked with major designers on their uniforms.
BOAC Paper Dress
In the 1960s, BOAC cabin crew used to wear different uniforms according to the routes they flew on.
Here is a paper dress for Caribbean routes modelled by BOAC cabin crew Pat Bleasdale on its launch in 1966. These were designed to be worn only once. They did not last long and were withdrawn after less than a year.
BEA Sylvia Ayton Uniform
Here is a uniform designed by a then unknown designer Sylvia Ayton in relatively restrained colours and style for BEA in the early 1960s.
BEA Hardy Amies Uniform
During the 1960s, BEA approached Hardy Amies, official dressmaker for Her Majesty The Queen, to design a new uniform which had a much bolder, colourful and flamboyant style.
Successive designs by Hardy Amies survived the merger of BEA and BOAC and were retained by BA until the late 1970s.
BA Baccarat Weatherall Uniform
The first official BA uniform was designed by the studio Baccarat Weatherall.
The main focus of the designs were on uniforms for female staff with the promise “to make British Airways girls the most elegant and attractive in the airline business”.
BA Roland Klein Uniform
It wasn’t until 1985 that an entirely new uniform was designed for all BA staff.
The French designer Roland Klein designed a uniform with the aim of conveying an informal, approachable style, fitting with the “Putting People First” approach of the time.
BA Paul Costelleo Uniform
The Paul Costelleo uniform was introduced in 1992 with the aim of introducing a more corporate image for the airline.
BA Julien Macdonald Uniform
BA’s current uniform designed by Julien Macdonald was introduced in 2004.
Julien wanted to go back to the “golden age” of travel and introduce a sense of glamour to the BA uniform with a less “buttoned up” style than previous uniforms. When worn well, it is extremely effective.
BA is currently working with the designer Ozwald Boateng OBE to design a new uniform which is expected to be introduced next year.