2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the longest serving airline uniform, Singapore Airlines’ sarong kebaya, designed by haute couturier Pierre Balmain.
The iconic sarong kebaya has not significantly changed since its creation by Pierre Balmain in 1968, due to the timeless silhouette of the uniform mixing “tradition, practicality and elegance,” states the airline. Everything from the pattern, lines, hues and fabric designed by Balmain remain the same today as they did 50 years ago.
Balmain’s choice of Asian batik print for the sarong kebaya was chosen to reflect the identity and hospitality of Singapore Airlines’ cabin crew, and the fabric design consists of brightly-coloured floral motifs and a colourful border.
Worn only by the female cabin crew, each sarong kebaya uniform is tailor made to the specific crew member wearing it. Singapore Airlines notes that there are no standard sizes, as Balmain insisted every sarong kebaya be tailored to fit its wearer’s form.
There are four different colours for the sarong kebaya, each representing the role and rank of the crew member that wears it. The most recognisable is the blue, which remains the trademark Singapore Airlines look, and is worn by flight stewards and stewardesses. While green is for leading stewards and stewardesses, red for chief stewards and stewardesses and purple for the flight’s inflight manager, who is in ultimate charge of the cabin environment and all the crew on board.
In Pictures: 50 years of Pierre Balmain’s sarong kebaya uniform for Singapore Airlines
The uniform is a lot more practical than it looks and has been adapted for emergency situations, with the slit in the front of the uniform allowing cabin crew to tie up the skirt for ease of movement.
Commenting on the anniversary, Sheldon Hee, general manager UK and Ireland at Singapore Airlines said in a statement: “The 1968 Balmain sarong kebaya and its batik print, as well as the 2008 Balmain designed update to our male uniform, have become synonymous with Singapore Airlines.
“We’re proud to say Balmain’s timeless Asian batik female and male designs have made the Singapore Airlines cabin crew one of the most instantly recognisable in aviation.”
In addition to designing the female cabin crew’s uniform, the house of Balmain under French fashion designer Christophe Galibert, artistic Director of Balmain Uniformes, also redesigned the entire male uniform in 2008 to include a tie with a complementary print to the sarong kebaya.
Other airlines that have looked to fashion’s top designers includes British Airways, which recently announced that British tailor Ozwald Boateng was redesigning the uniforms, following in the footsteps of Julien MacDonald, Paul Costelloe, Roland Klein, Baccart Weatherall, and Hardy Amies, who have designed the British Airways uniforms over the years.
Virgin Atlantic cabin crew were given a glamorous makeover by Dame Vivienne Westwood, while Qantas’s cabin crew attire featuring a black uniform with red accents and trilby hats, was designed by one of Australia’s most acclaimed international designers, Martin Grant, and Air France also has a long-standing tradition with using French couturiers, with Balenciaga and Dior both designing uniforms in the 1960s, while most recently Christian Lacroix designed a uniform featuring red gloves and a red bow-tie belt dress.
Images: courtesy of Singapore Airlines